The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Inspired bread: Phil's 100% Whole Wheat Desem

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Inspired bread: Phil's 100% Whole Wheat Desem

I have been meaning to make a Flemish Desem for years. I actually started making a Desem starter once from scratch, but lacked the persistance to follow through. Phil's recent blog on his Desem (See Honest bread - 100% whole-wheat desem bread and some country bread), with his gorgeous photos and clear instructions, got me back on the job. I baked a Desem according to his instructions today. It was marvelous!

I deviated from Phil's procedure in a few particulars.

1. I used a finely ground organic whole wheat flour from Central Milling rather than the freshly-milled flour Phil uses.

2. I mixed by machine rather than by hand. The autolyse was mixed in a KitchenAid stand mixer with the paddle. The final dough was mixed with the dough hook - at Speed one to incorporate the levain, salt and extra water and at Speed 2 for 6 minutes followed by a stretch and fold on the bench in place of hand mixing and kneading.

3. I proofed in a linen-lined banneton dusted with AP and Rice flour rather than WW or bran.

4. I baked entirely on my stone with steaming accomplished in my usual manner. I pre-heated the oven at 480 dF, baked with steam for 10 minutes. After 20 minutes, I turned the oven down to 400 dF and baked for another 20 minutes

Desem cross section

Desem crumb

Desem crumb close-up

The loaf had good oven spring. I cooled it for about 2 1/2 hours before slicing. It was still a bit warm in the middle when I sliced it, but I wanted to have a slice (or 3) with dinner. The crumb structure was pretty similar to Phil's, except for the tunneling under the crust, always a risk when you bake a loaf without scoring.

The flavor of the bread was delicious. It had a mild sourdough tang and a very prominant whole wheat flavor but with absolutely no grassiness or bitterness and with a lovely sweet undertone. My biggest fan and harshest critic, my wife, pronounced it "very good bread" and ate twice as much bread as she usually does at dinner.

This one joins my list of regular bakes. 

David

Comments

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

It looks like it is very light and tender, which is a great characteristic for a whole wheat loaf.  The crumb in your loaf looks excellent, tunnel and all. 

I've been meaning to try a desem starter too.  Perhaps you will be my inspirational boost, as Phil was for you.  I've been interested in desem ever since I bought "The Bread Builders" and learned that it was the bread Alan Scott baked regularly.  I always get more interested, too,  when there is an opportunity to learn.  You seem to provide many of those, so thank you!

You mention  

tunneling under the crust, always a risk when you bake a loaf without scoring

I did some searching and some reading, and found many references to it as knowledge, but not much on the reasoning.  Can you provide a brief explanation of the reason it seems to work out that way?

Great bake David.
OldWoodenSpoon

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Thanks for the compliment, OWS!

I think that gas bubbles tend to coalesce under the top crust. Scoring creates a soft surface as the loaf blooms during oven spring through which the gas can escape. This is post hoc reasoning, of course. I have no specific data to support it.

David

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi David,

Great to see your desem bake, and I am so glad you and your wife enjoyed it. I baked another batch today as well, though I haven't cut into it yet. I always find with a good desem loaf that I tend to eat just a little more than I would with a white bread ... I don't feel bloated or heavy afterwards ... hard to explain and its probably in my head, but it sits well with me.

Would the Central Milling flour be from red wheat? It looks darker and richer in colour, both in the crust and crumb than what I can achieve with the white wheat. I would love to be able to get that kind of crust colouring in a whole-wheat bread. The crumb looks tender and light just as OWS describes.

I haven't had the tunnelling under the crust as yet ... I shape them pretty tight and bake in a cast iron pot and have been pushing the proofing to the point of over-proofing ...  not sure if this has any relevance though.

So glad you baked it

Cheers,
Phil 

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

Phil--

I would guess that this flour is from red wheat.  CM calls it "Organic High Protein Whole Wheat Fine".  I don't remember if Nicky Giusto told me what the protein percentage is, but I do remember him saying that the high protein and fine grind result in a lighter more open crumb than most whole wheat flours produce.  And I have found that to be true.  It is also delicious!  It is the only whole wheat flour I use these days, and with it I can increase the whole wheat percentage in pain de campagnes without sacrificing airiness.

It is also a flour that CM supplies to Tartine and Acme, among other fine local bakeries.

Glenn

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I'm pretty sure the CM flour is milled from Red Winter Wheat - maybe a mix of Winter and Spring wheat. I'll see if I can find out and correct this if the facts are different.

The crumb is very tender and light, and very flavorful.

I think your pushing the proofing is very relevant to the tunneling I got. I had some concern I had over-proofed. I had another loaf in the oven while the desem was proofing, and it was taking longer than expected to bake. In the end, the desem proofed for about 2 hours at room temperature which I guess to have been right around 70 dF. In retrospect, I could have proofed even longer, but the loaf was well-expanded and felt quite gassy.

Thanks again for the recipe. It's a winner!

David

isand66's picture
isand66

Where do you buy the CM flour?  Is at your local store or do you buy it via the internet?

I wouldn't mind trying it as you seem to have such great results.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Brother Glenn picks up the CM flours I use at their warehouse in Petaluma.

Currently, the flours Whole Foods carries under their "365" brand are all from CM. I have used them, and they are very good, but they are not the same as the particular flours Glenn got for me. I wouldn't hesitate to use the WFM flours. In fact I do use them a lot. They are certainly easier to obtain, if you are not in the SF Bay Area.

David

isand66's picture
isand66

Great looking bake.

So did you take your normal 50% hydration starter and just refresh with the wholewheat flour to build the Desem starter or did you build the starter another way.  I know I had asked Phil about this on one of his posts but I don't recall the actual building stages.

Thanks.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I just fed my firm mixed-grain starter one time according to Phil's formula. If I were to make this bread very often, I would maintain a desem starter for it. Phil told me that his stock starter is a desem.

David

isand66's picture
isand66

One more question as I am going to attempt to bake this, can you tell me if you used the starter right after its 12 hour build or did you put it in the refrigerator and use it later after it rested?

thanks.

varda's picture
varda

Nice to see an inspired rendition of an honest loaf.    So the difference between desem starter and regular wheat starter is lower hydration and fed with whole wheat?   -Varda

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Varda,

Yes, all whole wheat flour, lower hydration and cooler temps. than for a 'white flour' starter.  All help keep the flavor 'sweet' rather than 'sour'. 

Janet

varda's picture
varda

A lot to keep track of on this site.  -Varda

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

WW bread David.  It is so interesting to see the difference half a world away with its different flours, baking methods and techniques makes to a recipe.  Very nice crumb for 100% WW.

I wonder what some WW diastatic malt would do for creating more maltose that the yeast could use to make more gas which could be trapped and improve the crumb openness? 

Do you sometimes get the same tunneling at the center top of the boule on your Pulgiesi Capriosso which is also unslashed? I've only made it 3 times and it has been tunnel free so far, but I have managed to get some tunneling on breads that I have slashed - a real technical fau pax :-)

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

The dough was very gassy. I don't think it needed diastatic malt. Hmmm .... In fact, the flour may be malted. I'll have to check.

I have not had tunneling with the Pugliese. I have had it with some high-percentage rye breads that I docked rather than scored. But, remember, the Pugliese is baked smooth-side down, so, if top surface pressure builds, it should escape through the folds.

David

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

Beautiful bake.  I love the crumb close-up.

I wonder why one wouldn't score the loaf.

Glenn

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I believe Desem is traditionally baked un-scored. That was my principal reason for not scoring it. I need to go back to Belgium and search out Desems in their natural habitat to be sure. We never encountered desem in either Belgium or Holland, but neither did we look for it. 

David

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Something's happened to my wife, and I can only attribute it to the desem. She's in the kitchen, making Carbonnades à la Flammande. She hasn't even asked me to help, except to put out a couple bottles of pilzner for her.

You need to know I do almost all the cooking chez nous. My wife is very health conscious. We eat very little meat and almost never eat beef. But there she is, sautéing big slabs of red meat, quarts of sliced onions, ... etc.

I dunno about that desem.

David

isand66's picture
isand66

Are you sure it wasn't the bottle of wine you both had at dinner to wash down the bread?  :)

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Well, I did have a couple of glasses of chardonney with the bread (and halibut, spinach and colcannon), but my wife abstained. And, no, I wasn't hung over or anything today. It was the desem!

David

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

Stews are always best the next day.  Perhaps it's an elaborate April Fool's Day joke.  She's going to make it today, put it in the fridge, and, just for laughs, not serve it tomorrow.  Susan is quite the trickster.  Oh, wait...no she's not.

Must be the Desem.  Or something else Flem-matic.

Enjoy your day of beef, Bro!

Glenn

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

As a matter of fact, the carbonnades are for tomorrow's dinner. 

Susan doesn't play jokes, or, if she does, they have been too subtle for me to catch, and we know that's nearly impossible. So, we will enjoy our April Fools' Day beef with straight forward smiles of pleasure.

Tonight, it's roast chicken, first-of-the-season fresh shelled peas and roast potatoes. And some nice Bethel Heights pinot noir.

David

isand66's picture
isand66

Now I have to make this and give it to my wife to eat....I will let you know if it has the same effect!

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

David

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

Phil said he used White Winter Wheat for his desem loaf. Is that the same as our American White Whole Wheat and if it is, is there a reason you decided to use whole wheat instead of white whole wheat? Or am I mistaken?

weavershouse

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I don't think Phil mentioned that he used white WW until after I'd baked my desem, and I don't recall that he said anything about Spring vs Winter wheat. I may have missed it, I suppose.

I assume white WW is white WW.  Whatever, I don't have any at the moment. 

David

PiPs's picture
PiPs

I used white winter wheat as this is the wheat grown predominately in Australia. I have not seen red wheat sold anywhere either in shops or online here. Some of the desem recipes I have seen use a mixture of red and white wheats.

Cheers,
Phil 

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Double post

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

David,

Saw your comment about white whole wheat....spring vs winter.  

There is a difference and it is in the protein content.  Red and white hard wheat are grown both in spring crops and winter crops. The winter crops are planted late fall and then lie dormant throughout the winter.  They are then ready for harvest in spring.

Spring wheat is planted in the spring and is ready to harvest in the summer and fall.  Around here there are 4 harvests of wheat throughout the growing season.

Spring wheat is generally higher in protein therefore a stronger gluten component.

Winter is supposedly the type 'artisan' bakers prefer as it is more elastic due to smaller protein content therefore easier to shape.

I am currently doing an experiment with both types to see if that is true.

All winter I milled and baked with a hard white spring wheat (Prairie Gold) and it preformed great for me in all of my breads.

About a month ago I purchased 75# of hard white winter wheat and so for I haven't noticed a huge difference though it does seem to tear more easily when nuts or seeds are added to a loaf.  Too soon to really judge though.

Dan DiMuzio writes about the differences in his GREAT book 'Bread Baking' if you are interested in further reading on the subject - his info. a lot more accurate than mine :-)

Take Care,

Janet

ml's picture
ml

Is this also the flour you use to feed your desem starter?

ml's picture
ml

Hi David.

I have spent the last few days refreshing my original starter, 80% white, 16% rye, 4% ww, because of all the discussions about refreshing starters, & because I haven't been happy with a few of my bakes, lately. I had thought I would use this as my primary.

Now, there is a whole new idea here! Well, not new, but...

Laurel's Bread Book uses 20 pages to discuss desem starter & bread! I didn't bother finishing reading the first time I came across it. Sounded too fussy. I like complicated breads, but didn't want a complicated starter.

Surely, it can't be as easy as elaborating a 50%  hydration WW from whatever starter one has, & that's desem?

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Laurel is the most often cited source for information on desems, but I cannot speak to how authoritative she is.

In general, starters take a while to develop a stable population of organisms, so it makes sense to me that the character of the bread made with a desem starter that has been maintained for a few months would be somewhat different than one made as I made mine.

That said, what I made was sure good.

BTW, I had some for lunch today. It was still moist, having been wrapped in one layer of plasti-crap.. The flavor had mellowed, and I liked it even more than when just cooled.

David

ml's picture
ml

Oh yes, Laurel also said the tunnel is because you didn't poke the bread enough?

PiPs's picture
PiPs

@ ml

A desem starter is in essence a stiff hydration starter. The difference is that its is fed freshly milled whole-wheat flour and kept at cool temperatures. The cool temperatures and low hydration are necessary to slow the activity from the mineral rich flour and encourage a sweet fermentation. Warm and liquid whole-wheat starter cultures can be extremly active and acidic in my experience. Your right, it would take quite a few refreshments to convert another starter into a desem starter, but a few refreshments done correctly would give you very nice bread as David has done.

In the end I think freshly milled flour makes the biggest contribution to the final flavour and aroma of a desem starter. 

I found the instructions in Laurels book quite confusing and complicated and prefer Dan Wing and Alan Scott's "The Bread Builders" and Thom Leonard's "Bread Book" for desem reading.

So far I haven't had any issues of tunneling in my desem bread when I chose not to score or dock (poke) them.

Cheers,
Phil

rayel's picture
rayel

Hi David,

Really beautiful Desem bread. I like the close up crumb shot especially.

Ray

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

David