maintaining and using barm?
Hi, I'm new to the forum and to sourdough, though I've been making killer, crusty, yummy artisan breads for several years now. I've a couple, (probably oh, so obvious!), sourdough questions I hope you can help me with.
I made some wild yeast starter several weeks ago (using BBA's recipe), feed it regularly, and it is apparently very happy since it bubbles and doubles readily. I made bread with it a couple of times, and each time was disappointed. It tasted really bland and was so soft it was hard to cut. Crisp crust when it came out, but soft as Wonder bread by the time it was cool. The non-sourdough french, l'ancienne, and the like I make are generally wonderfully blistered and crusty. What's different about the sourdough? How do I get a crusty, chewy, holey sourdough bread?
Also, how much starter (barm) do I need to maintain? Reinhart's recipe makes 6 cups of barm, yet uses only a cup or less in any recipe. ?? Why do I need this much? It seems like if I am to build up my barm in order to use it, I end up with masses. I either need to make way more bread than I need, or throw out gobbs, or simply keep a huge lot of barm for ???. I'd rather not use up so much flour when I only need a loaf every few days. Following BBA I had so much starter I honestly don't know why people talk about needing to "build up" their starter to make bread.
Am I misunderstanding something about the process? I decided to only keep 4 oz. starter (barm) that I am refreshing with 4 oz. each of flour (hard wheat with a bit of rye) and water about every 5 days. When I pull it out to feed it, I'll have at about 12 oz to start with; 6-8 oz extra (to toss or ??) and 4oz to feed and put back in the chill chest. When I make bread, do I need to refresh this "extra" part until it is at it's peak (is this called ripening?), THEN use it to make a firm starter, THEN make the final dough, or do I just use this 4 oz directly to make into a firm starter and go from there? Am I missing something, or adding a step I don't need?
Can I use sourdough barm in any recipe that calls for barm or poolish? Do I need to do anything different? Is firm starter a sourdough version of pate firmentee? Is there a sourdough version of pain l'ancienne?
Thanks for your help!