- Dec 10, 2020
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Today a man came into the store and asked for a “Baking Cloth”. I was in the back and no one came back to ask me the question. Instead, they said they had never heard of it and asked if he meant a silicone mat. Well, I understand he left mumbling something about us being a baking store and no one knew what he was talking about. Apparently, he was quite annoyed, and I suspect he had been to the other stores asking the same thing and no one knew what he was talking about.
A “Baking Cloth” is made for proofing bread that will not be baked in a pan. Many people call this bread a “free form bread”. Now I will say, I am not a bread baker, but I remember my grandmother using one as I was growing up when she made bread. It is made of very heavy course or rough linen and once used it is usually never washed unless a big mishap happens where it gets wet and stiff. Like a good cast iron skillet, it needs to be seasoned. Once seasoned you
don’t wash it again. If you have to wash it, then season it again.
To season the baking cloth, upon receipt open it up fully and place on a very clean flat surface. Use between 1 and 2 cups flour, maybe more or less depending on the size of your cloth. Sprinkle this all over the cloth until fully covered. Using your hands rub this into the cloth. You want the flour to permeate the cloth. Move the flour around as needed until the cloth is saturated with flour. Lift up and shake the remaining flour onto your flat surface. This can go back into your flour container as long as your counter or flat surface was very-very
clean. Fold it up and place into either a zip lock bag or a container that is airtight. You don’t want any bugs drawn to it. Each time you use it you will still sprinkle it with more flour. The more it is used the more non- stick it becomes.
To use it for bread, follow your recipe to the point of letting the bread rise. At this point, place your unbaked loaf onto the baking cloth. IF your dough is wet, roll it in a bit of flour before placing on the baking cloth. Fold the cloth over the dough loosely. If proofing two loaves of bread, then pull the center up between the loaves so they don’t touch each other, then fold the edges up and over loosely. This should not be tight. Allow to proof the required amount of time. When dough is about double in size, unwrap each loaf then using the cloth roll the dough over. Try not to move with your hands if possible. Use a sharp serrated knife, slice some slits into the top surface. Roll onto your baking sheet or pizza peel to slide into the oven. Bake as directed in your recipe.
Each recipe is different, and some require 2 risings. As I said, I am not a bread baker. So, if your recipe calls for two risings and the bread will not be baked in a pan, then use your cloth for both risings. If it is going to be baked in a pan, then allow it to rise in the pan and not the cloth.
I sincerely hope this helps more of our younger bakers with what a baking cloth is and how to use it. If there are some mistakes, please forgive me as I only remember this from being a child watching my grandmother. I am sure in the past 55 to 60 years a few things have changed; and I know baking good bread is an art in and of itself.