The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Desem?

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mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Desem?

Does anyone make desem and if so, do you have any photos, especially of the crumb that you could post here? I read the version of the technique and recipe in the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book and I'm intrigued, but not sure it is worth all the effort for me to try it. I would like to see what it looks like, and what those of you who have tasted it think of it - what other types of bread is it comparable to? Is it heavy and dense or light and open? Tough and chewy or tender and crispy?   Thanks...

gt's picture
gt

I have made it in the past and I've recently started making it again but don't have any pictures yet.  It's not dense but if made with 100% whole wheat the crumb is no different than any other 100% whole wheat bread.  I like the flavor but again it is 100% whole wheat.  IMO the starter and the bread are much easier to make than described in Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book. 

gt 

Tess's picture
Tess

http://northwestsourdough.wordpress.com/tag/desem/

This is very detailed.  Hope it is helpful to you.

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Wow! That's some nice looking whole wheat bread. What hydration are you using for these?

northwestsourdough's picture
northwestsourdough

I followed Laurel's recipe but not her hydration for the overnight preferment, and I didn't compute the hydration, but it felt like maybe a 68 - 69 % hydration to me.

 

pumpkinpapa's picture
pumpkinpapa

And 2-3 years ago as well, but 2 years ago I got the recipe and detailed instructions here http://www.justhungry.com/2003/12/desem_day_89_th.html, the author having taken it form Laurels book too. I had come across it earlier in Kiko Denzer's Cob oven book but he instructions were too simple and lacking for me at the time.

Mine was very dense, alas I have no pictures either, but now that I have some organic hard whole wheat I shall soon!

TRK's picture
TRK

Hi.  I am new to the site.  This is my first post.  I haven't made Desem bread, but it has been investigated in great length (one thread has over 132 posts) over at the King Arthur Flour Baking Circle site.  I believe it includes pictures (I read it once some time ago).  I can't link to the thread, it just bumps you back to the main login page if you follow a link to a thread over there.  But if you go to http://www.bakingcircle.com/msgboard/ and search "desem" you will get a ton of information.  You will have to create an account, but it is free.

 

Tim 

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Thanks for the desem links everyone. I have a lot of reading to do at these sites...there are some pretty funny posts at the KA BakingCircle on the long desem thread from a few years back (that Tim pointed to) and the frustrations people were having. I thought this most recent post summarizing the whole experiment by "macy" was interesting:

"From a microbiologist's point of view, laurel's method for creating the desem starter is longer and more tedious than it needs to be. If you just start feeding your sourdough daily with cold water at the lower hydration and keep it cool, the microbial populations will shift and change. New organisms will emerge and become dominant, and it will transform into a "desem" starter naturally and with less frustration."

gt - is that what you found too? 

The pics at the northwestsourdough site are great and make me want to try it - thanks Tess.

Pumkinpapa - would love to see some photos of your desem when you get back into it. 

gt's picture
gt

Yep, all you need is a supply of fresh organic WW flour, spring water, and a cool place to start it (basement).

 

To make the starter just mixed a stiff (50% hydration) flour/water combination and burried it in a container of WW flour until it starts to rise (about 3 days). Then refresh each day for a week or two by discarding half and adding back new WW flour and water. After its started and strong, just keep it in the refrigerator and refresh it every week or so.

 

To bake with it, just remove it from the refrigerator and refresh it twice by tripling at 8-12 hr intervals. The baking process is much simpler described in the "Bread Builders" book.

 

gt

 

pumpkinpapa's picture
pumpkinpapa

The second time I made it I waited for about 5 days and there was nothing in the container of flour. I had the temperature range perfect and a lot of flour (more than needed) and nothing I thought.

Then I opened it and dug it out, there were shoots of ferment going everywhere's except up through the top surface. It was a starfish on steroids.

And to think that on day four I almost moved it out of the basement :) 

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Thanks gt, for the details...I'll give it a try. I have about 25 lbs of King Arthur organic WW  flour, I have a steadily cool root cellar to store it in (45-50F), and I already have the "Bread Builders" book for the bread recipe part. Hopefully I can get something useable in about 3 weeks if I get it going this weekend. I'll keep in mind the potential for it to develop into a mutant starfish too!

Thanks again everyone - I'll report in on progress every once in awhile.

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

I followed gt's guidelines above and made a ball of desem starter on Saturday by converting a little of my white/wheat mix wet starter to a stiff whole wheat small ball of dough at 50% hydration - I buried this in a small clear quart container of whole wheat flour (organic) and put in the fridge for 2 days. Today the top of the flour has cracked open, so it's growing. Tonight when I get home I'll refresh it.

 

Question - is the flour used to store the desem no longer usable after a period of storage? Do any nutrients get used up by the desem buried within, so that I'd have to replace it with fresh flour after a certain time?  

gt's picture
gt

I just use that flour for refreshing and grind new flour for baking.

pumpkinpapa's picture
pumpkinpapa

I mixed the flour back in with a new bag and continued using it with no ill effects, tasted and rose fine.

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

I followed Laurel's instructions and even took photos. If I can find an hour or so this evening, I'll do a full write-up. It was fun to do, but in the end, I didn't find it worthwhile. The bread I ended up with was ... not exactly a brick, but not exactly light either. The flavor was interesting: not very sour at all with a buttery taste. Nice, but it didn't really knock my socks off. And I recognized that bread -- I'd made it accidentally many, many times in the past by simply keeping my starter and my bread cool -- say, below 65 degrees.

Moral of the story: If you want desem bread, just take the starter you've got, convert it to a stiff dough, and keep it cool for a week or so while you feed it. You should end up with Desem!

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

I'd love to see your write up and photos of your desem-making process - thanks! Interesting that you didn't find the taste quite as phenomenal as Laurel makes it sound...as I mentioned above I was wondering if the result was worth all the trouble! I would, though, like to find a good sourdough recipe that uses 100% whole wheat flour but can still produce a light loaf with at least moderate holes...we'll see if the basic desem recipe in either the "Bread Builders" or Laurel's can deliver.

Tess's picture
Tess

Mike Avery has a light sourdough bread all whole-wheat recipe.   According to him: "We're told you can't make a light bread with all whole-wheat flour, that you have to either add some bread flour or gluten to the dough.  We don't do either.  We just handle the dough well, and the bread rises." 

http://www.sourdoughhome.com/100percentwholewheat.html

I have tried several other site recipes and was pleased with all of them.  I plan to try this one when time permits.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Tess

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

In November, I decided to try my hand at the legendary Desem bread from the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book.

I didn't want to go completely whole hog, however. Ten pounds of flour is an awful lot, and that sounded like a big old dough ball adding a cup of flour each time. So I decided to cut the proportions in half. It's still a lot of flour.

I buried the dough ball in the flour, covered it, and put it in my basement, where it tends to stay below 65 in the fall. After 48 hours, as you can see, there's already activity.



The dough ball wasn't full of holes, but obviously there was some activity. Here's what it looks like. After peeling the crust away, I'd usually have about half left over, and I'd feed that.



And here's the finished bread. As you can tell, it's not particularly huge or light. I didn't get a shot of the crumb -- or if I did, I can't find it now -- but it wasn't what I'd call a "light" bread, though it wasn't quite a brick either. Perhaps the desem wasn't strong enough? I did deviate from Laurel's instructions near the end of the process as well -- unlike her instructions, I always doubled the size of my desem when feeding it. But I doubt that made a difference.



As for light whole wheat, I can make light whole wheat sandwich bread til the cows come home. I don't get huge holes, but the bread has a uniform texture that's very nice. I'm having a dickens of a time trying to make light whole wheat hearth bread without any additions beyond flour, water, salt and starter. Laurel is absolutely right that 1 Tbs of butter per loaf really helps the rise a lot. Her "featherpuff" bread (right) is amazingly light and huge, but it's super rich: eggs, cottage cheese, milk, butter.


I tried to make light 100% whole wheat hearth bread this weekend with a hydration of 80%, but, like all my other attempts, though the crumb was somwhat open, with a few medium sized holes here and there, it spread out once again instead of up. That may be a shaping issue, though. I tried to make a batard for the first time. Ah well, the quest goes on!

jkandell's picture
jkandell

as the starter matures, imho.

northwestsourdough's picture
northwestsourdough

I followed the link to my site back to here and found you were having a nice discussion on Desem bread. Desem is really great tasting. It is sour, tangy, chewy, and very addicting. It might be just personal taste though. I think those of you who have posted here, haven't tried long enough yet. The desem has to mature over time to give a really great loaf. None of my "young" loaves came out really good. I can tell by the picture of the Desem cut open in the above thread that it is pretty young. I would say give it a longer trial and be patient, it was really worth it to me to perservere. Desem is everything Laurel and Alan Scott say it is...it is terrific tasting bread.

Teresa

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Thanks JMonkey - great pics - mine right now looks exactly like your pics above, so I guess it is very young and I'll keep at it for at least another 2 weeks of feedings to see what I get - Laurel says it should look like tan cottage cheese inside when it is mature. Northwestsourdough, you have great pics on your site, and you certainly make me want to keep at it and try to make desem, thanks!

 

JMonkey - your whole wheat sandwich loaves above are beautiful, but unfortunately I cannot have those because of my dairy allergy, so I'm looking for a strictly lean hearthbread type of 100% whole wheat, but still want the open crumb like I get in my white/wheat mixture boules now. I tried subbing soy products for dairy in a similar recipe to yours above, but did not get great results (dense and not a good rise, bland flavor) - somewhere I read that soy proteins may interfere with gluten development, so I may be out of luck for making a nice enriched but dairy-free sandwich loaf.

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Yeah, dairy allergies pretty much preclude making buttermilk bread. But you could try oil. About 2 Tbs oil per loaf give it about the same kick as 1 Tbs of butter, so Laurel says, and I've found it to be true. Canola oil doesn't seem to affect the flavor much at all, so that's what I use when I don't feel like using butter.

BTW, you've inspired me to try making Desem bread this weekend, but with my regular starter kept stiff and cool. I'll report back how it goes!

pumpkinpapa's picture
pumpkinpapa

Mountaindog, what is the specific component in dairy that you are allergic to? I know of a couple people with dairy allergies that drink and use Kefir milk (from cow's milk) in their baking.

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Hi Guys - JMonkey, good idea about using oil, I'll try it with sunflower oil, which works great in spelt muffins I make.

Good question about the exact proteins, Pumpkinpapa - I'm not sure yet, neither is my doctor, but we're still researching the topic. Most research right now points to casein, not lactose. And we're also not sure if whatever causes thickening of mucous and excess mucous production can be denatured by heat or not, but meantime, I'm not taking any chances - I've had way too much down-time from impacted sinuses the past few years and I did notice some improvement when I cut out dairy altogether from my diet. I do miss yogurt and goat cheese, though, and it would be great if it turned out that Goat milk did not cause the problem, nor did milk in the form of yogurt or kefir. Are your friends who have allergies lactose intolerant (i.e. the gastro-intestinal reaction to dairy) or are they actually having a mucous/histamine-producing allergic reaction? The first type can usually be solved by de-naturing the lactose protein (as in fermentation or heating), but I'm not sure about the second type. If your friends have the second type, yet do not have a histamine reaction to kefir, please let me know, I'd like to try it but am afraid until I've done more research.

Srishti's picture
Srishti

Hello MountainDog,

Have you tried Raw milk?

maki's picture
maki

Hi everyone. I found this page in my site's referer records. (justhungry.com) I've recently posted a method for making desem with the infamous no-knead method, and it works very well. It's made the formerly tedious process of making desem bread to an absolute breeze. You do still have to grow the desem starter, but once you have a nice mature one you're good to go.

Here is the reasoning behind the no-knead desem , and here is the recipe.

I hope they help to convert more people to the joys of desem!