sourdough starter impairs gluten development perhaps?
I started my own sourdough starter a couple of months ago - simple organic white bread flour and water - and moved it into the fridge a couple of weeks later. It is lovely, lively and just the right level of sourness.
But I have recently started to notice something odd.
My method is to perpare a semi-stiff preferment, before mixing the final dough, i usually don't knead it much, but rather let it rise for 8-12 hours with random folding in between. The folds usualy quite clearly make the dough stronger and smoother, but recently it feels like the opposite is happening. The folds or short kneads seem to make the dough "break up" - instead of the surface becoming smooth it starts to break up, and the dough becomes more sticky each time. It feels like perhaps somehow the gluten isn't strong enough - and i'm not handling it too roughly.
I am perplexed as the first month or so, even after moving the starter to the fridge, it was working so perfectly, but now it's getting more and more frustrating.
The final bread still turns out fine - if only after a bit more effort: i've had to reduce hidration, retard it, increase proofing time, because it somehow doens't have the upmf anymore. But the final bread still tastes lovely i.e. I haven't noticed any increase in sourness or anything like that.
Any ideas? Will be greatly appreciated!