Hi all! I am new to sourdough, but not to bread baking. My mother taught all us boys how to cook. It is interesting to read all the different sourdough starter recipes and proofing methods. I'd like to offer a few observations to anyone just starting out.
If you are a "student" and read a lot before you try something you will soon see that out of 100 people that make a sourdough starter there are almost that many methods of doing it. If you are a true student of history you will already know that yeast strains are very resiliant.
If you are overly worried about temperature, contamination, hydration, etc. think about the 49ers and the old cook at the chuckwagon on a cattle drive. Conditions were not very controlled or controlable during those times! Yet they built a legacy of sourdough that attracts us today!
I read through dozens of sourdough starter recipes and then went down the middle with my knowlegde of how yeast and dough works.
My starter is a very thick batter. It began with water and rye flour. At day five I began dropping off the rye and introducing unbleached all purpose flour. I keep my start on top of the refrigerator in a glass jar
I feed it daily (usually) and bake off two loaves every five days or so. I discovered a sourdough english muffin recipe that I use to bake off some excess starter if it isn't convient for me to do a regular baking.
I would say if you live in a municiple district where your water is chlorinated, use a bottled spring water, just to be safe.
I normally mix my dough (using 2 cups starter and about 5-6 cups flour) the night before and let is rise overnight. This seems to work well for me. By the way, it is winter here, freezing outside and we tend to keep the house at 68 duirng the day and 62 at night and when we are away (working).
Maybe I've just been lucky, but it seems to me that it is a fairly easy process and makes wonderful bread! I have two boys and between the four of us there isn't any bread left over!
This is the bowl of proofed (proven?) dough after an over night rise.
This is one of my finished loaves.
This round loaf was shaped without a bowl. I baked it on a pizza stone.