All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Desem - one big loaf instead of two

My Take on Desem, week 3

Here is the 3rd week of Desem. I wanted to see if I could bake it larger, instead of dividing the dough. I also used store-bought whole wheat flour for the final bake, since I was beginning to think that the flour I was milling was not quite fine enough. So the starter in this bread is hand-milled, but the bulk of the flour (4 cups worth) is whole wheat flour purchased at Arva Flour Mills.

This desem was refreshed daily with 1/3 c of fresh hand-milled whole wheat flour, except on the last day before the bake, when I added 1 full cup. One quarter of the desem was then reserved, and I built the bread with the 3/4 desem. Here was the full feeding schedule (as far as I know it):

Start: Desem 215g of 2 week old desem

Tues: 50g wwflour, 25g water
Wed: 49g wwflour, 17g water
Thurs: forgot to measure ingredients. Desem at end of feeding was 418g. Possibly added 50g wwflour, 16g water?
Fri: 49g wwflour, 19g water
Sat: 47g wwflour, 19g water
Sun: This day I added the ingredients quite late in the day, in the evening rather than in the morning. There was a smell of acetone. 48g wwflour, 20g water
Mon: 47g wwflour, 19g water
Tues: 1c = 156g wwflour, 97g water

End: Desem 912g

Of the end product, I reserved 228g of desem for the next week's build. But I would not refresh next week's desem daily -- rather, I would follow The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book's (LKBB) suggestion for a twice-weekly refresh, it seems somewhat less grueling.

Following the volume measurements of the Desem recipe in LKBB, I added the rest of the ingredients by weight:

  • actual desem: 681g (I may have lost a few grams in the transfers from bowls)
  • wwflour: 143g of hand-milled, 1359g storebought, for a total of 1502g
  • sea salt: 18g
  • water: 325g
 Mis en place

 Desem soaking in the lowest amount of water
 Mixed as well as I could in the bowl: going to start to knead in a few minutes

I deliberately tried to keep the water at the lower volume throughout, i.e. 1 1/3 c of water.   This made for a very stiff dough, when I was kneading.  The problem with this tight a dough ball is that the gluten cloak you are trying to form around the loaf continuously tears as you knead it.  This was such a problem toward the end of the 20 minutes of kneading (around the 16 minute mark) that I was forced to wet my hands to try to allow the dough to incorporate some of the extra drops.  But the fact of the matter is, this dough was probably just too dry.  My wrists were sore long after kneading this dough for 20 minutes.

 Kneading after 5 min
  Kneading after 10 min
  Kneading after 15 min
  Kneading after 20 min

Why was I keeping it so dry?  My intention was to make a free-standing loaf, baked on a stone covered with a roasting pan, to simulate the casserole baking idea. A wetter dough, I felt, would not properly stand up to the freestanding size.

But a few other things went wrong anyway, as per my usual baking process.

First of all, I mixed this up after working nights, and fell asleep following putting the dough in a bowl for the bulk fermentation.  This was only to have taken 4 hours, and I didn't get back to the dough until 6 1/2 hours had passed.  That surprised me: this qualifies as a pretty good daytime sleep, for me.  But of course, although I obviously needed it, my dough probably didn't.  By then, the top of the loaf was quite dry.

 Before I fell asleep: 0900
 When I woke up: 1530

Instead of dividing the loaf into 2, I kept it whole and just pounded it down and tried to make the folds.  This turned out to be not so pretty.  The gluten cloak just tore everywhere.  There was still some internal gluten structure that you could see through the tears, but this was very difficult to fold.  Like when you are folding cardboard into smaller and smaller pieces, and the last few folds are not true folds but are more like imperfect bends.

 Flatten out the dough

 Fold it: look at that dry reptilian gluten cloak

 Somehow manages to be a ball
 End of the second folding: gondwanalike crust drift
High Hydration
After the 2 folds with a 15 minute rest in between, I let it sit in the basket, covered with a bag to keep the humidity in, within my warm excalibur dehydrator,  for 1 1/2 hours before pre-heating the oven.  It took the full 30 minutes to get to the proper temperature because I had so much paraphernalia in there: baking stones, pans for water, roasting pans.

 All folded up, awaiting final 'proof'
 Into the humidified bag
 2 hours later: time to bake it

Now here I think I made another error: I canceled the timer on the oven by hitting 'cancel' instead of touching another button, and so the 450 degree F. oven was actually turned off for the first 15 minutes of the bake.  In other words, just when the oven should have been the very hottest for the rise of the loaf, with steam, it was instead a cooling oven.  At the 15 minute mark, I corrected this, but from then on the baking only went at 350 degrees F.  I did give it an extra 15 minutes at the end of the hour, not only for this mistake, but because this was a larger loaf.  The cover was taken off for this final quarter hour.
 This ugly loaf is my 3rd attempt at Desem
This is a spectacularly ugly loaf.  The folds unfolded, leaving the loaf with ugly crevasses throughout.

I have tasted some this morning, however, and it tastes fine -- and unbelievably, it is still fairly moist, or at least, not as dense as some of the stale ends of loaves that I have hanging around.  All in all, I'm impressed with the loaf's possibilities.  Although I think that the crust has suffered somewhat from the uneven baking.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., and I have a lot of friends and relatives celebrating over there.  For us in Canada, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and anyway it is not such a huge event here as it is in the South.  But today, as I eat my Desem bread, despite all its ugliness and mistakes, I think of my friends, and give thanks for them; and I try, for this moment at least, to be grateful for the food that has come into my hands.

After all, any loaf you can eat when you are done baking cannot be a total failure.

 My desem bread crumb: crust reveals an uneven baking

 But it tastes fine

 And it slices evenly

Notes to Myself
  • Do it over.  Too many mistakes to know where to begin.
  • Give thanks for every bite.

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