The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Simple baking after a week of rain ...

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PiPs's picture
PiPs

Simple baking after a week of rain ...

It has rained and rained and after a week of soggy grey we finally have a glimmer of sunshine. And with all the rain and cooler temperatures I have really noticed how intertwined my bread making is with the weather. Every feeding and levain build is a unique decision – the balance between the temperature and feed ratios.

Wandering through the kitchen I throw a glance at the thermometer resting beside my rising levain and through the day I feel subtle change of temperature between rooms in the house. I notice this most among the quiet and peaceful times for me, scattered and far between though they are.

After arriving back home from my parents we had a house emptied of bread and I left it that way until the weekend. We have all been settling into the routines of a new year. Nat and I both back at work, plus we have had two new school milestones for the kids with one starting grade one and another starting her first year in high school.

With cool morning air and some time free on a drizzly Saturday I prepared my desem starter plus milled and soaked the fresh wheat flour. To me this is the simplest, purest form of bread - whole flour, water and salt. Later that day the dough was developed using stretch-and-folds over a three hour bulk-ferment before a quick final proof and bake. There is a fascination for me by using a longer bulk-ferment and developing the dough slowly and carefully - subtle changes over time – slowly becoming alive. It slots nicely into the rythem of a rainy day at home. Relaxing ...

After a long hiatus I finally baked some whole-wheat Fig and Anise loaves. Again these were raised with the desem starter with the chopped figs and aniseeds incorporated early in the bulk ferment.

These are a special treat for us and are consumed with utter joy - toasted, with a drizzle of honey, topped with ricotta cheese. We sit at breakfast with a slice or two and appreciate our morning amongst the din of school preparations and children slurping down breakfasts.

The sun is shining again ... all the best
Phil

Comments

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Phil,

I so love your photos and peeks into your life 'down under'.  You make a home full of 4 children 'look' like it is a quiet and peaceful retreat...

Funny you should post your fig and anise loaf....I have been noticing the figs in my refrig. every time I open the drawer I store them in - almost like they are calling to me to be used for something....but this week the fruit is going to be cranberries at my daughter's request and they will be joined by roasted walnuts, allspice and a touch of cinnamon.....so maybe next week.  I really love working with the recipe you posted for that loaf....

Dishes are calling me to the kitchen and flour begging for a long tall drink of water....a soaker for tomorrow's Italian loaf...

Take Care and thanks so much for the wonderful photos and write up.  I am glad to hear the sun is out again.

Janet

PiPs's picture
PiPs

We seem to have a house of extremes ... from bouncing off the walls excitement to long lazy quiet days. I guess the busy days let us appreciate the quiet ones more :) We SO love the fig and anise combination ... It's too dangerous to make all the time ... we would eat nothing else :)

The walnut and cranberries sounds terrific ... hmm ... and I have some walnuts in the fridge ... hmm ... 

After growing up in sunny south-east Queensland I start to go a little bonkers if the sun is hidden for more than a week .... Hard to imagine how others live with so little of it during winter months.

It's good to hear from you Janet and thanks for the kind words.

Cheers,
Phil 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook
isand66's picture
isand66

Phil, your bread looks awesome and your photography is excellent.  Your post looks like the pages from a cookbook!

What is a Desem starter?  I can't say I have heard of this before.

Thanks.

Ian

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks Ian,

A Desem starter is type of sourdough starter. (It's origins are from Belgium) For me it is more of a description of how the starter is maintained.

It is kept as a firm starter (50%-60% hydration) and ideally is fed freshly milled flour and kept at cool temperatures. In reality it is very similar to a french style levain but using wholewheat flour. The biggest trick for me in Australia is keeping the temperatures under control.

Cheers,
Phil 

isand66's picture
isand66

Thanks for the reply Phil,

Sounds similar to my 68% hydration starter, except I tend to use bread flour or all purpose.  If I have a recipe calling for a whole wheat starter I just convert it over or a rye starter.

I keep mine in the refrigerator except when it is feeding.

What part of Australia do you live in?  I hope to visit on vacation one of these days.  My company Regent Sports has a license in Australia so hopefully I can visit them and mix business with pleasure.

Cheers!

Ian

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Ian,

The desem is similar to the starter youir using but if fed at normal temperatures tends to sour too quickly hence its kept at lower temperatures. I keep mine at 50% during summer and a bit wetter in winter. (60%)

I'm in Brisbane, about half way up the east coast ... Queensland is a great sunny spot for a holiday :)

Cheers,
Phil

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Phil,

Beautiful baking illustrated with such fine narrative and photography.   Joy to behold.

On Desem...yes, I must get into this.

I'm really happy to have developed great and simple formulae for rye breads and the miches.   And I so admired Alan Scott.   I have his book co-written with Daniel Wing.   Do you have any other good sources to recommend reading more about Desem Bread?

All good wishes

Andy

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Andy,

Thanks so much ... nice to see people enjoying my little slice of the world :)

mmm ... Desem ... I nearly drove myself to distraction trying to find reading material on this. I have kind of come to the conclusion that a desem starter is just a well controlled wholewheat levain. Now that makes it sound boring .... but oh the aroma when you take the expanded starter ball from the jar filled with fresh milled flour and you cut it in half ... oh so sweet and it seems to get even better when it starts dissolving in water ... really quite different from the usual levain aromas. The freshly milled flours seem to accentuate this ... Could be in my head, but I am sure they were not like this when using store bought stone ground flour to maintain them.

I have two books on my book shelf that are so well loved and would be constantly carried with me on my trips to work by bus and train ... they now have tattered edges and marks all over. They are the "Bread Builders" that you mentioned and "The Bread Book" by Thom Leonard.

I found Alan's formula for the desem too dry for my tastes ... and that's the thing ... there doesn't seem to be a "true" original formula ... more a process.

Thom's book is a great resource for desem baking ... short and sweet with my only beef being that he uses volume measurements. A small book about growing grains, milling them and baking real bread. Simple :)

I have Laurel Robertson's Kitchen bread book which has an extensive section on desem baking but I found it less useful ... I lent that book to my father so I can't look at it right now to explain why ... It's a great book but I think I found the desem section overly convoluted.

The battle for me in summer is keeping the temperatures down ... I don't really care for the smell of a wholewheat levain that is too far gone :)

All the best,
Phil 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Andy,

Just to 'ditto' what Phil said above about a desem.  I have read several descriptions from various sources and, technically it is just a starter made with ww flour instead of AP, BF or rye.  It is also kept firm and cooler.  Too warm or liquid and it gets too sour.  Tending one is almost the exact opposite of what one does with a white flour starter....

The description in Laurel's book is really long and uses tons of flour - 10 pounds just to put your starter ball into to let it ripen!!!

She is a very good source for info. on baking with ww and her recipes are top notch and can all be converted to using wild yeast instead of IY....but her instructions for a desem are enough to deter anyone from every attempting to make one....

Take Care,

Janet

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi

My understanding is that freshly ground wholewheat flour is just as significant as the use of cool fermentation.

I only go along with you part way about this being the opposite to white starters, as I don't use liquid white starter.   I maintain my white levain stiff and generally keep it cool, for exactly the same reasons cited for the desem starter.   Slow cool fermentation in a low aqueous environment means it doesn't spoil.

I'd love to get into milling, but not sure how easy that will be to accommodate in my now very busy schedule!

All good wishes

Andy

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Agreed Andy,

The fresh milled flour is intrinsic to the desem process and fitting the milling into a schedule does add another level of complexity. Milling and soaking/autolysing the flour overnight while the desem expands can break up the process so I don't have to retard the dough at any stage.

Cheers,
Phil 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Andy,

I bake daily - several loaves and sometimes several different types of loaves.

I have the KoMo mill and mill on an as needed basis....so when I am mixing up a dough - I mill what I need for that recipe only.  It is all done very quickly - in less than 5 minutes.

I must note though that I do not sift my flour.  I use all that is milled.

I buy my grains in bulk - 50# sacks which I have room to store in our basement.  

To me this really doesn't take any time at all to do.  The mill is easy to maintain.  No elaborate cleaning routine.  I can even adjust to get the exact grind I want from very fine to very coarse....I have no left over flour to store so there is no waste.  When I feed my leaven I grind only what is needed for it too.  

I would imagine if you want to sift out the bran then more time would be required.  I know Phil does that so maybe he will chime in and give a report on how time consuming that is but I think it isn't that big of a deal at all - messy but not a whole lot of time....

All depends upon the availability of whole grains in your area and your storage capacity.  Sometimes the store bought flour is cheaper than the whole grains and that may well be true in your situation in which case milling makes no sense - especially when you are selling your loaves....you would loose income or have to price them too high in which case  people might not want to purchase them...

So many details and decisions :-)

Take Care,

Janet

P.S. On the desem...yes, I agree with Phil - it is using freshly milled ww flour.....mine is always freshly milled so I forget to add that simply assuming that others know that part already....sorry I wasn't more explicit in my description....assumptions got in the way :-)

MC's picture
MC

...with you, Janet! Milling really doesn't take much more time than opening a flour bag. The mill self-cleans and I can adjust it to get the exact grind I need. I don't sift out anything either. Taste-wise, in my experience, it makes more sense to mill than to use commercially bought flour: it is always fresh and my levain loves it more! The flavors are unbeatable...

MC's picture
MC

...with you, Janet! Milling really doesn't take much more time than opening a flour bag. The mill self-cleans and I can adjust it to get the exact grind I need. I don't sift out anything either. Taste-wise, in my experience, it makes more sense to mill than to use commercially bought flour: it is always fresh and my levain loves it more! The flavors are unbeatable...

PiPs's picture
PiPs

I completely missed Janet's comment :)

If I am milling and not sifting its actually cleaner than opening a bag of flour. I also have been lucky to purchase my grains at wholesale prices so it is saving me money.

The taste is the real winner though!!!

Cheers,
Phil

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Andy,

I was scouting around for info. on desems and ran across this site which produces a PDF file - an article written by a J. Kandell on his procedure using a desem.  At the end of the article he lists many sources for further reading.

Thought you might like to take a peek at his list.

Here is the link:

[DOC] 

Sourdough myths:www.sysmatrix.net/~jkandell/Desem-web-jk6.docFile Format: Microsoft Word - Quick View
MAKING DESEM WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH BREAD: A Primer. Jonathan Kandell, Tucson AZ. jkandell@sysmatrix.net. Created April 2006, Last modified ...


Not sure you can print off of this.  I did the search using the title of his article which is:  Making Desem Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread: A Primer.
Good Luck,Janet
ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Janet,

Thank you for passing on all of this.  Actually the 2 biggest barriers to milling at home are my lack of money, and physical space.   I could make time.

Thanks for the Kandell document.   I find myself in complete disagreement with his ideas.   To me use of cold temperature is fundamental to the Desem process.   There is a difference between using freshly milled flour and fermenting cold, and his own concept of a "Wholemeal Pain au levain" culture.   Oh, and he uses cups and "eyeballs" ingredients too, which is something I will not entertain.

There doesn't seem to be very much on the technical info at the heart of the process, which is a bit of a shame.   That's what I'm really interested in reading about.

Sorry I'm late getting back to you about this.   I can't see me getting into milling in a big way, but I would like to develop another bread line alongside the Gilchesters' Miche and the Borodinsky which uses authentic Desem including freshly milled flour and use of cool fermenting.

Best wishes

Andy

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Andy, found this chunk of info regarding desem leavens and wholegrain baking ... quirky and interesting read. LINK

Cheers,
Phil

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Beautiful blog! Breads, and all..

Is that you slapping and folding by the window? Your avatar picture looks different.

Very inspiring!

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Yeah that's me ... I am still wearing my post holiday beard so that might explain the confusion :)

I debated putting the pic up but Nat convinced me otherwise as she took that pic ... she says she wants her 5 mins/secs of glory :)

Cheers,
Phil

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

that Nat is no slouch with a camera, either.  Thanks for sharing the words and the photos.

Paul

lumos's picture
lumos

Been a bit busy, so I won't say much today, but just wanted you to know it's an absolute joy to read the record of your breadmaking (and other culinary delights and the life around it) and see your beautiful photos.  So  enlightening, comforting and uplifting.  Thank you so much  for sharing. :)

 

btw, I can tell you what you call 'cooler temperatures' is like scorching tropical climate compared to what we're experiencing in Europe at the moment!!! :p

 

p.s.

Every feeding and levain build is a unique decision – the balance between the temperature and feed ratios.

Same here. It's been taking over 24 hrs to build active enough levain by 2 feeds lately while it only takes 12~16 hrs in warmer season.  I can almost do 'cold retard' without putting the dough in the fridge! :p

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Brrr Lumos,

Hard to fathom those temperatures :)

In winter I sometimes retard the shaped loaves overnight outside in the cold ... works quite nicely.

Good to here for you

Cheers,
Phil

lumos's picture
lumos

In winter I sometimes retard the shaped loaves overnight outside in the cold ... works quite nicely.

I'll try that next time...when I want to freeze the dough! :p

PiPs's picture
PiPs

eeek! ... the worst I have to worry about are the possums.

varda's picture
varda

Phil,  It seems almost redundant to comment on your photographs, but really they are so beautiful and evocative.  Enjoyed your post very much.  -Varda

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks Varda,

Glad you like 'em.

Cheers,
Phil

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

Gorgeous pictures, love the contemplative feel and the effect of color after black and white.  Bread sounds amazing, you're an inspiration!

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks so much Flourchild,

I found the black and white photography also placed a lot of focus on the beautiful texture of the dough and bread.

Cheers,
Phil

rayel's picture
rayel

Thanks Phill, I enjoyed the picture's story. Lovely indeed.

Ray

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks Ray,

I think the photos probably tell much more than I can convey in words :)

Cheers,
Phil

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Hi Phil DITTO with most of the other comments, just watch out for those photographers though its not long before their 5 mins of glory take over completely, extremely well done both of you! Great write up and great pictures.

Its been really really really HOT here in Perth Western Australia, 42 degrees one day and consistently over the old century or 37 for a week or more, not exactly conducive  to baking, although  i did have a quick bake with one of the chefs here at the institute as she wanted to see the different techniques used in sour dough. Our students start next week so more opportunity will arise im sure in the weeks to come, just hope that some one will turn the wick down a little.

kind regard Yozza   

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hey thanks Yozza,

The weather over there sounds oppressive ... hot and humid again here ... I long for the cooler months. I've never been over to Perth ... it's a bit of a hike :) 

All the best,
Phil 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Your simple baking is like light years removed from my reality.  I hope there is a short cut or parallel universe I can get to fairly quickly or I will be long dead before I can bake like you!!!  The best presentation I have seen on TFL and there a plenty of good ones - most of them yours.  Nice to see a pro being simple for once!!  Just awesome.  I can't help but wonder if you are an alien?  It's OK if you are :-)  Being human is too humbling.

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks, I really appreciate the kind words :)

Perhaps it's simple ingredients then?

This bread thing has seriously gotten into my head and thinking over the years ... hard to stop it now :)

Cheers,
Phil