The Kearney Desem Loaves
You make do with what you have.
When you are away at a cottage and there doesn't seem to be a casserole dish in site, you have to make do with what the cottage provides in terms of utensils. For me, baking this Desem bread on the 8th day of my desem experiment, meant making it in a large roasting pot. And instead of using cornmeal, I had to use my own rough-cut branny whole wheat to line the pot, to bake my first desem loaves.
• 2 1/4 c desem (686g)
• 1 1/2 c cool water (345g)
• 3 c whole wheat flour (468g)
• 2 1/2 tsp kitchen salt (12g)
I have to say that my desem smelled faintly of vinegar this morning. And I am not sure that this is because it really smells like this, or perhaps it has just picked up some of the scent from the last thing that was fermenting in this crock pot.
Day 8 for my desem (flemish sourdough): First baking day
Soak the desem
Add the salt
Add the Whole Wheat
Mix it up prior to kneading
• Soften Desem in water
• Stir in salt, flour, mix to a stiff dough
• Knead 20 min / 600 strokes
• Cover in bowl 65-70 degrees F, 8-10 hours
• In the last hour, deflate the dough.
• Shape into a foot. Rest 15 minutes, repeat the foot shape.
• Proof 1 1/2 - 2 hours at 95-100% humidity
• Bake in casserole dish
• 450 degrees F until the crust browns,
• then 350 degrees F for the rest of the hour
Before you begin kneading,
check out the 0630 November Sunrise over Groom Lake near Kearney Ontario
The Cottage Kitchen, from the deck outside
The Dough feels great
The Dough after 20 minutes of kneading: get the fire going
The dough showed great promise as I was mixing it up and kneading it. This dough was a pleasure to knead for 20 minutes, and it did not require me to add any extra whole wheat flour or water to my hands, not for the entire time I was kneading. The house was cold, the dough was cool, maybe that was part of the secret.
The dough felt unlike anything I've ever felt before, and I guess by now I've kneaded a lot of dough. It seemed to be fairly gritty, from the coarse bran that was in it; but nevertheless the dough felt quite elastic.
After 600 strokes, I was only 10 minutes in. I decided to keep going. The dough was still quite cool under my hands, and there was still no need to add water to my hands to keep it from sticking.
The dough is elastic, yet resistant to kneading. It made happy, farty noises as I folded it, and it took on air, and then it was palmed down and folded again.
Dough is now ready for its bulk fermentation, 8-10 hours.
When this Desem is at full strength, expect a rise in 4 hours.
At 0700 I was done kneading and put it in the bowl. The sun was up over the lake in Kearney. I got blamed for leaving the temperature of the house so very cold, by my wife who was now arising.
Temperature outside on the deck is about 5 below zero, Centigrade
Sun is up: another beautiful but chilly November morning
We left for much of the day, and did some kayaking on a nearby river that we were told was the Magnetawan. During this time, the dough did a long, slow rise in the cool cottage. We did return for lunch, and I checked on the dough at the 4 hour mark.
The Four Hour Mark
Someday, I am told, the desem will be powerful enough to rise my dough in this length of time.
To be honest, I didn't notice much difference between the 4 hour mark and the 8 or 10 hour mark.
Not going to wait any longer
At the 9th hour, I deflate it
The Folding of the Desem
The dough is placed on the counter and divided. Each piece is then further deflated, and the special folding takes place. It seems to be a sort of envelope fold. I followed the instructions from the book as well as I could.
The folding is repeated twice for each ball, so you do it a total of 4 times; and each ball also gets a 15 minute rest. The object is to get a nice, tight ball, making sure that the gluten cloak doesn't rip.
First proof for the two doughballs
Mistakes: or, Legends of the Fall
You might wonder why, when someone goes to the trouble of putting together a desem over 7 or 8 days, they would fail to follow the instructions in the last moments of the baking cycle. The answer could be summed up in a single word: distraction.
That seems to be the story of my life.
I was unable to regulate the temperatures properly while I was away in the cottage: the programmed temperature during the day was probably a bit low, and I wasn't able to provide a proper high-humidity environment for the final proofing, although I did my best by putting the bread close to the gas fireplace, in a very warm spot for 2 hours.
The two balls are proofed further in a roasting pan set by the fire: trying to increase the humidity in the pan by putting a glass of water in the pot with the loaves
I forgot to dock the loaf before the final baking. I didn't turn down the oven until maybe 20 minutes before the end of the hour of baking, because I forgot.
How I tried to bake with steam: bread in a roasting pan, with a tin full of water
Baked Desem Loaves
We were watching an old DVD that the cottage has in its collection: Legends of the Fall. That was enough to distract me from baking the bread with more care.
This is a very tiny loaf that is probably overcooked. The bottom crust is very difficult to saw through. The upper crust is also a bit of a chore to chew. But it has a wonderful crunchiness because of it.
The interior crumb shows signs of good fermentation, and this method, which promises to make lighter and airier bread as the desem develops, will certainly one day provide excellent bread.
My first desem Loaf, early morning, the day after baking