Category Archives for "Desem / Whole Grain"


I really love the flavor of Desem sourdough bread. It is actually addicting! It is always sour, and when toasted, it tastes like malted wheat. I made up another batch of Desem, but this time I was more careful to use wheat berries that I had ground and let season (age) for two weeks. I had read that the mills did that because freshly ground wheat does not bake up as well as aged flour. Well, it seems to be true. I got a great development of gluten and the dough handled better. I am really getting a nice open crumb for a 100% Whole Wheat flour bread. Of course, as you know, the only other ingredients are water, salt (I have been using Kosher salt) and the wild Desem yeast. That makes for a nice loaf of bread devoid of chemicals or other ingredients that may have been processed. I have pure artesian water that has no chemicals in it, so I am really lucky there. Here is the preferment that is ready to use for making a Desem dough:


I mixed the dough for nine minutes as that is when it looked done:


After bulk fermenting for four hours I shaped and benched (rested) the dough:


Then came final shaping and proofing:


This time I did not proof in a very warm, humid environment but just allowed the dough to proof at room temperature. It took around 2.5 hours. I then baked at 425 for 30 minutes. Here is the first loaf:

first loaf

Here is the second loaf:

second loaf

Here is the crumb, as you can see it is nice, open and nicely textured:


There is a lot more leeway for using and baking with Desem. If you have a Desem starter, I would encourage you to experiment.

Desem/Motherdough ~ Gee What Won't I Do?

Yep, just messin around. I like the flavor of Desem so much, and Motherdough is beyond great, that I thought I would combine them. I started out the night before baking, with a preferment, using Desem combined with water/flour/etc. I set it out overnight at room temperature and next morning it looked like this:

Desem preferment

Then I added some Motherdough which, if you didn’t know, is just using a vigorous starter kept at 80% hydration (for me anyway) and refrigerated(it developes the flavor). The motherdough looked like this:

Motherdough starter

I added more water, flour, salt, some oil and came up with a nice dough which only took three hours to ferment, although I let it go four. It then looked like this after bulk fermentation:

dough after bulk fermentation

It was a little on the sticky side, but I shaped up the loaves and weighed them out at just over 2 lbs each and then put them to proof in bannetons:

proofing in bannetons

The proofing rate slowed a bit and they took 2.5 hours to proof and really needed 3, but I was running out of time before I needed to make dinner. So…. here is the first loaf:

(Sorry about the poor quality of pics, no sun outside, and poor lighting inside. I still need a lightbox or something).

first loaf

The second loaf I baked a little hotter as the first one came out a bit light:

second loaf

The third loaf:

Third loaf

Here are some pics of the crumb:


crumb pics

The bread flavor is really great! It is a very nice tangy sour. The crust was wonderful, crusty and crispy. This was altogether a great marriage between two great flavored starters. I got the idea of using Desem starter as a flavoring because the Whole Wheat tastes so terrific after fermenting with Desem, I thought it would interesting to use it as the flavoring besides adding another vigorous starter as a complement. I really am having so much fun baking with sourdough. I love experimenting and doing off the wall things with it. I also baked another Soft Sourdough a couple of days ago using Desem again as a flavoring. It came out wonderful and makes terrific sandwiches and toast. I haven’t had a lot of time for posting though. If you notice carefully behind the pictures of the bread, the walls are barren and the wallpaper is ripped off. I am redoing the room by repainting the ceiling and wallpapering. Then comes the carpet. So you see, even though I am still baking, I am extra busy! If I get a chance, I will post about the soft sourdough, if I don’t …. I will continue on…. till next baking day,


Desem Sourdough Day

I started a preferment the day before yesterday with my Desem starter, but had to go into town yesterday so I wasn’t able to mix it up and bake. Instead, I took out my preferment and did a build on it adding half again the amount of dough I had. Then I put it into the cold pantry overnight. In the morning it was very light and airy. So I put it in the mixer and doubled the weight of the preferment making about four lbs of dough. The dough was light and spongy after four hours, and had risen higher than any of my other Desem doughs so far. So I shaped it and put it in the couche:

shaped Desem

dough in couche

Boy did we have a full kitchen today. It was hard to fit in the bread baking schedule. My daughter made cream puffs and potato croissants (boyfriend coming over). I had to put my Desem loaves on the top of the stove to get some warmth and I put a wet cloth over the loaves. One of the loaves actually had the top crust(which was turned upside down) heat up, dry out and stick to the cloche, which never happened before. I had to spray it with water to get it off and then I noticed the outside layer, which was touching the stovetop through the couche, was actually a bit cooked! I decided to slice down through the middle to try to save the loaf. It actually  came out pretty nice:

first loaf of Desem

The lighter color on the top of the crust is where the dough dried and cooked.

 The next loaf was also dried out on the top crust from the heat of sitting on top of the stove and stuck to the couche. I was able to peel off the couche and get the loaf onto the stone. I also made one long lengthwise slice on the top of the loaf to try to save the loaf. I don’t think any other slices would have worked as the whole top crust was dried out and somewhat cooked. I didn’t  realize it was that hot on top of the stove when I set the loaves on a grate on top of the couche on the stovetop. But we had been using the stove for hours and it was just hotter than I realized. It also came out nice anyway:

Desem loaf 2

Here are the two finished:

Desem two loaves

I don’t have any crumb pictures yet, but will tomorrow. They are still too hot to slice!

I am so glad I tried Desem bread. I never knew Whole Wheat bread could taste so good! It is moist, chewy, with a hard to describe full fermented wheat flavor of toasted wheat and maltiness. There is no added malt, but you sure taste it, especially when you toast the bread. My children that don’t usually like Whole Wheat bread (most of them) love the Desem bread. It never fails to be tasty and wonderfully sour!

Here are the pictures of the crumb:


Experimenting with Desem Starter

My last two batches of Desem were pretty different. The Desem starter is now very stable and reliable so I thought I might try experimenting with it a bit. Last week I made a batch of the more traditional Desem recipe which is in Laurel’s Bread Book. The dough is raising higher and the malt flavor of the wheat is very pronounced, not to mention how wonderfully sour it is EVERY time. I didn’t put any malt in the dough at all for the first batch but the fermenting of the Whole Wheat made the dough taste like malt, especially when toasted. I started with about 3.5 lbs of dough:

Desem dough

This doesn’t look like over 3 lbs of dough , but it was. I made this dough from the preferment of the starter from the night before. I then let it bulk ferment for four hours at which time I took the dough out of the bowl and shaped it and then put it into small bannetons:

shaping dough

bannetons with Desem dough

While looking at this picture, I remembered the first time I tried Desem and my dough was a wet mess and I tried putting it into the bannetons and how terribly the dough stuck and ruined my bread! The dough was then placed in the warm oven ( I turned on the oven to 200 degrees long enough to warm up the baking stone and then turned the oven off and kept it cracked open) and covered with a wet tea towel to keep it humid:

Desem being proofed

I proofed it for two hours, taking the dough out of the oven after one hour so I could heat the oven and placing the dough on a rack on top of the warm oven with the dough still covered. Here is my result:

Desem Bread

Next I decided to try to use my Desem starter to bake up some lighter bread made with 1/2 bread flour. I also decided to use a regular loaf pan for baking. I used 2 cups of Desem prefermented from the night before and followed pretty much the same schedule as the last Desem dough, four hours bulk ferment and two hours proofing. I missed with the two hours proofing though, although the dough felt ready, it really needed another 1/2 hour or more to proof. Here is the dough proofed and ready to shape:

dough ready to shape

I shaped the dough like a regular loaf where you fold over the ends and then fold over lengthwise, pinching the dough together with the heel of your hand. I then placed the dough into loaf pans:

dough in loaf pans

The dough felt proofed enough, so I poked a couple of holes into the top as suggested in Laurel’s Bread Book. It is supposed to keep the top crust from separating from the rest of the loaf.

 proofed Desem dough

 I wasn’t satisfied with it though, so I also slashed and then I baked the loafs at 450 degrees for five minutes, spraying several times, and turned the oven down to 400 degrees and baked another 40 minutes, turning halfway. Here are the loaves:

Desem Bread

When the bread came out I waited for it to cool a little, and then I spread butter all over the loaves to help make the crust soft and chewy(this was supposed to be a softer Desem). As you can see, I needed to allow the dough to proof longer. I think with the added bread flour, I needed not only to let the dough raise longer but maybe at room temperature instead of in a very warm oven. I will have to try that next time. The crumb was pretty nice although a little dense:

Desem Crumb

If you want to experiment with Desem and don’t want to wait the two weeks for the starter to get going and then another month for it to gain strength, I have a limited amount of Desem for sale on my website. It will be sent as a small piece of dough ball at a very low hydration so it won’t raise while enroute. You can find out more about it at the bottom of the page at:

Click on the picture of the Desem bread and it will take you to another page that tells more about the Desem starter and what you need. You will need Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book and a good supply of fresh organic Whole Wheat flour plus some really good water and a cool place in your house. Desem is fascinating, especially for those who love Whole Wheat breads.

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.

1/2 and 1/2 Honey Sunflower Seed Bread

I am working with 1/2 & 1/2 dough, half whole wheat and half bread flour which will end up being a Whole Wheat Honey Sunflower seed loaf. Approximately 1/3 of the recipe is sourdough starter, then water, and everything else. I use my K-tec mixer to mix up the dough. I never mix for more than five minutes. After proofing for only four hours, the dough was doubled but too sticky, so I kneaded more flour into the dough with the salt and the sunflower seeds. The dough is now resting in “boule” form before I “twist” it up and place it in the proofing baskets.Here are the boules:

boules resting

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