After getting some good advice from this site following a failed first attempt at wild yeast sourdough, I continued to feed my starters every morning and moved them out of my 60F kitchen and into a 70F location. I finally saw what an active sourdough starter should REALLY look like (notice the rise above original fill lines in marker):
I have two active starters going now, the bottom is rye and the top is 75% white/25% whole-wheat.
So now I was able to make my first successful sourdough pain au levain. It came out pretty ugly as I need to practice my slashing on these wetter doughs more, but the crust came out really crispy and chewy. I could have gotten larger holes and a better rise in the crumb, but I had let it go too long proofing and it almost overflowed the basket, so I had to fold the dough a third time and let it proof again, but I was running out of time so baked it when it was not as risen as it could have been. Still, the taste was absolutely wonderful and texture nice and chewy without being dense! Really nice flavor, some slight sour bite but not at all overpowering, other flavors hard to describe.
I was on a roll, so I also whipped up some BBA Pain A L'Ancienne again, very easy recipe, chewy, crusty, very tasty:
And finally, I was able to make some saffron buns for Christmas breakfast from the recipe on this site, but with no dairy, by substituting soy creamer for the milk and a vegan soy spread for the butter. I am allergic to dairy. They came out great, my dairy-loving family and friends loved them! This particular soy spread is meant to be used for cooking as well as a spread, and in my opinion, tastes much like unsalted butter. The buns tended to spread out more than rise very high, and I am not sure if that is due to my dough being very hydrated, or if using real milk and butter would give a slightly better rise. I intend to try the BBA cinnamon rolls next with the same substitutions. I'll be doing more sourdough baking this week as I am on vacation and have guests coming for a big New Year's Eve dinner. Happy Holidays to all!