Over time, your banneton or couche will become more "non-stick" from the flour you use each time. I use one or the other banneton for boules and couches for baugettes because the dough I use is very wet and very slack. Each of the "containers" help to draw out extra moisture and maintain the shape of the bread. I have never used a cloth/banneton combo so I can't tell you how that turns out or if it makes any difference. I use my banneton with flour only (no cloth) because that's the kind I found at the local kitchen supply store and I like the concentric design it leaves on the boule. I am by no means the expert here on the boards. The Big Hat and Kyle (who probably thinks I am stalking him) could give you more information. You could also hop over to www.kingarthurflour.com
I hope I have helped.
There was a definite learning curve for me using bannetons. When I started I lined them with floured cloth. I found that, even with lots of flour, the loaves would stick to the cloth in places and deflate as I unstuck them. Then I tried lining them with plastic and spraying the plastic with vegetable spray. This worked, but I wasn't really happy with the way the loaves turned out. The next step was just to swallow hard and go for it. I floured up the basket and dumped the loaf in. Getting it out was another matter. In all of these scenarios I was too chicken to try and turn the loaf out bu inverting the banneton. I put a piece of parchment on top of the loaf, put my peel on top of the parchement, flippped the whole thing and then pulled the basket off. The plain floured basket produced the best result.
The reason, in addition to holding shape, to use bannetons is to allow some moisture to be wicked away form the surface of the loaf. THis helps the crust develop character. The willow wood allows the proper amount of moisture to disapate. Cloth lined baskets will allow this to happen as well but you lose the nice detail that is the ring impressions the 'naked' baskets create.
Svadhisthana and KyleW, thank you for your responses: you saved me time and frustration! I have another question -- how do you take care of the bannetons after using them? Do you wash them or just shake the flour out? Have you any tricks for warding off bugs? Thanks again.
Thanks again for your responses. I have been thinking about getting a real banneton (I've been using regular baskets but wondered whether it was healthful) and now think I will! There are so many things you can get for making bread that it would be easy for the equipment to overwhelm the breadbaking itself.
I've always floured my bannetons heavily followed by placing the inverted loaf in them for the rise. To dispense the loaf from the banneton I floured my hands and grasped both sides at the lip and inverted it onto a cornmeal covered peel. No problems there with sticking.
Once I placed a very slack (wet) dough in one and some dough stuck to it fast and hardened. To remove the stale, hard dough I soaked the banneton in water for awhile to loosen it with the aid of a brush and then allowed it to dry.
I use a thin cotton towel these days, draped over a colander or sieve of whatever size works for the loaf.
No more flour than what's already on the dough when it comes off the counter. I get no sticking problems.
What makes it work is the free circulation of air through the colander/sieve and the towel: the dough forms a light skin all around, even the downward-facing parts. If you don't have that circulation of air, water migrates to the surface of the dough and it sticks.
Many years ago I bought a couple yards of cotton duck fabric and sewed it as a liner into various baskets and whatnot. I even used some expanded steel mesh as a support for make long semi-cylindrical bannetons for baguettes. Good clean fun, though at some point I tossed them. In any case, any craft store will sell you cheap baskets; any thrift store will have colanders and whatnot for pennies. So you can make your own.