Hello. I'm new to the Fresh Loaf, but have been baking breads for about 4 years now (more frequently in the past two). I've been making sourdough breads for about a year, and they're edible, but they spread everywhere. I'm talking about regular plain sourdough---whole wheat, or all white bleached flour, or a mix of the two. I've tried it with looser, malleable dough. I've tried thickening the dough with more flour, which only resulted in very dense and hard to bake bread. I've seen pictures of breads on here with serious loft, where the widest part of the free-formed loaf is towards the middle of the height (like a teardrop), not right on the bottom as mine are. I realize that all of this is still pretty new to me. Is there a step I'm missing? I'd really rather not use special forms, or commercial yeast.
I have healthy starter, just the regular white flour with filtered water. I add its equivalent in flour, and half that in water (I use cups for now). It rises well.
I add starter to flour and water, use noniodized salt, then knead it until it is very malleable and stretches to let light in. During the kneading process I let it rest a little while washing dishes, then go knead it some more.
I let that rest in an oiled bowl about 4 hours (I am at 2200 feet elevation) to get a good taste.
Then, I knead it again, only using enough flour to keep it off my hands. It still feels malleable.
I let it rise on a metal flat pan until doubled, then put it in an oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit with a pan of hot water indirectly underneath it, baking for about 45 minutes. [i know I know, not a high temperature as I just read higher temperatures make better crusts....but I'm just working on baking it all the way through first! I do NOT like doughy centers and have taken to cutting every single loaf in half to be sure it's baked through. I've found out that the thump hollow sound test does not tell the truth]
So, I'm praying that somebody has the answer out there. I'm not doing fancy bread yet, I'm just trying to get the basics down. I would really like some good loft.