I'm working with a fairly new starter, which I made originally according to the instructions in Reinhart's Artisan Bread Every Day, and have since modified to 100% hydration. I keep it in the refrigerator, with the plan being to refresh it weekly and bake with it once or twice each week. There may or may not be some problems with my starter or my bread, and the main problem is that I'm not sure if things are going wrong, or if I'm just not used to wild yeast yet.
My first concern is that this stuff is very slow. When I refreshed it Thursday, I took the old starter out of the fridge at 9:00 AM, let it warm up for two hours, then took out two ounces and fed it with six ounces each of bread flour and water. I waited for it to show some bubbles, which happened after about three hours. I waited for it to grow in its container, but by 10:00 PM it had only grown a very small amount, and was still only somewhat bubbly. I crossed my fingers and put it back in the fridge. This was the second time I've refreshed it, and both times it behaved about the same.
The bread I've made with it acts very strange, at least when compared to bread I make with commercial yeast. I understand that wild yeast is slower, but this is positively glacial. Not only that, it turns dough into ooze. The dough has much less strength compared to commercially yeasted dough, and when picked up will try to ooze through my fingers. It's as dense as any other bread of comparable hydration, but it doesn't want to hold together as well. It droops. It will not hold surface tension when I form loaves. They start out well, but then instead of rising they spread and flatten.
The yeast does wake up in the oven, and grows to a somewhat reasonable height there, though because of the lack of surface tension the bread winds up rather flatter and broader than I'd like. The crust also behaves strangely. Instead of taking on a nice, even color, it's patchy. Some places burn, some look just right, some are too pale. And the bottom always seems to darken far too much.
I'm following the instructions precisely, but the bread always behaves in this manner. I've made three recipes, all of which turned out differently enough to be identifiable as different breads, but each of which shared these issues.
Is this normal? If not, how do I fix it, and if so, how do I adapt?