Author Archives: northwestsourdough

Desem…in a Pot

My hubby bought me a nice cast iron pot with a lid so I could try out the sourdough bread pot baking that is taking everyone by storm, even though it’s really as old as the campfire and camp cooking from long ago. You know…whats old is new again. So I gave it a go today with my new pot and ran into a little trouble. I mixed up the dough fine and bulk fermented and proofed the dough…and also preheated the pot and lid…but ran into trouble when the dough in the basket had to be overturned into the hot pot. The dough deflated somewhat when it had to make that fall from basket to pot bottom. So I am thinking of ways to avoid that drop. Here is a picture of the bread still in the pot:

Desem in pot

Doesn’t it look like some bacon and a pot of Jocko Beans are coming right up? Anyway here is the bread:

Desem Pot baked bread

When I turn it to the side you can see where the dough sagged as it deflated:


I haven’t sliced open the bread yet, but I know it is heavier than it could have been. It still seems like a pretty nice loaf though. I am hoping for the best! I was wondering if I could line the proofing basket with aluminum foil and then lift the whole thing out and place it in the hot pot instead of turning the basket over and having it plop down into the pot. If I made the dough a lower hydration, I could maybe support it with my hands and somehow get it down into the pot??? I don’t know??


I’ve had Laurel’s Bread book for years. I guess it was inevitable that once I got into sourdough, I would have to try Desem, which she brought to everyone’s attention in her book. Desem is a Flemish Style Sourdough and the making and caring for Desem are well documented not only in her book, but on a nice blog I found online: Seems like anyone’s Desem journey begins with bricks. They sure smell and taste good, but it makes one feel like a newbie all over again. Questions like…”Why is it sticky? How long should I knead? Why isn’t it raising like it should… I did everything right, why is it dry and heavy? Do I really have to bake it for an hour?” and other assorted questions newbie sourdough bakers usually ask. It puts me back into the newbie seat and gives me a great perspective on why newbies have a hard time with regular sourdough.

I got the Desem starter going very well and decided it was time for the first baking. I of course, thinking I knew better, followed some of my own instincts and ways of handling sourdough….not good…first newbie mistake…not following directions. I put together the dough my way and kneaded it for only five minutes, because after all that is what you have to do to avoid overmixing for long proofed sourdoughs. Not so with the Desem. When the book says 12 minutes, it is 12 minutes in the mixer. Anyway the dough with my first batch was kind of slack and almost wettish in a slimy way. But I didn’t know any better, after all it smelled really good. Here is what it looked like when done mixing:

desem dough

I didn’t realize it then, but the Desem wasn’t at it’s full potential, and needed more maturing. After the dough was done fermenting, I formed it into a ball and cut it in half to make two loaves:

cut dough

The dough had a strange feel to it, wettish, sticky and slimyish. I decided to make another mistake and put the dough into Bannetons:

dough resting

I say mistake because the dough was so sticky, it stuck horribly to the Bannetons. I was barely able to peel the first dough out of the Banneton, but after baking here is the first loaf:

first desem loaf

Looks not too bad …right? Think again! It was flat!:

flat desem

The second loaf was even worse, it really wouldn’t come out of the Banneton, so I had to pull it out and the dough was torn to pieces, here it is after baking:

second desem

YIkes! What a brick!

I will say that the first loaf was salvagable and tasted and smelled terrific!

Here is the crumb:


So on to my second batch. Four days later I made another batch of Desem. The mixing was better but the dough was still very sticky. I decided to try using a baking bowl to raise and bake the bread in. I was worried that it was so sticky that it wouldn’t come out of any bowl, banneton or basket.

sticky dough

Even when it is sticky, you can still handle the dough easily, it is just that as the dough sits, it kind of sags and starts weeping water which makes it stick to anything it is sitting in. As you can see in the picture, I didn’t need to use much flour to roll out the dough and form boules:


Here are the dough balls in their baking dishes (Pyrex bowls) and proofing:

proofing Desem

The Desem loaves baked up fine this time but were somewhat dense still:

baked Desem

They were pretty loaves and the smell and flavor make me want to keep trying. I have had raves about just the smell while the Desem is baking. The flavor is just so full bodied wheaty with a tangy sour. In case you didn’t know Desem is completely whole wheat, with only water, salt and the natural wild yeast in the Desem starter. So it is somewhat of a challenge to figure it all out and get a good loaf of bread that is not dense.

Here is the crumb on this batch:

Desem try # 2 crumb

I thought you might like to see what the Desem starter looks like:

Here it is buried in it’s container filled with freshly ground whole wheat flour, you can see it bulging out at the top:

desem starter

Here is the Desem starter ball after I dug it out of it’s container:

ball of desem

This is what it looks like split open:

split open

Here is a closeup:

Desem closeup

I dissolve this lump into some water and add flour the night before I want to bake. Then I put half back into the flour container and bury it again, and the other half I let ferment until the next day.

 So here I am trying for the third time. I am following the directions much more closely and my Desem starter is more mature. I mixed up a batch of Desem dough and I could tell right away it was going to be a nicer dough. It was more stretchy and didn’t feel gooey like it was earlier. I forgot to take a pic while it was in the mixer but here it is rolled up in a ball before shaping it weighed over three pounds:

Desem Ball

Instead of dividing it and having two loaves I decided to try one large loaf. However I didn’t want to bake it in a dish again, and I didn’t want a boule shape. So I came up with this set up to be able to lift the dough out of the pan when it was ready to bake. I was using the baking pan as a shaping pan really:

pan setup

This was a large long baking pan and I had one of those clear flexible cutting boards that I hoped would not stick and help me lift out the loaf. It looked like this with the dough in place:

dough ready

However I misjudged again! The dough grew so large and spongy that it filled up the pan!

dough filled pan

Well there was no way of lifting it out of that pan, so I turned the whole contraption over and upended it on my hot baking stone. It looked like a whale! I was so large!

Desem whale

The pokey holes in the top are recommended for keeping the top crust from separating from the rest of the loaf. I rubbed the whole thing with Butter and we had a hard time not cutting into it hot, it smelled so so good! This bread is just so awesome, especially toasted when it is at it’s best. Here is a picture of the crumb:

Desem crumb

The fourth time is the charm. My Desem starter was almost a month old now and I decided to make another batch. I made it smaller so it could be one large loaf, but not a whale.

 Desem mixed up

After proofing for three hours it looked like this:

Desem proofed

This time the dough was feeling really nice, no stickiness, just a nice soft but  firm dough.

It weighed just over two pounds. I shaped it and put it in a banneton this time for proofing, but I also put a proofing cloth into the banneton sprinkled with Semolina flour.

desem in banneton

I proofed the Desem dough for about two hours and then baked it on the baking stone. Here it is slashed and ready to load into the oven:

slashed dough

I baked this loaf for five minutes at 450 and then 350 degrees for 45 more minutes. I misted as usual the first five minutes. This bread was a great success and came out terrific:

successful loaf of Desem

This loaf was perfect in every way, I am very happy with it, here is the crumb:

Desem crumb

So I would have to say about Desem Bread, that it is well worth persisting until you conquer the bread, it may take some patience and willingness to work at it until you are successful, but it is a really terrific bread. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a better Whole Wheat bread.

San Francisco Sourdough with Motherdough too

Yesterday I mixed up a stiff sponge with San Francisco Starter, flour, water and some motherdough starter (aged dough). I left it overnight in a 50 degree pantry. The sponge was very nice and bubbly by this morning:


I added the rest of the ingredients this morning and let it ferment for five hours. When it was done I poured it out on a lightly floured surface. The dough was very active and lively.

dough poured out

I shaped the dough into two loaves weighing 2 lbs and one weighing almost 1.5 lbs.

dough in bannetons

I put the loaves into the banneton and let them proof for two hours. They baked up with the motherdough signature reddish hue:

baked loaves

baked loaves all three

Basic White Variation with San Francisco Starter

I am still using the San Francisco Starter after I brought it out of it’s sleep from my refrigerator. The sour is somewhat more pronounced but not yet up to potential. I think sour sourdoughs like to have an active starter with the refreshment not being a huge amount of the starter. In other words don’t dump out most of your starter and refresh it with a lot of water/flour and expect it to be sour and if you have refrigerated your starter or reconstituted it from a dry state, expect it to take a little while to build up it’s sour producing bacteria.

This batch of dough was a higher hydration than the last one and it was a bit harder to handle. My recipe was a variation of the White Basic:

3 cups starter

3 cups water

2 Tablespoons oil

4 teaspoons salt

1 Tablespoon Malt Syrup

2 Tablespoons cornmeal

1/4 cup Rye flour

9.5 cups Bread flour

The yeast is very vigorous in the starter which was refreshed about 18 hours before using. The bulk fermentation took only 3.5 hours, which is too fast for a good sour.

bulk fermentation

I divided the dough into three pieces which were all about one ounce shy of being two pounds.

Here they are roughly shaped and resting before their final shaping:

resting for shaping

I put them in the refrigerator overnight and gave them 2 hours to proof. Here are all three loaves:

three loaves

They all came out wonderful with a nice holey crumb.

Here are some closeups:


more closeups


Here is the crumb:


We will see if the sour is more pronounced as time goes by. I know the Northwest Sourdough would make a nice sour if I used it right now, but it has been active and used for quite a while without being refrigerated like the San Francisco starter.

Super San Francisco Sourdough!!

I took my San Francisco Starter out of the refrigerator a few days ago and have been refreshing it to bring it back up to vigour. Yesterday afternoon, I mixed up a new recipe for Super San Francisco Sourdough.

dough mixed

This is such a nice starter, it proofed wonderfully in four hours.

proofed dough

  I made enough for two large loaves of just over 2lbs each. I also made the dough a lower hydration than I usually work with. The dough felt wonderful, bubbly, alive and smelled great. Here are the two dough boules:


The flecks in the dough are cracked wheat. I waited five minutes and rounded up the boules by using a twisting motion with my two hands and slight pressure. Here is what a twisted boule looked like after you put it in it’s basket:

twisted boule

I refrigerated these boules overnight and for many hours the next day. I didn’t bake them until about 12:30 pm. I wanted a very long cool proofing. Then it took only  1 -1/2 hours to warm them up and get them proofed enough to bake. Here is one of them slashed and ready to bake:

slashed boule

The bread came out absolutely wonderful! Here is the first loaf:

first loaf

Here is the second loaf:

second loaf

Both loaves:

two loaves

Here is a closeup of the blistered crust:


Here are some crumb pictures:



The bread was still slightly warm so I couldn’t tell how sour it was, as the sour comes on after it has completely cooled and set. It was already mildly tangy though. The crust is terrific and I would say it was a very successful baking day!

Diablo Sourdough

I have a funny blog today. I was running out of bread and with Thanksgiving today, I needed some for Turkey sandwiches! So on Tuesday night I made up a Rye sponge with  Starter, water and Rye flour:


I let this set overnight.  Next morning I added the rest of the ingredients to the sponge and bulk fermented the dough for five hours. This was a Rye starter but the majority of the flour added was bread flour.

The dough was sticky from the Rye:


dough poured out

I made up two loaves weighing just shy of 2.5 lbs. and put them into bannetons:


They proofed nicely in two hours and I preheated the oven to 500 degrees. I was trying to compensate for the heat loss when you load the dough and spray  for the first five minutes or so. You would know it…. I loaded both loaves… sprayed and steamed for the first five minutes, then I set my timer and forgot to turn down the oven!!! Boy was I surprised when my timer went off and it was time for me to turn the loaves and they were practically burnt! Diablo Bread! I was certainly shocked. Not that I haven’t made that mistake before, I have, but I had two huge loaves in the oven and they were awesomely dark. I turned them around anyway, and knew that they still needed to bake in the center, so I covered them with foil and turned the oven down to 350 degrees. They came out very dark, but not actually burnt. I guess I could call them specialty Artisan Diablo Loaves! Ha! I got raves on the flavor! Wouldn’t you know! Make a mistake and people rave, do a great job, and no one comments. Here are my Diablo Loaves, the first one :

first loaf

The second loaf:

second loaf

two loaves

Well they will probably dry out sooner than usual, but slathered with mayonnaise and lots of Turkey, they will be gone soon anyway. Here is the crumb:


Anyway, next time you forget to turn down the oven after the initial five minutes, tell everyone they are Diablo Loaves 🙂

Asiago Cracked Pepper Loaf

My new recipe is called Asiago Cracked Pepper Loaf. So far, the raves have been for the outstanding flavor of this sourdough bread. I added cracked cornmeal and some Rye flour to this dough and the bulk proofing was pretty fast at 3.5 hours. So I decided to make it a one day bread, hoping with such fermentation that it would still have a good sour. It does! I could have made two large loaves, but decided to make three smaller loaves instead. The recipe made a smaller amount of dough than my usual recipes. I mixed up the dough and had it bulk fermenting by 1:00 pm. I could tell it was raising fast. I knew it would reach the top of the bowl when it was overproofed so I mixed it down and poured it out:

dough poured out

I kneaded it just a little and rolled it into a ball:


Then I cut it into three pieces:

cut dough

I got some cracked Black Pepper and Asiago cheese ready:

black pepper

asiago cheese

I saved a small piece of the cheese for grating on top of the finished loaves. I should have bought more cheese though. This was about 6 oz of cheese and I think 12 oz would have made  cheesier loaves. The dough pieces were resting and so I took them and stretched them  into a rectangular shape and pressed in the cheese and pepper.

preparing the loaf

I then shaped the dough into loaves and put them into bannetons:

dough in bannetons

I sprinkled some of the coarse cracked cornmeal around the dough. I could see the cheese and pepper peeking through the dough. I let the dough proof for two hours at room temperature and then popped the first loaf into the oven, here it is:

first loaf

With the second loaf I sprinkled the topping cheese on when it was still in the oven instead of afterwards like I did for the first loaf:

second loaf

Here is the third loaf:

third loaf

All three loaves:

three loaves

The bread sat up high and has a great crust. Here is the crumb:


This bread has an incredibly good flavor, its amazing used for sandwiches and awesome as toast. This recipe will be available in the Special Recipes folder.

Sour Vienna White?

Yesterday I got up early and mixed up a batch of Vienna White bread. It is so terrific tasting especially when you use motherdough in the dough. I added 1/2 cup of Rye flour to the batch, as you by now know my inclination towards using a bit of Rye here and there. I have the recipe for this Vienna White posted on the Recipe section of the forum: 

I have posted a blog about doing up this Vienna White before. Anyway Vienna White is a great loaf to do as a one day sourdough. Here is the dough already bulk fermented and ready to pour out:

Proofed dough

I divided the 5 lbs 12 oz of dough amongst four loaves and put them into the couche:

in the couche

They proofed for two hours and the first two loaves went into the oven. The oven was preheated for over an hour so the stone was pretty hot. However the first two loaves were slightly underproofed and needed more like 2.5 hours to be perfect. They presented a disappointing picture as the dough was mottled colored, the slashes gave way and didn’t become defined, and they were somewhat flattish.

Here they are:

first two

The second two loaves came out great, the color was well developed and the loaves sit up high and the slashes are well defined. The pictures don’t show these attributes too well, the breads look somewhat similar in pictures and the lighting isn’t good. Here are the second two loaves:

second two loaves

The baking time was the same and the temperatures were the same for both sets of bread. I am bringing this to your attention because it has happened often before especially with dough that is all proofed at the same time so that the first two loaves are always proofed less and you can see the difference with the loaves that are proofed correctly compare to those that are even slightly underproofed.

Here are all four loaves, the first baked are on the left:

all four loaves

all four loaves


Vienna White usually comes out with a soft fine crumb and is mild flavored, however, with the added Rye flour, the crumb was chewy, holey and has a pronounced sour tang, even for a one day bread!

Something the Same Something Different

Today I bake up something the same… Basic White Sourdough… and something different…but we will get to that later. I mixed up some Basic White Sourdough yesterday and meant to shape the loaves and put them into the refrigerator. But sometimes things happen! I got too busy and couldn’t get to the shaping, so I put the dough into a large bowl and out on the enclosed cold porch. It was around 50 degrees. I didn’t have enough room in the refrigerator. Next morning the dough was looking nice! :

Basic White Dough

I made up enough dough for three loaves, however, for Breakfast I decided to do something different. I took one third of the dough and using 3 oz pieces of the dough, I made “Fried Bread”. Now it isn’t really fried bread because you don’t fry it, you griddle it. My husband’s mother would often make this bread from a batch of dough she had proofing. She would pull off pieces of dough, pull and stretch out the dough in irregular sizes and throw them on the griddle. I have been asked several times if I would try to make up some with my sourdough. So I did. Here are the dough pieces cooking on the griddle:

Dough on griddle

I griddled them at around 375 degrees. I didn’t pay any attention to how long they took as I put them on one by one as I pulled them into flat shapes. I watched them and turned them as they got brown. They smelled wonderful cooking. They are not thin like pancakes, and you don’t roll them out, so they have thin areas, and thick areas. They puff up and cook pretty quickly, it doesn’t take too long. These would be great for camping! Here are some on a plate:

Fry Bread

They are crispy in some spots and chewey in other spots. Fry Bread is wonderful with lots of butter, jelly, honey or cream cheese. You ought to try some next time you mix up a batch of Basic White Sourdough! YuMMMMMY! My husband declared that they tasted better than the yeasted ones and that they were lighter and fluffier in texture, with nice sized bubbles.

Oh yea, I almost forgot the “Something Same”…. I baked up the Basic White Bread later in the morning. Here it is:

Basic White loaf 1

Basic White loaf 2

Sorry about the dark pictures. We have had a lot of rain and storms and not much sun. When I try to take pictures indoors, I have a hard time with the lighting. I probably need a lighting box!

Hawaaiian Pineapple Sourdough Bread

I have something new, a sourdough made with Pineapple, Orange Juice and Coconut for a Hawaaiian flavored bread. I mixed up a batch this morning early. It bulk fermented for six hours:

dough in mixer

I rolled the dough into boules:


I let the dough proof in glass bowls and then put a mixture of Pineapple topping with Coconut over the dough:

pineapple topping

I baked the dough right in the bowls and here is what came out of the oven:

baked loaf

I turned out the bread and let it cool and here are the loaves of Hawaaiian Pineapple Sourdough :

two loaves Hawaaian Sourdough Bread

first loaf

Next loaf:

loaf two

Here is the crumb:


The dough is soft and tangy with the flavors of citrus/Pineapple/Coconut. A delightful change of pace!