Can I ask some dumb questions?
These are some questions which puzzle me as I continue on my sourdough making journey.
1) is there any difference between making a loaf with 180g of starter and 180g of water, and one with roughly 360g of starter? I have often found myself with a lot more ripe starter than a recipe indicates and have ended up simply sticking all that starter in and holding back on the water. Is that bad in some way?
2) how does one work out what percentage hydration their starter is? I simply add a cup of flour and 3/4 cup of water to my starter every time I use it. I have no idea what hydration that makes it and I certainly can't be precise to the percentage point as to the hydration. Does this matter?
3) what is the effect of butter on a dough? I experimented by using loads of butter in one recently and it simply didn't rise at all and smelled of pastry. Yet I have added smaller amounts of butter successfully. Is there a rule about the maximum amount? Same with milk? What is the effect versus water?
4) many many times I have followed recipes for sourdough where the dough ended up to my mind far too wet. This made the eventual shaping impossible to my mind. I proofed a dough the other day that was like jelly and of course when I tried to put it on the stone it just sagged all over the place and lost any shape. Any advice? I have proofed wet doughs on baking paper in the past so that they could be slipped gently onto the stone and this seemed to work a little. Is it advisable and are there any other tricks?
5) related to the above, what actually is the point of having a wet dough if it's so hard to handle?does a wet dough somehow give better/different results to an easier to handle one? I may be imagining but a wet dough seems to sometimes provide me with bigger less uniform holes which is nice. Is that true?
6) does it make much difference how much steam you add to an oven to the finished product? I have added a couple of ice cubes to a sizzling hotplate and I have added a whole pint glass of them. Dunno if I've noticed a difference. Except that whenever I add steam it increases the risk of a crust which raises from the loaf. Is that right?
Loads of questions I often wonder when going through the process but have never found a satisfactory answer to. I wonder if anyone here does.
Any enlightenment gratefully received