The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

whole wheat

linder's picture

Sourdough Whole Wheat Pancakes

January 19, 2013 - 8:12am -- linder

Years ago a friend of mine gave me this simple recipe for sourdough pancakes.  They can be made with AP flour or whole wheat flour, your choice.  I like mine with whole wheat flour and while cooking them, I like to drop some blueberries into the pancakes as they cook on the griddle.

Sourdough Pancakes

The night before you want pancakes, put 1 cup starter in a large glass or plastic bowl.  Add 2 cups flour(whole wheat or AP), 2cups lukewarm milk or water, 2 TBSP sugar.  Mix and let stand covered overnight(at least 12 hours) in a warm place.

JMonkey's picture

Desem bread is a favorite of mine, in no small part because I can only make it in the winter. But it's also beloved because it was one of the first sourdoughs I ever made, and because it comes from The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, a book that, though it is not without its flaws, is still a book that I love dearly and continue to bake from several times a month.

Desem is essentially a 100% whole grain pain au levain, done in the old French way for customers who did not like their bread sour. To keep the acid notes to a minimum, bakers kept their starters firm and chilled, both of which are the key to making this loaf. Laurel Robertson recommends making your starter by placing a dough ball in a bin of 10 lbs of flour at about 50 degrees F, and then feeding it once a day for a week or so. I've done it that way, but I've found it's not really necessary. If you've already got a starter, just feed it with whole wheat at 50% hydration (thereabouts) and store it in a place where the temperature stays in the 40s or 50s. Ideally, you want the starter at about 50 degrees F. Feed it a couple of times that way at that temp, and you should be ready to go. This is why Desem remains a winter bread for me, because only then can I rely on my garage to remain within that temperature range.

The result is a lovely loaf. Just a little bit sour, with a creamy texture and a nutty, sightly sweet flavor. It's hearty but, though it doesn't typically have the big holes one usually associates with a lean hearth loaf, it's not a dense bread. Tonight, we ate it with a corn chowder,  a dish of which I'm certain Laurel Robertson would not approve, since it's made with chicken stock and a half pound of bacon. I have to say, though, they made fine dinner companions. It will also make tasty sandwiches tomorrow, I'm sure.

Here's what the loaf looked like out of the oven:

And here's what the insides look like:

Finally, here's how I made it.


  • Whole wheat flour: 100%
  • Water: 70%
  • Salt: 2%
  • Starter: 30% of the flour is in the starter at 50% hydration.


  • Whole wheat starter at 50% hydration: 225 grams
  • Water: 275 grams
  • Salt: 10 grams
  • Whole wheat flour: 350 grams

Combine the starter and the water, and mash them up together until it's nice and mushy. Add the salt and then add the flour. Stir until it comes together into a mass. I use fresh flour, because I'm one of those nuts with a grinder and a half-dozen 5-gallon buckets full of grain in his garage. If you're not (and your partner or spouse probably thanks you for it) you'll be using store-bought whole wheat flour, which is dryer, so you may want to add some more water, maybe as much as 50 grams. The dough should be shaggy and soft, but not quite sticky.

At this point, I like to let the dough sit for 10 to 20 minutes. I often time this by how long it takes to make a pot of oatmeal or a batch of pancakes, because I usually start making this bread while I'm preparing breakfast. Once the dough has sat for long enough, I knead for 3-4 minutes, let it rest for another 5 minutes or so, and then knead again for another couple of minutes. At this point, it should be done. I love and respect Laurel Robertson to high heaven, but there's really no need to do 300 strokes. Unless you enjoy that kind of thing, of course, which,  I'll admit, I sometimes do.

I try to get the dough temperature to about 70-75 degrees F if I'm thinking about it. Jeffrey Hammelman has a good trick for this. Measure the temperature of the starter with an instant read thermometer, then measure the temperature of the flour (since mine's coming right out of the grinder, it's usually close to 100 degrees!). To know how hot the water needs to be, Multiply the desired dough temperature by 3, then subtract the starter and flour temperatures. Voila! But, to be honest, I usually just guesstimate. In my kitchen, the starter's cold and the flour's pretty warm, so if the water feels lukewarm or just an eesny-weensy bit warm, I figure it's good enough. I'm not making a microchip, after all.

It usually takes about 4 hours to rise, but in the winter, my house is usually pretty chilly. It could take three hours if you keep your home at 68 or 70 degrees. Then, I shape  the loaf and proof it for two hours in a cooler with the bread on an upturned cereal bowl and a cup or two of hot water thrown into the bottom. I like to bake mine in a covered clay baker at 450 F for 35 minutes with the cover on and 10 minutes with it off. If you're using a baking stone or a cookie sheet, try 450 for 35-40 minutes. Steaming the oven is also nice, if your oven steams well and you don't mind the risk of  damaging or ruining your appliance (ask me how I know there's a risk). Let it cool on a rack for about an hour before slicing.

varda's picture

Using milk in a soaker

January 3, 2013 - 11:35am -- varda

I am about to start baking from Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads with his basic formula.   This calls for a milk soaker left out overnight on the counter, made with scalded milk.   I am reluctant to do this as the last time I baked a bread with a milk poolish (unscalded) it was delicious but both my husband and I felt ill after eating it.   Doesn't milk go bad overnight at room temperature?   Does the scalding offer some protection?    Thanks.  -Varda

Blueladder's picture

All things flour!!! ... Which is your favorite flour? Where to get it? Can/do you buy it in bulk... 10kg sacks?

December 14, 2012 - 7:34am -- Blueladder

Hi Everybody,

I'm based in the UK and one of our big supermarket chains is called Tesco... I always buy the best premium flour they have which is usually Allison's extra strength bread flour or Hovis Super Strength premium bread flour.  These make an adequate loaf, which is tasty (as tasty as any in the shop!!) and has a good texture.  I'm really just talking wholemeal bread flour and white bread flour.

Two days ago I broke my rule!!!!!!

varda's picture

Sometimes good things are right in front of you, or a bit off to the right under "Also on the Fresh Loaf."   The other day I was nosing around, when I clicked through an image that had intrigued me for awhile, and discovered JMonkey's version of a desem whole wheat loaf.   Reading through it, it all seemed so simple, even though Desem has lurked in my brain as something very strange and mysterious.    So I took a dab of my ordinary white starter and built it up over three feedings with fresh milled whole wheat, at low hydration, and matured in a cool but not cold environment.    Then made a loaf, roughly following JMonkey's numbers, but not his times (I followed the dough's times which were different.)    As I have no cloche, I baked for the first time in a year or more in my dutch oven.    I find it difficult to get the dough in the DO gently enough, and manhandled it a bit in the process (just like JMonkey apparently.)   Since I was never able to manage a preheated DO without burning myself, this time I placed the dough into an unheated DO and then into a preheated oven.  

The aroma of the dough while fermenting was strong yet strangely sweet and very pleasant.   The finished loaf didn't come out looking anything like JMonkey's and of course I have no idea if I captured his taste either.   

I will say that this bread makes for very hearty eating.   I just had a slice, and don't know if I'll have room for dinner.   The bread itself is almost overwhelmingly whole wheaty to my taste, but seems very much the staff of life.  

I know, particularly in light of Eric's untimely passing,  that bakers come and go on this site.   I believe that I started participating on this site some time after JMonkey stopped contributing.   Yet here he has taught me about desem and I appreciate his help.    Of course I wouldn't even have been aware of this type of bread had it not been for Phil's wonderful baking efforts

Formula and method:

Seed hydration








Whole Rye







5:00 PM

4:00 PM

4:00 PM

10:00 AM













Whole Rye






Whole Wheat


































Whole Rye







Whole Wheat
































Used freshly milled medium course flour to feed starter


Used garage and just inside garage door to mature starter



Temp varied from 42 to 62F





Grind wheat berries at fine.



Mix flour and 350g water and autolyse for 1 hour



Mix in salt, starter, and rest of water



Mix for 40 minutes at speed 1 in compact Bosch



Rest 15 minutes



S&F on counter



BF 30 minutes, S&F on counter



BF 30 minutes, S&F on counter



Shape into boule and place in brotform with floured paper napkin at base



Proof 1 hour 15 minutes



Spray top, slash and place in Dutch Oven



Bake in preheated oven (cold covered DO) at 450F for 40 minutes



top on, 18 minutes with top off.






Postal Grunt's picture

Attention KC area bakers, Great River Milling flour at Costco

November 15, 2012 - 9:46pm -- Postal Grunt

Mrs PG and I were depleting our checking account at CostCo in midtown KC, MO when I ran across Great River Milling whole wheat flour in 10# bags for about $8.50. Usually, I would've snapped up a bag just to try it out but we had too many pre-Thanksgiving purchases to make. Their website has more information about their products.


varda's picture

I'm back with new tools.    Ever since Andy (ananda) started posting about baking with local wheat, I've had it in the back of my mind.    However, local in my case means New England, which isn't exactly known as the American bread basket.    In fact I more or less assumed that Massachusetts wheat was an oxymoron.    I did however, keep my eyes open, and found several farms in the area that grew wheat.    The closest however, were not that close, and I had no mill, and, and, and...  But time goes on and new opportunities arise.    With my birthday coming up, my DH asked me what I wanted and I said a mixer.   I picked out a fancy one and was ready to pull the trigger, when I realized that I simply didn't need such high capacity, and would do quite well with a much more modestly priced model.   That meant that I had "saved" a lot of money, so my husband decided to throw in a mill.    With a new mill coming, I needed wheat.   In fact I needed Massachusetts grown wheat.  

I called a friend and convinced her that she absolutely needed to drive west with me to see the leaves (and incidentally buy wheat.)   She agreed that was absolutely necessary, so the other day we went west.    That is 3/4 of the way across Massachusetts to the little town of Gill, where lies a farm called Upinngil, which sells its own wheat.    I tried calling beforehand to see what they had available, but no dice - they didn't answer.    When we got there, true they had 50 lb sacks of wheat in their store, but they were soft red winter wheat, and hard white winter wheat, neither of  which were what I had in mind.   One of the nice women there said that I should come back in two weeks.    That was hardly possible, as my first trip out there had already strained the limits of practicality.   Fortunately at that moment in walked Mr. Hatch, the farmer.    Told of my plight, he said, no problem.   I have some hard red winter wheat out at the cleaner (not the cleaners).   I'll just drive over to the field and pick some up for you.   Phew!   So with a 50 pound sack of wheat in my trunk, mission accomplished.   And yes, the leaves were lovely as well.

Yesterday the mill and the mixer (Bosch compact) arrived and needed to be put to use.   So I got my starter going, and today started milling and baking.   Not knowing my mill very well yet, I milled pretty coarse, and wanting to get to know the wheat, I decided to make all the flour in the final dough my fresh ground whole wheat.      This meant over 75% coarsely ground whole wheat, which is not something that I'm all that familiar baking with, as I usually keep whole grains to 30% or below.   

I have just cut and tasted, and who knew that Massachusetts wheat would be so good.   Mr. Hatch said that he had been growing it as feed for 20 years, but only in the last 10 has he started selling it to bakers who are interested in local foods.    He also told me that a CSA near me makes regular trips out to his farm for milk, cheese, etc.   So it may be that in the future, I won't have to make the trek if I can meet up with them.  

In any case, I think my whole wheat baking needs work, and I am excited to learn more.

The third new tool I used for this bake was a single edge razor for scoring, taking a tip from breadsong.   I love the control it gives.  

Of course that's not quite as exciting as the KoMo Fidibus 21  shown here resting after it's first milling.


Here's to local farms:

and local wheat:

I used my WFO today probably for the last time of the season.    Now I need to wrap it up tight so it can get through Sandy unharmed.

And finally, I'll close with the a bit of Autumn splendor:  first Tartarian Asters (over 7 feet tall)

and mums which can't really compete with the leaves this time of year:

Update:  Just changed the title of this post from ...freshly ground... to ...freshly milled...   It ain't coffee after all.


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