I looked back with some amusement on my first post over 2 years ago. I gave up trying to make sourdough at the time, but I've now returned with a new sense of purpose and so far (new starter created December 20th 2022, UK), results are much better.
I'll detail my process below (pictures attached) but I'm always looking to see if I can make small improvements and, if I could achieve anything, it would be a slightly more aerated crumb. All suggestions welcome.
Starter: originally 250g mixed bread flours (rye, wholemeal, white) and 300ml water, plus a grated organic apple. This tripled or more in the first three days. I then fed every two days and didn't make a loaf until the start was two weeks old. Overall, I tend to keep about 300g of about 110% starter in my 2-quart Kilner topped with muslin and left open to the atmosphere (any more than this becmoes discard for muffins/pikelets); I leave that in a cold garage when not baking. When ready to bake, I bring it into a 70F room, feed it with about 150g + 150 ml water, and leave it for 4-5 hours, during which time it always doubles but never triples as it did in those very early days. However, it has made three or four good loaves so far, the most recent of which is shown.
Prep and fermentation: 400g white bread flour, 250ml water, 250g of 110% 5-hour starter, one small tablespoon of olive or sesame oil. Combine, autolyse for 1 hour, add 2% salt (mixed well), 4 x stretch/fold every 30 minutes (so that's 3 hours so far). Allow another 2 hours fermentation until dough has increased by about one third. Dough is still a little tacky but gluten formation is obvious and stretches fairly easily off a Mason bowl. Pre-shape on a well-floured board taking care to tuck seam underneath several times, and go around the loaf twice in small increments with tension pulls. It is noticeable how quickly that air pillows form on top of the dough during the pre-shape. Place upside down in circular banneton coated in rice flour; wrap in plastic bag then leave in fridge for 12 hours.
Bake: Place an empty roasting tray in bottom of cooker as a heat deflector and pre-heat cooker to 195-200F (fan assisted). I've tried including the dutch oven (cast iron casserole) in the pre-heat but cannot see any noticeable difference). Remove dough from refrigerator, turn out, spray, coat with rice flour, score, and place in dutch oven with both a circle and a sling of baking paper. Spray dough again. Bake with lid on for about 50 minutes until maxium oven spring but pale. Transfer loaf to open sheet and bake for a further 20 minutes at a slightly higher temp of 215F. N.B. I'm finding that I get a better result baking at these lower/slower temperatures.
So all in all I've managed to reproduce these results three times now. It leaves me feeling confident but, unless you feel I'm expecting too much, I wouldn't mind just a tiny bit bigger rise and more aeration in the finished product ? What could I try ?
Thanks all, and happy baking !