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 Post subject: Desem bread
PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:42 pm 

Joined: Mon Dec 26, 2011 10:35 pm
Posts: 548
"man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of Yah." (my paraphrase) That erse has special significance here and is often overlooked as to its meaning. At that time, the kind of bread that was made actually could sustain life. Modern breads...not so much. So what's the difference? Short answer...fermentation. The fermentation process, especially that of Desem style bread (as differentiated from other sourdoughs) makes nutrients available to the eater which normally are bund up by phytates and are thus unavailable nutrition. Desem is a pungent bread, somewhat dry, best eaten when used to sop up juices or toasted. It will literally sustain life.

In addition, a desem loaf will keep for two to three weeks.

Here's how to make the starter. From the link below. ... semstarter

Laurel's Desem Starter

Laurel Robertson's "The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book" is one of my two favorite whole grain bread books. It offers a wealth of information about how to make good breads with whole grain flours. The only complaint I have about the book is that her grasp of sourdough is somewhat limited. In most cases, she uses yeast to start a starter, and if you've made it to this page you have probably read what I think about that.

However, she does detail the production of a Flemish bread called Desem bread, which is a sourdough bread made with a starter that is made without yeast. This special starter is actually very similar to what we think chuck wagon cooks in the old west used to do. Her description of the starter and the bread are truly romantic, and worth the price of the book all by itself. Once you have created the starter you may use it for other breads, of course. This is paraphrased from her book, and I have not, as yet, tried it. I'll be trying it as soon as I get back from Camp Bread, and then I'll share my observations. I hope to find some good Desem bread while I'm in San Francisco, so I'll have a better idea of what I'm trying to do.

Well, I'm back from Camp Bread and the "Great Desem Project" has begun. I'll comment on it in blue text, and add pictures. At the end of the project, I'll probably re-write this section from the ground up.

You should start by getting 10 pounds of fairly coarsely ground organic whole wheat flour. The flour should be as fresh as possible, preferably not more than 5 days from the mill. Since the flour should be fairly coarse, I would suggest not using a micronizer mill, such as a WhisperMill, WonderMill or NutriMill to grind the flour if you normally grind your own flour as the coarsest setting on these mills is still pretty fine.

As many other people have commented, that's a LOT of flour! Surely the process doesn't require THAT much flour! And people complain about pitching half their starter as they build it the first time with my process and Professor Calvel's. I think the other processes are less wasteful. I used my KitchenAid flour mill to grind some hard red winter wheat into flour. It is slower than a WhisperMill, but the instructions called for coarsely ground flour and the WhisperMill doesn't do coarsely ground. Also, the KitchenAid doesn't heat the flour as much. It was 3 hours until the grinding was finished. I had to let the mixer rest for an hour half way through the process, and probably should have let it rest longer and more often.

Laurel suggests using fresh spring water. She suggests not using distilled water as the process works best if the water still has minerals in it. A recurring question with regards to sourdough starter is what sort of water may be used with it. Many people insist that sourdough starter can be killed by chlorinated water. Others say that it cannot be started with chlorinated water. In my experience, chlorinated water has not been a problem. I have started, fed and used starters with chlorinated water with no problems. However, I have heard that the more persistent forms of chlorine used by some cities, such as chloramine, can cause problems.

In general, if your tap water smells and tastes good it will probably work well with sourdough. If you have problems with your starters, you may want to try using dechlorinated water. Since few home filters will remove chlorine from water, and from what I am told neither boiling nor standing will remove chloramine, I suggest that you try bottled water if you are experiencing what you think might be water related problems with your sourdough.

Once you have the ingredients, you will be embarking on a seven-day process.

Day one - put the 10 pounds of flour in a container that is about as wide as it is tall. A bucket or an 8 quart or so bowl should do the trick. Take two cups of flour and add 1/2 cup of dechlorinated water. Add more water, if needed, so you can knead the dough ball into something that is stiff but not impossible to handle. Think bagel dough. Knead the dough ball for a few minutes, then form it into a round ball, and then bury the ball in the container of flour. The dough ball should be well centered in the container of flour, and covered by the flour. Cover the container to protect the flour from pests, the wind and so on. You will need to keep the container between 50 and 65F and not let it go above 70F at any time. Now, ignore the container for 48 hours.

Well, that's all done. I'm ignoring the bowl of flour, which has the ball of starter wannabe in it. It still seems like a lot of flour!

Day two - Ignore the container.

So far, so good. I'm getting pretty good at this "ignore it for two days" thing. Of course, I'm a guy and we can ignore almost anything for days on end without even working up a sweat.

Day three - The surface of the flour may have a crack in it or have risen - this is a hint that something is happening. After washing and drying your hands, dig out the dough ball. If the dough ball has formed a skin on it, use a sharp knife to cut it off. Whether or not the dough ball has formed a skin, you will want to discard enough of the dough ball that you are left with a mass about 1/2 the size of what you pulled out of the flour.

At this time, the surface of the flour looks undisturbed. I dug into the flour to find the dough ball. It felt like a meteorite, hard, dense and unyielding. It took a sharp knife and some effort to cut the outer skin off. To my surprise, the inside was moist and soft. Softer than when the ball was formed.

Now knead in 1/2 cup of fresh chlorine free water to form a softer mass. Once that is done, knead in 1 cup of flour from the container. Once that is done, work in more flour or water as needed to restore the dough ball to its original consistency on day one. Again, bury the dough ball in the container of flour. Bury it fairly well centered. Make sure the dough ball is covered. Cover the container to protect it from pests, store it at 50 to 65F and leave it alone for 24 hours.

It took a good bit more flour than the recipe suggested. However, I did make a dough ball and bury it.

Day four - repeat the process from day three. By this point, the Desem should have begun to have an aroma. It should have a fresh aroma, with a hint of fermentation about it, and should remind you of sprouting wheat. If it doesn't, add a bit more water to make the dough ball a bit softer.

The surface of the flour showed a lot of disruption as the dough ball had risen. I again dug out the dough ball and found that it had a thinner crust than last time. I peeled off the crust and was greeted with a wonderful aroma. Deep, clean, and earthy. The dough ball was quite moist and it had bubbles in it. I again mixed it with water and flour and buried the dough ball into the flour. I am beginning to understand the quantity of flour - it took a good bit more than the cup the recipe called for. I doubt we'll use the 10 lbs of flour, but we'll be using a lot of flour.

Day five - repeat day four.

Day six - take the entire dough ball and knead in 1/3 cup of water until the dough is soft and uniform. Then knead in 1 cup of the whole wheat flour. This time, don't bury the dough ball. Instead, put it into a clean non-metallic container and cover it loosely. The container should have room for the starter to expand. Now leave the starter overnight.

Day seven - Take the starter out of its container, knead in 1/3 cup of water and 1 cup of flour. Adjust the water and flour so you have a medium firm dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Cut the dough into four pieces. Put one piece back into the container, cover it and store it in a cool place. This will be your storage starter. The other three pieces can be used to make bread after you let them rise for another 24 hours.

I used less than 1/2 the flour the recipe called for. You can easily do this with a 5 lb sack of flour. I used the excess flour to bake bread with.

If you want to continue baking Desem bread, I suggest you get a copy of Laurel's book. If not, you may now start treating your starter as you would any other starter.

The differences in the three methods of starting a starter are quite apparent, but the similarities are just as strong. In each case, an environment that is conducive to starter growth is created. In each case, the starter is fed regularly so that it can develop. In each case, enough time passes that any unwanted micro-organisms will die off as the desired organisms take over

 Post subject: Re: Desem bread
PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:50 pm 

Joined: Mon Dec 26, 2011 10:35 pm
Posts: 548
A decent description of making the bread.......
Submitted by mountaindog on February 18, 2007 - 9:20pm

Desem - first try

After posting a forum question here on desem a few weeks back, I got some helpful hints from gt, JMonkey, pumpkinpapa, northwestsourdough, and maki (thanks all). I studied the recipes in The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book and The Bread Builders, and improvised between them and what JMonkey posted here. I converted an existing vigorous batter starter to a stiff whole wheat one to make the desem starter, then fed it for the past 2 weeks more or less according to Laurel's method, burying it in fresh whole wheat flour, storing it in my cool 59F basement in between 1:1:2 daily feedings. After 2 weeks, the desem starter seemed nice and spongy, so I decided to give making a desem loaf a try this weekend.

Here is my little ball of desem just brought up from the basement ready to be expanded. It no longer needs to be buried in flour at this point, so as per Laurel, I keep it wrapped in 2 layers of clean linen inside an airtight container.

The inside of the ripe desem looks nice and spongy...

For this recipe, I used Allan Scott's weight ratios in The Bread Builders, just dividing his recipe by 6 for two smallish loaves rather than 12. I took about 230 g (8 oz) of my ripe desem, tripled it by adding 150 g water and 300 g flour, to give me 680 g (1.5 lbs) of expanded desem starter. I took 230 g (8 oz) of that and wrapped it up for storage as the starter, while the remaining 460 g (1 lb) was left at room temp. to ripen for 14 hours for making the final dough.

The just-fed desem starter ready to go back into the cellar:

Here is the final dough recipe I used (makes two smallish loaves):

453 g ( 16 oz) ripe desem starter

726 g (26 oz) organic whole wheat flour

631 g (22 oz) cool water

14.2 g (0.5 oz) sea salt

Dissolve the ripe desem starter (refreshed or expanded 14-16 hours before) into the water and mix well. In large mixing bowl, combine salt and flour, then add water/starter mix and knead with dough hook on stand mixer until blended. Continue to knead at speed 2 for 12 minutes. Dough will be softer than starter dough, but smooth and slightly tacky/sticky at the end of kneading. Place dough in covered bowl or container and let rise for 4 hours at 65-70F. Dough should have risen slightly, turn it out onto counter after 4 hours and divide in half, give each half a stretch and fold, and form into two tight boules. Place each boule in a floured banneton and cover with plastic to proof for 2.5 hours at 80-90F.

(Here is where I had a slight dilemma - I had to unexpectedly leave for the rest of the afternoon/evening just as I shaped my loaves to proof, so I put them in the frig overnight, took them out at 5:30AM the next morning, and let them warm up for a few hours until they rose enough and looked ready to bake - I did not want to over-ferment them since the recipe's final proofing time is rather short).

I preheated my oven to 500F and placed a lightly oiled 5 qt. Lodge cast-iron dutch oven inside to preheat as well. When the oven was ready, I flipped the firm dough out of the banneton and into the hot dutch oven, slashed the top, and covered it with the lid - no misting/steaming necessary. I baked it at 500F for 20 min. covered (it smelled great while baking...), then turned it down to 450F and baked it for another 20 minutes uncovered, after which it was nicely browned and the internal temp. measured 204F. So far things look pretty good:

I could hardly wait to cut into it to see if I had a brick or something worthwhile. It felt lighter than I expected when I placed it on the cooling rack. After 1.5 hours, I sliced in, and was very pleased with the result. Although I didn't get big holes, the crumb was not at all dense or heavy, instead it was very light. The crust was exceptional - very crispy on the outside, while the crumb was light, moist, and slightly chewy, with a nice flavor and no whole wheat bitterness.

A few more was delicious...

...crumb shot...

I am hooked - this bread was great, despite having my process interrupted and having to retard it overnight. I look forward to making it again, and hope that it will be even better as the desem starter matures over time. Maybe I'll even get bigger holes someday, but if not, this is still a delicious, light bread for a lean 100% whole wheat one. I am especially pleased with the results the Lodge dutch oven gave - the crispy crust and the high domed shape of the loaf - and no metallic taste, probably due to proper seasoning. I picked it up thinking I'd try a no-knead bread at some point, but have not got around to it yet - nice to know it is useful in this way as sort of a la cloche as well.

This is the flour I used for the desem - maybe someday I'll grind my own wheat berries to make fresh whole wheat flour like Allan Scott and Laurel Robertson do, but for now, I am pretty happy with King Arthur.

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 Post subject: Re: Desem bread
PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 11:47 pm 

Joined: Mon Dec 26, 2011 10:35 pm
Posts: 548
I have both Laurel's kitchen bread book and Allen Scotts The bread builders book. If I had to choose just one, it'd be the Bread builders. Laurels is detailed on how to make many kinds of bread though...She and Allen Scott were neighbors. Allen is now dead....Laurel is old.

 Post subject: Re: Desem bread
PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2013 6:40 pm 
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Joined: Sun Dec 25, 2011 6:07 pm
Posts: 735
Thanks, priest!

-- Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Pslam 119:11 --

 Post subject: Re: Desem bread
PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2013 12:26 am 
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Joined: Sat Dec 24, 2011 2:20 pm
Posts: 2476
It sounds like a whole bunch of work...especially if you have to make bread daily for a big family. On the other hand, it also sounds like fun.

I'm told that whole wheat along with milk forms a food that can and will sustain life and keep you healthy. It makes sense to me because when we read the bible, we see several instances of lifesaving bread (except it used oils) and cheese.

I love making bread.

 Post subject: Re: Desem bread
PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2013 1:33 am 

Joined: Mon Dec 26, 2011 10:35 pm
Posts: 548
It is work, but so is any kind of making food from scratch. But, I think one cannot find any other way to make food that will sustain life as inexpensively as Desem bread. How much does wheat cost? About 45 cents a pound.

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