YOUR NEW COUCHE
The characteristics of natural linen, even in these days of synthetic fibres, make it probably the best surface for the proofing of bread dough. It absorbs moisture from the surface of the dough, helping in crust formation, but can release moisture back into the dough if it gets too dry. It also allows bread dough to breathe properly – i.e. releasing the carbon dioxide produced by yeast fermentation and allowing oxygen to circulate.
- The initial odour is harmless and will not affect your bread; it will disappear in time.
- Linen is a natural fibre and will contain slubs and irregularities.
- If you wish, you can iron your new couche on a steam linen setting (avoid the synthetic-fibre stitched edging); make sure it's thoroughly dry before storing. Once you have used your couche it isn't really necessary to iron it again if stored rolled.
Your couche is supplied folded but will remain in better condition if it is rolled in future.
Cared for properly, washing is not necessary, there is nothing bacteria or mould can feed on.
Flour really well before first use, and lightly thereafter, rubbing the flour into the cloth. Rice Flour is particularly good but wheat or rye or spelt work nearly as well
Performance improves with use, as the flour works it way into the weave, increasing the “non-stick” tendencies of linen. The natural waxes in linen are another component of this.
Avoid using with doughs containing butter, oil or eggs.
Between uses, remember to thoroughly dry your couches and then shake and/or brush the excess flour off.
If dough has stuck to the couche, pick off as much as you can while it's still wet, using a plastic scraper gently if needed. Don't be too rough or use a metal scraper as it can tear the fibres. Pieces of dough that are still stuck to the couche can usually be removed by allowing them to dry totally and then picking off; rolling the doughy fabric between the fingers and thumb will help.
Store couches rolled and wrapped in fabric or paper - to keep dust off and the flour in - in a cool, dry place (rather than in a hot, humid environment like the kitchen).
If over time the weave becomes clogged, or mould appears due to humidity, washing may be necessary.
Linen is a durable fibre and can stand washing in hot water. For some reason it has got a reputation as a delicate fibre, but it's actually stronger when wet.
Hand or Machine wash with plenty of space; best to make the couche the only item in a home washing machine. Use an un-perfumed delicate-fabrics detergent and lots of rinsing in warm water. DO NOT Tumble dry.
The couche may shrink a little - but not enough to affect the usability.
If you want to iron it, it's easiest to do so while still damp.