Many years ago, I used to make a fairly successful 100% wholegrain rye. The recipe called it a 'russian sourdough', and it was a very sticky, runny dough, but as it was baked in a tin it would usually work out fine. The loaves were a bit brick-like, but the sour flavour was so good, I virtually lived on the stuff.
Anyway, I lost my starter when I moved house; I took it for granted that I could start another culture as the first one had been easy. But every batch of starter developed a strong acrid 'bacon' smell. Not good! On the off-chance, I tried again last week and succeeded in getting a healthy starter going, so I've begun baking again with a vengeance!
I made a quick batch of russian wholegrain rye (above) just to test the flavour from the starter — it seemed as good as my old batch. And the loaves were as brick-like as ever, haha.
Wanting to be a bit more adventurous, I then made a white sourdough using the recipe here http://is.gd/GWkIzc It seemed a bit soft when I tipped it onto the pizza stone in the oven. Half of it oozed off the stone and started sliding down the oven door. Somehow, I managed to grab it and slap it back on the stone, and it seemed to behave from there on. That turned out quite well for a first attempt. Pleasantly chewy with a mild sourness. Most of it got eaten before I took a picture, it's on the left in this shot:
I wondered whether the dough was too soft because my starter was over-hydrated (for making rye bread, I always made a runny batter to encourage the sourness to develop). I'm used to making bread by guesswork and luck rather than measuring anything, but with all the talk of hydration percentages, I felt I should take weighing more seriously. Looking around for ideas, I came across the 1-2-3 method, which I used to make the loaf on the right. This time, the starter was 50/50 by weight (much more 'doughy' than anything I've used before). I used 200g starter, 400g water, and 600g flour (Dove's Farm organic strong white).
As before, I gave the mixture a quick stretch & fold every hour or so for three hours, then left it to prove for three hours in a colander lined with a cloth. I liberally coated the cloth with semolina. The dough seemed, if anything, even stickier than the previous batch. When I attempted to put it in the oven, it stuck to the cloth, then rapidly spread over the stone and started going over the edge and southwards. The children really seemed to enjoy the spectacle of me grabbing madly at the glutenous strands, burning myself, cursing and then slamming the oven door shut.
In consolation, it tasted pretty good (see crumb pic below), but I am pretty impatient so ate it warm and suffered terribly with indigestion. I know about indigestion, but what about the soft dough? Where am I going wrong?