my starter (affectionately named "dr. hip hop", which has definitely stuck) is definitely getting stronger with the twice daily feedings (have kept to co-op flour and will be moving back to bread flour today since i've run out until the weekend), although isn't really back to one hundred percent and still takes closer to 3.5 hours to double. i have not been throwing away the extra that you scoop out of the dish -- i've been reserving and then cooking new loaves with it and running up a list of baked goods that also include starter. it's not super strong, but i've been augmenting with some instant yeast and got great results. i was a litlte irritated to have to do that at first, but the bread came out so great i was really excited to have made something good again. i was just working with white flour, none of the healthy junk like i usually do, and everyone agreed that was the best :) even me, miss weight watchers weird ingredients ancient grains only scarfed down a few white scraps when the opportunity presented itself.
questing right now to find the best white loaves. if you google amish white bread there's a great recipe that comes up on allrecipe; that's where i subbed in the starter+yeast and it rose faster than anything i'd ever worked with before. also used a tangzhong because i love the way the cooked gluten gets the bread so cottony. but the perfecentages weren't quite right...trying again with another set of loaves with the same recipe but carefully noting my changes. i reduced the oil (and subbed out half for coconut oil), upped the salt, made a smaller tangzhong so the recipe wouldn't be as wet and also mixed in 2 TB of chia seed gel (gives it a nice speckled look, plus the chia seed gel should hold in the moisture of the loaves similar to the tangzhong and give it a nice earthier flavor). possibly it may taste to healthy. if the dough still smells "healthy" when i go to bake it i'll coat it in melted butter, hopefully no one will notice.
i'm trying to really walk the line between good gluten development and dough that's too sticky. too sticky/wet dough can have enough gluten development, but it's moot if you can't work with it. the white loaves earlier couldn't really be handled, but with the reduced oil and my careful measuring and noting of the water, lessening of the tangzhong and fully incorporating the oil this time around the development was really really nice. sticky but stretched with the consistency of a weak rubber band.
i baked up another set of loaves with a whole wheat, spelt and rye mixture. haven't tasted it all yet -- had a really nice crusting (but not ideal, i wonder if it's possible to get such a typical artisan crust with whole wheat flour? maybe that's another thing special to white). this was 100% starter, and i left it out for a little less than 24 hours to proof (i haven't been able to revive a starter loaf that's gone into the fridge, and when i leave it out that long the sourdough gets SO SOUR. it tastes like there's vinegar in the bread, but even better is that when you add a little bit of butter it tastes like cheesebread. also my 12 hours plus work day prevents me from having too much control on rise times).
i was happier with the crusting than the first time i almost burned the house down trying to work out the steam situation (and shocked i didn't burn myself), but the loaves were definitely too wet. looking forward into cutting into one of them last night. i did a tangzhong with a third of the spelt flour to see what would happen. spelt has low gluten development so i thought super-hydrating it might be an interesting experiment. i'm really fascinated by that particular method, especially since there's so little information available on it in english on the web. i think it will end up with a wetter loaf/denser crumb, which with the vinegar taste is fine by me.