Thank you, Sourdo Lady. About ten days ago I finally decided to put off the procrastination and begin my own sourdough starter. Having read many various instructions (Beranbaum, Hamelman, Williams Sonoma, et al), calling for the use of flour, water and time, and if the desired results are not produced, throw it out and start over, I decided to take Sourdo Lady's explanation and logic to heart and put them to the test. Armed with a fresh bag of rye flour and a small can of pineapple juice, I started and five days later, I had a bubbling seed starter. Now to put it to the test
I followed Beranbaum's instructions to convert the liquid starter to a stiff starter and then expanded it enough to make sufficient for two recipes: her Basic Sourdough Bread and her Sourdough Rye, both from The Bread Bible. I had enough starter to double the recipe for the Basic Sourdough Bread, so I did. I put the remaining starter (for the rye bread) in the fridge to retard another day and set out to make the Basic Bread. According to the recipe, this is a rather wet dough (at 68%). I followed all the instructions except for the mold for the shaping. Instead of using a banneton or colander, I shaped it as two batards and set them on parchment, using rolled kitchen towels under the parchment to provide a support ala cloche. So far, so good. After three hours, the dough had risen , but perhaps not enough. I sprayed them with water, slashed them and slid them into the oven with steam. The result - ciabattas, or what looked like them. The slashes I had made appeared not to have been deep enough or had closed up very quickly. The dough spread out on the parchment. It rose, but not very much. The result - crunchy crust but a relatively heavy and dense crumb. It had plenty of gas holes throughout but remained heavy, nonetheless. After cooling, I cut one of the "loaves" into thirds and then sliced one of the thirds horizontally. It was edible, but I wouldn't give it any prizes. I am not sure what went wrong, so I will not send any photos or ask for advice until I can repeat the recipe in the future, this time without doubling it (in case that was part of the problem). We will see.
The success story was today when I made the Sourdough Rye. This is a 63% hydration recipe, 17% rye. I worked the expanded starter into the final dough yesterday and gave it two hours at room temp, with the requisite Stretch and Folds (Business Letter Turns). Then into the fridge to retard until this morning. I took it out this morning and gave it two hours to warm up and then worked it into a batard shape (again, no banneton available). After a two hour proof, it had risen nicely so I sprayed it, slashed it and slid it into the oven. Fifty-five minutes later it came out of the oven to cool.
Nice color, nice crust. When it had cooled, I sliced it and took photos. I am happy with the results, happy that I have seed starter working away in the fridge for the next atempt, and I am anxious to start playing again.