I've been hooked by the sourdough bug! After making a loaf of "OK" bread by following Alton Browns instructions I decided to give making my own sourdough starter a go. This didn't meet with great success at first. I seems that my starter (made from 1 cup KA Flour, 1 cup filtered water and 1 tablespoon honey) took longer than the instructions I have read suggested. Now after three weeks of daily feedings and two to three times a day stirrings my starter seems to have taken on a life of its own. I usually get a doubling in size 4 - 5 hours after feeding in the AM then the afternoon stir settles everything back down and another 4 - 5 hours later doubled again! One more stirring and it's time for bed... the next am before tossing 1/2 out and feeding again I notice that it appears to have risen and fallen about double a third time.
Is this normal?
The starter has a great sour smell. These days I give it 1/2 cup of rye flour once or twice a week which really seems to sour it up and has added a nice color and flavor to the bread.
Anyway, I have been mixing my dough by hand and then kneading for about 25 minutes, again by hand. the dough is a little sticky but not so much that it can't be handled or worked. I then put it in a salad spinner basket that has been lined with a cotton cloth and liberally sprinklered with flour to proof over night.
The next AM I find my dough to have about doubled in size (8 or 9 hours later) and then turn it out onto a preheated pizza stone in the oven for cooking. A quick slash or three with the razor and I struggle not to open the door to smell and see how it's doing. 45 minutes later... (see attached picture)
What I notice is that when I turn out my dough it seems to fall back in on itself. Though it does rise (spring?) in the oven a little I usually end up with a thick Frisbee shaped loaf. I think that the crumb is pretty good and it tastes great, but a little flat. I also don't seem to get much action from the slashes... at least not like I see in all these wonderful pictures.
What gets me is that Alton Brown's "OK" bread held its shape while proofing while just sitting on the counter, held its shape in the oven and exploded as it cooked to almost 3 times the size it started as! It wasn't near as good tasting or textured as the loafs I've been making, but still... the slashes were wide open and separated and it looked like everything my store deadened senses thought it should look like.
The last loaf didn't even brown much, but stayed a pretty white... but still they taste good! So I must be doing something right... My wife says that I've become obsessed but does enjoy the fruits of my labors.
Any suggestions you might have would be welcome!!
The results of my 9-11-10 attempt. I fed my starter this AM and it will be ready to go tonight... Any thoughts on what to try next? See my detailed post at the end of this threat.