2 1/4 c Desem (contains 3 cups 3 c Flour
-flour) 2 1/2 ts Salt
1 1/3 c Unchlorinated water
Now for the first trial run. You will want to bake bread after the
first week to get an idea how your desem is doing. Even though your
bread wont be that light yet, its flavor will be wonderful.
When the desem is very young it doesn’t have nearly the power that it
will later on, and so at first you will need longer fermentation time
and a larger portion of the desem than you will need later on.
MIXING THE DOUGH: Soften the desem in the 1 1/3 cups of water. stir
the salt into the flour. Mix with the water and desem, adding
additioal water or flour as necessary to make a slightly stiff dough.
allow a few minutes before you make the final adjustment of
consistency. the dough should be softer than the desem itself but
slightly stiffer than ordinary pan dough, so that when you squeeze it
you don’t have to strain, but you feel the muscles in your fingers
Knead the dough well, about 20 minutes or 600 strokes by hand, about
10 minutes with a dough hook on slow speed. Continue until the dough
becomes stretchy and strong. In our experience it is easy to
underknead desem dough by hand, and easy to overknead it with a
machine. Notice that desem dough made with coarse flour feels dry to
the touch when you first mix it up, but as kneading progresses, it
begins to feel sticky; this is somewhat the opposite of what happens
with ordinary doughs. Adter you finish kneading, the surface should
be smooth and shiny, slightly sticky to the touch.
Set the dough in a bowl large enough to allow it to expand
slightly-about a 4 quart capacity will do. Cover the top of the bowl
with a platter or plastic, and set it in a draft-free place at cool
room temperature, about 65 to 70 degrees for eight to ten hours.
FERMENTATION OR RISING PERIOD: During the 8 to 10 hours, the desem
dough may scarcely rise up-this is quite normal. If convenient,
deflate or punch the dough some time around the last hour or so; this
invigorates the living organisms.
The dough has now finished its cool fermentation and is ready for its
warm final rise. during this next stage, the surface will lose its
shine and stickiness and become dry to the touch. This is ripe dough.
As time passes and your desem grows stronger, you will shorten the
rising time until finally it takes just 4 hours for the first cool
part of its rise. You can now gauge how much time you need by
evaluating the doughfor ripeness as described above.
Now the dough is ready to shape. Turn the douh out onto the kneading
surface, top down, and gently press to deflate it. . The dough is
usually not sticky, so additional flour shouldn’t be needed, if it
does need extra flour, just dust the board lightly before turning the
dough out onto it. It is important that throughout the shaping
process you try to preserve intact the smooth surface that developed
on top of the rising dough.. This gluten film will make the best top
crust for your hearth loaves.
Flatten the dough and cut it in half. With the gluten film downwards,
press the dough into flat circles about an inch thick. Fold the dough
upwards in 4 or more parts to center sealing in the “petals” with the
heel of your hand. Turn the dough ball over on its side and rotate it
while pressing on the bottom half to make a teardrop shape. Then,
turning the loaf right side up, with a repeated rhythmic motion that
is at once downward, inward and rotating, smooth it into a perfect
sphere with a little foot on the bottom. As you turn and round the
loaf the foot should not become a cavern. Turn the loaf over to check
the foot until you are sure of it. When done just right, the foot is
made of a small amount of dough drawn down from the sides of the ball
of dough and pressed together underneath by the edges of the palm and
To be continued in next message.
From The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, A Guide to Whole-Grain
Breadmaking MM format-Mary Riemerman