The starter is grown in a bed of flour at cool temperatures which is very different than the Fransisco Sour Dough starter. Desem starter takes 7 days to develop. Basically you take 2 cups of freshly milled high gluten flour and mix it with 1/2 cup pure water and form the mixture into a ball and bury it in 10 pounds of freshly milled whole grain flour. It is left in the flour for a few days. After a few days you remove the dough and cut away the crust on the outside of the ball add water and fresh flour to it and again bury it in the flour. You continue the process for 7 days then the second week you can start using it but its full potential has not fully developed, it will take at least another couple of weeks of baking with it to reach maturity.
The term "desem" also describes the loaf made with this starter. Desem bread is characterized by a strong rise, a light texture, and nutty slightly sour taste. I find this is wonderful to work with but, if you don't bake often you will have to feed your desem every week. When I first made my starter two years ago I was not baking bread every week so I froze the starter not knowing if it would live. It remained in the freezer for 18 months until this fall when I decided to try again and the desem came back to life after a couple of feedings.
The advantage I find with this type of sour dough starter is when you feed it you don't have to throw out half the starter like the traditional sour dough starter. The reason is the bacteria culture is different. Most starters are highly acidic and in order for the culture to survive you must reduce the acid levels by removing half the starter when feeding it.
Gluten Sensitive Individuals And Celiacs
Sour dough bread is a fermented bread making it easier to digest, and for some folks that are gluten sensitive this may be the answer to your prayers. The good news is that researchers have discovered that "fully fermented" sourdough baked goods, did not have toxic effects on a small group of Celiacs participating in a recently published study.
Safety for Patients with Celiac Disease of Baked Goods Made of Wheat Flour Hydrolyzed During Food Processing - Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Volume 9, Issue 1 , Pages 24-29, January 2011