Desem, Day 4

This is the continuation of my accounts of making desem bread, which is made with just flour, water, salt and nothing else. It's somewhere between regular baking and a science project.

Yesterday I was a bit worried because the desem hadn't grown or changed at all. So I made two adjustments: I increased the amount of water in the dough a bit to make it softer, and I switched the location of the incubator/pot to a warmer location.

This evening I take the pot up to the kitchen and opened the lid. This is what I see:


Wow! The desem has not only grown, it's almost climbing out of the pot! The adjustments have certainly worked. This is always an exciting moment, and a bit scary too. The dough poking out from the flour looks a bit like some alien monster from a B-movie. This is how the whole desem looks, out of the flour incubator:

The circle shows the original dough ball.

It's grown to almost twice its original size, and is certainly full of air holes. Remember, this has absolutely no yeast or other additional leavening agent in it at all. It's growing purely from the power of the natural leavening agents.

I take a whiff of the dough. It doesn't smell sour, it just smells wheat-y, as it should. Desem isn't really a sourdough in the sense of the kind you get in San Francisco.

I again cut away all the crust that's formed, plus a bit more to end up with half the amount of dough. I added a bit more than 1/4 cup of water - maybe about 1/3 cup, less than yesterday, and one cup of fresh flour. The flour doesn't feel as gritty and dry as it did. I check the barometer, and sure enough the pressure has risen. A quick check of the weather conditions at Zürich-Kloten airport (ICAO code LSZH) shows that humidity is 92%. We may get snow or rain tomorrow.

I knead in the flour until the ball is smooth, and re-bury it in the incubator as before.

Filed under:  bread baking desem

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I got to leapfrog day 3 in this series as my infant desem did indeed activate. Not as spectacularly as this example though. The flour surrounding it had cracks on the top - exciting! - and there was a good crack on the desem ball where it had split a little. There was a hard crust which I carved away, that sprouty/wheaty smell and definitely enough bubbles so that the ball seemed spongy.
I mixed it with water, fed it with flour and hid it back in its incubating bed of flour. Looking forward to tomorrow.