I hope my regular readers will forgive me yet another post about bread and baking paraphernalia. Jim Lahey's bread recipe, the subject of an earlier post, requires a floured, non-terrycloth dish towel for the dough to proof in. Since I have been making bread about two times a week, I decided (for the sake of my kitchen towels) that it was time to make some heavier duty canvas sheets, to be used solely for proofing dough. I bought 3/4 of a yard of 100% cotton canvas. First, I pressed the fabric and evened up all of the edges. I cut the sheet in half, width-wise, making two slightly rectangular pieces of cloth.
With the first piece, I cut a 1" square from each corner. Then I folded the edges of the squares down to form right triangles (see photo). Once all of the triangles had been created (eight total, two at each corner), I folded the entire length of each side down 1/2" and pressed these folds. Once all four edges were folded down 1/2," I folded the edges down another 1/2." This creates mitered corners and hides all of the raw edges. Essentially, you are making a giant canvas dinner napkin. I stitched down all of the edges and corners. Once I had completed the second sheet exactly like the first, I washed them both and pressed them again.
I baked bread today using the no-knead method. When the dough had gone through a first rise overnight, I divided it and placed each piece on my well-floured canvas sheet to rise again. Also, after I realized how obsessed I was becoming with his recipe, I followed Lahey's lead and purchased several Romertopf bakers. Essentially, they are pieces of unglazed terracotta (lead-free and cadmium-free, of course) that help food retain moisture as it cooks. Like the cast iron dutch oven in the basic recipe, the terracotta bakers help mimic a steam-injected professional oven. The bakers are soaked in water for 10 minutes before they are heated. Because they are sensitive to dramatic changes in temperature, the bakers are placed in a cold oven and allowed to heat with it. Once my dough had risen (the canvas sheet worked like a charm), I baked two baguettes using the Romertopf French/Italian bread bakers on a pizza stone base.
I plan on using my canvas sheets whenever I am proofing dough. This method could also be used to make table linens, such as napkins and tablecloths. I hope you will consider purchasing fabric and tailoring your own linens for your kitchen and dining needs. Be creative and enjoy!