Knowing my Sourdough Options
I am a very new baker, low on experience (or quality baking tools), and perhaps too ambitious for my own good. As I wander the boards, I am faced with such a tremendous amount of information that I am not sure how to proceed.
Without really asking myself why or for what purpose, I decided to create my own sourdough starters, under three different conditions. After a week, despite their differences, they have each reached a smiliar state. They tend to bubble, and though a few days ago they gave off a gorgeous yeast smell, they have since begun to give off the (not necessarily unpleasant) odor of apple juice. And there is a liquid pooling at the tops. Which may not be normal, I don't know. In any case, they don't really rise in any way, and stirring them doesn't do much. But they do bubble, and they don't disgust me.
I am unable to ascertain precise hydration as I lack a scale, though I have been nurturing each colony daily with 1/4 cup of the starter from the day before, 1/4 cup white flour, and 1/4 cup filtered water.
The question then, is how i should treat them now that they have presumably reached some kind of early maturity. I can two things with the starters:
1. Make bread. Duh. But I am a bit aghast at recipes that call for 1 1/4 cup of proofed starter, etc.. At this point my starters are quite liquidy. Shall I just add more flour over the next few days? Less water? How do I get from "watery starter" to "stuff ready to be used in a recipe".
2. Put them in the fridge so I don't have to worry about them. But should I thicken them first? How long can they chill without me tending to them? And if I wish to restart them, what kind of procedure should I follow?
These are rather basic questions, for which I apologize. But the sheer volume of answers on this fine site can be tough to wade through successfully.