The Fresh Loaf

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My first Desem Bread inspired by Phil's 100% whole-wheat desem bread

codruta's picture

My first Desem Bread inspired by Phil's 100% whole-wheat desem bread

I think we all agree Phil's breads are awesome. When I saw his latest post, I instantly decided that I want to make the desem bread... but I didn't have a desem starter, and with 2 active starters in my house, I didn't really wanted to make another starter from scratch. But a couple of days later I saw David's post on the same topic and I followed his example. I took a small amount of my white starter and fed it with whole wheat flour at 50% hydration, kept it in the fridge all the time. After a week and 2-3 feeds, I decided to give it a try. The desem build was slighty sour (I tasted it just before using it), but the bread is not sour at all. Is not sour, is not bitter, it has a wonderful caramel aroma and is lighter than other WW breads I made before :)... but it doesn't have the famous sweet taste I hoped it would have :(. I think this might be because the desem starter still has some of the characteristic of the white starter and it will need more than 2 feeds to change completely... or is because I didn't use freshly milled flour like Phil did... or both.

I had and used a low protein (10.9g) whole wheat flour from Alnatura ( and Phil advised me to increased the prefermented flour and to reduce hydration and fermentation time. The overall hydration was 80% and fermentation time was 2h:30min (first fermenatation) and 1h:20min second fermentation at 24C. The dough was slighty underproofed, as you can see, but it had a good oven spring, nice crust colour and nice crumb (not as opened as Phil's ...but,  I'll get there one day!). I'll be making this formula again, the taste is very close to what I expected, the aroma is delicious and it was a real pleasure to eat it. Thank you Phil for the detailed formula and the help you gave me along the way!


The desem starter after 2 feeds:

The desem build just before use:

The preshaped dough, before rest and final shape (I made just one loaf from 850g of dough):

and the baked bread:

Best wishes to all of you,



hanseata's picture

And what a good looking loaf. I should try it, too.


Isand66's picture

Great looking bread.  Nice write up and photos too!  I think we all need to give this one a try.


nicodvb's picture

Very nice, Codruta. I wonder what makes the crumb appear so caramelled without making it taste sweet.

Mysteries of baking!

codruta's picture

Nico, maybe it is sweet, as opposed to sour, but I hoped it would be sweeter (like honey sweet).

I hope I am not wrong understood. It is a wonderful bread, the crust is absolutely delicious, I could eat it plain (in fact I did) (without butter or something else) and enjoy it, but I just thought the crumb will be ... sweeter than it is, from what Phil described.


FlourChild's picture

Great-looking bread and the desem starter is fascinating!

PiPs's picture

Hi Codruta,

Great to see you had a go at the desem starter and bread. Perhaps keep feeding the desem for a another week or more and see if the flavour changes. There are a lot of factors at play that will influence the flavour of the loaf. The type of wheat grown and it's growing season, whether it stone milled or roller-milled, the age of the flour ... all that before you even start to mix your bread. Then the fermentation is all under your control.

I received another shipment of wheat yesterday and looked the spec sheet ... It actually has a protein level of 10.9% ... similar to yours but as I mill my flour it tends to be much thirstier so I think you did the right thing by reducing your hydration level.

The wheat I am using is grown in South Australia which has a very different climate to Queensland where I live. The wheat produced there is softer and more flavoursome than the prime hard wheats grown closer to home. 

...anyway I think your desem loaf looks fantastic. Glad your enjoying it.