Hi everyone, I'm a complete novice when it comes to baking bread and have absolutely no knowledge of sourdough bread. To be honest I have never even tasted a proper loaf like the beautiful loaves shown on this site. I would really love to learn how to bake delicious breads so I can give my young children a good start in life. I'm a resonable cook making everything from scratch and a good cake baker but as yet I've failed to make a good loaf of bread. I've been trying to start a sourdough starter exactly as SourDom has described. As I live in Scotland where this summer has been quite cold so I have started two cultures. One in my kitchen which sits in the low to med 10's and one in my boiler cupboard which sits between 20-25 (celcius). Both starters worked as described by SourDom although the kitchen one took longer to get lovely bubble and double, I guess as expected due to the cooler temps. The starters are three weeks old now. The kitchen starter although slow to start has overtaken the boiler starter in doubling rate and doubles in about 5 hours, it's been doing this for a week now. The boiler one which I would expect to double quicker takes about 12 hours to double. I always stir, tip out all but a spoonful of starter and add fresh organic rye, organic white bread flour and add bottled spring water (100g flour and 100g water). I was refreshing every 24 hours but for the last 5 days I've been refreshing every 12 hours due to their levels of activity. It all sounds perfect, however I'm concerned about the smells. A couple of times both have smelt of nail varnish remover, after a couple of days of refreshing the acetone changes to vinegar. Sometimes the smell is quite strong, then when I'm about to give up and bin them they smell of faint vinegar or even the estery smell one might expect. When you tip out the mass during refresh the bottom smells yogharty, I guess its the lactic acid. Not knowing what smell I should be aiming for I baked a loaf with each culture. I must say I have been waiting for months to do this. The loaves were disappointing. With a lack of time due to 2 small children I used a bread maker to knead. I let it bulk proof 2.5 hours then folded and allowed to rest overnight about 9 hours at room temp. The results were similar, a little flatter than expected but I didn't get the slashing right before by 17 month tried to climb on the boiling pizza stone, and tasting of mild vinegar. My 3.5 son normally tucks into my soda bread I make, but had one taste of the sourdough and asked for normal bread please. Kindly my husband tried it and to cheer me up said it was tasty but he has a look when he tells white lies. Anyway, as I'm dragging this out please could someone help. You're probably all going to shoot me but how do you get a natural levin starter which is yeasty but not too lactic and definitely not vinegary? Should I try and slow the kitchen starter by fridging it or will this just favour the lactic acid and vinegar producing bacteria? Please could someone help as I'm on the brink of tipping the starters down the sink and returning to shop bought breads.
Thanks Chel x