I am having some problems. I have a extremely low tech set up in the middle of nowhere in a rural village in the tropics. I am having trouble with consistancy. I can't weight anything and my measuring cup is improvised. My oven doesn't really get hot enough.
All that aside - my starter seems pretty strong and certainly very quick. If I leave things to ferment and proof at room temperature it doubles in size (that vague and unquantifiable term) extremely fast. Ambient temp is around 28 - 29 degrees. And it's humid!
The recipe I use suggests a pre-ferment time of 8-12 hours but I find that 4-6 hours is more than enough for the activity to start subsiding again. My proving times for the first and second proof are also only a couple of hours. Sometimes I retart it in the fridge if it's going to fit in my schedule better that way.
My main technical problems are with shaping the loaves. I've tried improvising proofing baskets but I find the cloth lining I am using tends to stick a bit and the dough deflates when I transfer it to the baking tray.
More recently I bought some round 'disposable' foil baking dishes that seemed about the right size that I can put directly in the oven which gets around that problem. I saw some aluminium "dutch ovens" at the supermarket last time I went into town which I thought might work, too, but they were a bit of an investment $$$wise for me at the moment.
Todays loaves looked good. I shaped them according to the instructions here on the beginners forum but when I checked how the proofing was going I saw that my nice round forms had splt and they look terrible. At least it meant that I didn't have to bother with slashing.
Slashing is also something of a challenge. I did get hold of a craft knife last time I went to town and that at least is sharp enough to do the job reasonably but the dough still seems to deflate a little when I slash.
Can anyone suggest why my dough seems to not want to stick to itself? You can see in the first photo also that the surface of the dough is kind of weird. It looked OK before it rose...
Feeling a little frustrated with the various limitations of my set up but all the loaves I produce are pretty edible so I guess I shouldn't complain too much. Any words of support or encouragement would be appreciated.
My basic recipe is below but I generally add a bit of rye flour for extra flavour (but a pretty small percentage of the total flour content):
• CLASSIC SOURDOUGH RECIPE
• 2 cups warm water 
• 6 -8 cups flour  (this depends on altitude and how thick your sourdough starter is)
• 1 cup sourdough starter (unproofed)
• 2 teaspoons salt 
1. In a large bowl, combine the water, sourdough starter and 4 cups of flour.
2. Mix well and cover with plastic wrap in a warm place 8-12 hours (I do it over night).
3. The next day stir in the salt and add flour 1/2 to 1 cup at a time to make a very stiff dough .
4. Knead till smooth.
5. Cover and let rise 2 to 2-1/2 hours.
6. Punch down and divide in half.
7. Knead till smooth and form into rounds. Place on a greased baking sheet. Cover lightly and let rise till double and puffy (1 to 1-2 hrs).
9. Heat oven to 400°F.
10. Carefully place a small pan of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven.
11. Cut two slashes across each other on top of each loaf.
12. Bake for 45 minutes.
15. You are suppose to allow this to cool for 2 hrs to develop the sourdough flavor fully -- we wait maybe 30-45 minutes!