Would appreciate comments, please. Had high hopes for whole wheat bread from Master Formula from Peter Reinhart's Whole Wheat Breads, but need to keep working on it. Have made the recipe twice now; first time got mixed up and put in the entire bowl of starter! (probably about 1.5 x more than recipe required). Dough was very loose after bulk proofing, and practically fell apart during shaping and panning. Needless to say final bread was pretty flat, had many cracks, and was very crumbly. Very tasty though, with butter or olive oil, at least after first hour. Next day was very dry, as I expected.
Second time determined to do better - carefully weighed starter, etc. Still was surprised by very loose dough and while not as many cracks, and bread does hold together better, there was virtually no surface tension when I was trying to form the batard.
Am thinking of possible causes - immature starter? overproofing at bulk dough stage? Sorry no pictures of those disasters, but below you will see the starter I am working with now. History of this starter is as follows:
Began new seed culture on 1/21/11, with pineapple juice, diastatic malt powder, whole wheat flour and filtered water. Proceeded through phases and created the mother starter from seed culture on 1/26/11. Within 5 1/2 hours, had risen to at least 3x volume. Degassed and stored in refrigerator. The second bread mentioned above was made from this starter on 1/28/11 using the master formula mentioned above, with an overnight soaker of scalded milk, salt and whole wheat flour (flour ground finer in my (clean) coffee grinder). Per the master formula recipe I used starter, soaker, whole wheat flour (organic), salt, commercial instant yeast, honey, and butter. The dough was very sticky and hard to work with...I used organic white bread flour, as little as possible, to knead with because it seems to make it easier. Mixed for 4 minutes or so, switching to dough hook after 1 minute. Kneaded for 4 minutes, rested for 5, kneaded for 1 min longer. Then the very loose and unsatisfactory dough and bread described above.
Yesterday, 1/30, took about 1T from refrigerated starter, and refreshed with 100g wh wheat flour and 100g water (this means 100% hydration, right?). Has been at room temperature here in southern California ever since (maybe 70+ degrees F during the day, 55 - 60 at night?). 7 1/2 hours later (see first photo) had more than doubled, but decided to leave overnight in case this starter is too immature, and also to see what would happen. This morning, 17 1/2 hours later, took second photo - still not falling as you can see, and more surface bubbling.
Here are my specific questions:
1. How can I tell if the starter is ready for me to start baking with it? Some of the references say when it doubles in 8 - 16 hours; some say feed it every day for 10 - 12 days.
2. If I am to feed it every day for 10 - 12 days, then clearly it will rise past its doubling and probably fall before I feed it again. Does feeding daily really mean every 24 hours?
3. In general, if I am to refresh it twice before using, does that mean refresh it right after it has doubled? In the case of this starter, that would have been before 8 hours. Or do I wait to see how high it will get...which will mean catching it on the downward trend, because that's the only way I will know that it has peaked?
4. Specific suggestions about the dough process? I am seeing lots of references to folding rather than kneading. I have made a few of the commercial yeast wet dough breads in the Bread Baker's Apprentice, and understand the process of the folding rather than the kneading - not my favorite because I really love the kneading part. If overproofing is indeed the problem, I probably need to do some specific marking on the bowl so I can tell when it has really risen to 1 1/2x rather than just guessing.
Thanks so much in advance for your help! I have enjoyed reading all the posts, and I look forward to being as experienced in the wild yeast and whole wheat process as I am in the artisanal commercial yeast process.