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Friday, November 19, 2010

A Tale of Two Sourdoughs: Desem, a whole wheat sourdough

Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book's Desem (Whole Wheat Sourdough)

This blog entry completes the 'Tale of Two Sourdoughs' cycle, a comparison of two very different sourdoughs, one made with rye and the other made with wheat.

Part 1: Arva Flour Mill supplies my grain
Part 2: Nils' Schöner's Sourdough Method for rye

This method of whole wheat sourdough creation is one of the strangest I have seen, but the glowing reports of the bread made with it leaves one with such curiosity, I just had to try it. 

Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book (LKBB) has an entire chapter devoted to whole wheat breads, and all other breads in this chapter take up pp 79-108; the desem technique for dough, basic bread and other desem recipes occupy the second half of this chapter, pp 109-133.  Therefore, one can readily see the importance of the Desem bread, even without the many accolades that the book places on the bread's unique taste.

I was making this sourdough at the same time I was making the Rye Sourdough, and I must say that this entire methodology is completely different and utterly strange to me.  But it was fun, too.  Although there are a lot of pictures here, it mostly just shows how the desem develops, over time; it doesn't really show here what it might be capable of.  This page does have a couple of links to the first and second breads I made with it, though.

Day 1, I started with 3 c of wheat berries to make 2 c of freshly milled whole wheat flour (292g), and 1/2 c of water (109g).  I kneaded it and rounded it; and I must say that this dough ball is extremely dry and tight, and difficult to knead at this point.  The next part is a bit strange too: this dough ball gets buried in some whole wheat flour, with 4 inches of whole wheat flour on each side, for 48 hours, at a pretty cool temperature.  I found a place in our basement, beneath the fruit cellar jars, that stayed at about 60 degrees F., well within the 50-65 degree F range required.
 I get my wheat berries from Arva Flour Mills
 Several cups of wheat berries to mill
 Into the hopper
 Pour the grains in
 Take off your sweater before you start grinding, you will heat up
 If you milled it too coarsely, you can always run it through the mill again
 Not your average run of the mill grain
 As the miller said, 'That's fine'
 Measure out three cups
 Doesn't look like much yet, but the yeasts are in there
 As soon as you add water, they will start to arouse
 This is still pretty coarse, you have to knead it into shape
 That is one dry piece of coarse dough

 I fill half a tub with whole wheat flour (milled by Arva Flour Mills)
 I pour some of my own freshly milled flour on top
 Place my hard ball of desem in the whole wheat flour
 Cover it with more of my own freshly milled whole wheat flour
 And cover that with more of the whole wheat flour milled at Arva Flour Mills
 This gets covered
And it is kept at a controlled, very cool temperature for a couple of days.

Day 2, just leave it alone, don't touch it.  Maybe make sure the temperature hasn't changed, that's all.

Day 3, take your hard dough ball from where it was buried, and cut away the hardest crust -- and more -- until you have just half of what you started with.  For me, my desem ball weighed in at 384g, so I peeled it like an apple until I had 192g of still fairly hard dough.  To this, I was to add 1 cup of freshly ground whole wheat flour, which I measured out to be 116g; and I added 1/4 c of water, which I measured to be 56g.  Softening the desem ball in the meagre amount of water, I then kneaded the ball and incorporated the whole wheat flour.  The whole thing gets stuck back into the middle of a pail full of whole wheat flour for another day.

 Mill some grain and measure the flour and water

 Find your desem in the middle of the flour barrel and pull it out

 Measure it and peel off the hard crust

 Soften the desem in water

 Add some flour, mix it up, and knead it into a new ball

 Cover it back up in the barrel of whole wheat flour 

and let it sit covered again

Day 4, I repeated what I did on day 3.  This time, I measured my Desem at 350g, so half of that was 175g.  I cup of whole wheat flour today measured to be 122 g, and the water I used was 50g.  But today, the whole dough ball I was kneading seemed a whole lot softer.

 Dig out the desem, weight it, peel it, and keep half

 Moisten it in water, and add more flour

 Mix it, knead it, make another ball with it

 Bury it in flour again
 Cover it and wait

Day 5, you repeat what you did on day 3 and 4.  Here, my desem was 348g.  So today I peeled away the hard crust until I had 174g, and I added the same amounts of whole wheat flour and water that I had the day previously.  Every day, the desem is looser, less hard, less crusty.

 Grind some flour to have it ready, fetch the desem, weigh it

 peel the desem, use half, and add the appropriate amount of flour

 Measure the water, soak the desem, add the flour, mix it, knead it
 Cover it up again in the flour barrel

 Cover it and wait

Day 6.  Now the thing is so sloppy, it gets a bit difficult to get it all out of the container intact.  Now we are to soften the entire mass in 1/3 c of water (67g) and 1 c of whole wheat flour (142g).  And this time, we do not bury it in our whole wheat container, but we are to store it in a closed crock. 

 Measure the flour
 Dig out the sloppy desem
 Put it in the crock
 Add water
 Add flour
 Mix it
 Knead it
 Return it to the closed crock

Day 7.  Now things get really interesting.  Again, we soften the whole mass with 1/3 c water (82g) and add 1 c of whole wheat flour (142g).  Then after mixing it, you knead for 10 minutes or 300 strokes.  When I did this, I found it to be very sticky, and I had to put some water on my hand several times.  But when I was done, I measured the mass to be 994g. 

We are told to divide the entire mass into 4 parts and return 1 part to the crock; the other 3 parts will be used in bread baking the next day.   The desem that I returned to the crock weighed 249g.

Now, I had been making this desem each day of my vacation, and by day 7 we were going to head off to a cottage up north for a few days.  I couldn't take my mill with me, so I had to take a few days worth of flour with me -- along with my various desem containers, and books, notes and other bread making paraphernalia.  Who knew what sorts of things the cottage would have, to allow me to make this bread?

 Mill enough for the trip

 Desem seems to like its new home in the crock
 put it in a bowl
 soften in water
 mix it
 knead it

 Measure it and remove 1/4 to reserve as desem

 The 3/4 part will be used to bake with, tomorrow.

 Take all of this stuff with you to the cottage

Day 8.  Okay, we are now into the second week of this desem.  LKBB says that the desem is already viable and can raise dough, although it also says that it won't be particularly strong until the desem gets refreshed several times.  So today, the first day we were at the cottage, I was to do two things: (1) continue building the desem, and (2) bake the first loaves of bread with the desem that I spent the last week building.

(1) Building the desem.  There are several different ways to do this; LKBB suggests that you should bake bread daily with it, this second week, so that you can see the way the sourdough changes its ability to raise the dough.  But this was going to be problematic for me, being so far away from my home kitchen.  I opted instead for one of the alternatives: I would feed the desem (which contains 1 c of flour already) daily with 1/3 c of flour (the last day 1 c), so that by the end of the second week, my desem would have in it 4 c of flour.  Each time I feed it, I was to first soften it in water with an amount of water slightly less than 1/2 the amount of flour, and knead it for 10 minutes.
 1/3 c of water, or slightly less
 soften up the desem in the water

 1/3 c of the flour I milled yesterday

 Mix it
 knead it
crock it

On day 8, I therefore added 49g of whole wheat flour, and 34g of water; LKBB uses volume measures for the desem recipe, not weight measures; so my 1/3 c measure measured my whole wheat, and I eyeballed the water amount by filling up the same measure about half-way.

November Sunrise over Groom Lake near Kearney Ontario: time to bake!
(2) Here is a record of my first desem leavened loaf, baked in the cottage at Kearney Ontario.

Day 9.  Still at Kearney.  Still adding 1/3 c of whole wheat flour, and slightly less than that, by volume, in water, daily.  This is an extremely wet and sticky dough at this stage.  Thinking that this might be because I was adding too much water, I refused to wet my hands this day, as I kneaded.  1/3 c flour is 51g; 1/2 that volume in water is 22g today, by my 'eyeballing method'.

Man that is gooey: wondering if I'm adding too much water
Day 10.  Still at Kearney, but today we are heading home.  Not until I add 1/3 c of whole wheat flour, and half that amount by volume in water.    Flour is 48g, water is 28g.

I do my best to knead this, but it is really overly wet

Day 11.  Home from the cottage, but today I have to go to work.  Before I leave at 0620, I eat breakfast, make lunch, do the three S's, and also, now, feed the desem.  38g of water, 51g of flour.

Still very wet

Day 12.  Work again.  Feed desem again.  31g water, 50g of flour.

Still wet, though I'm trying to be careful not to add too much water

Day 13.  Work again.  Desem gets fed 52g flour, 30g water.

Still wet

Day 14.  Day off.  In anticipation of baking tomorrow, today I feed the desem 1 c of flour.  I am also to add 1/2 c of water, or enough to make it slightly sticky after 10 minutes of kneading.  I have the water ready, but I only wet my hands with it.  I do not need to incorporate it.  The water content of the desem is, and probably has been, too high all this week.   I divide the desem by weight into quarters, and reserve 1/4 for next week's feeding schedule.  The other three quarters I set aside for tomorrow's baking.  

 This time I use no water at all, and the dough comes together without requiring any water

 I save 1/4 of my desem by weight for the crock, to continue feeding daily

3/4 of the desem is set aside from the crock to bake with tomorrow

Day 15.  Another baking day.  That means two things to do again:

(1) Refresh the desem.  As long as you have got some whole wheat flour already milled, this takes very little time.  Am I tired of doing it yet?

No, not really.  But the tasks are quite repetitive.  No point in making more pictures.  Refreshing the desem this week will be much the same as refreshing it last week -- only, hopefully I won't make it too wet this coming week.

What I am tired of is writing about it.  And fighting with the stupid word-processor which continuously insists on changing 'desem' to 'deism'.   It wasn't until I wrote that sentence that, realizing the level of my frustration, I learned how to teach Mac's TextEdit how to learn the word.  Arggh.  That was too easy.

Edit -> Spelling and Grammar -> Show Spelling and Grammar -> Learn
(2) Bake my second desem loaf.

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