After developing a really great starter the last 4-5 months, something sort of odd (I think) has been happening as of late.
Normally, when I want to make a loaf or two of bread, I take out my mother starter, let it come to room temp, remove one cup (I keep two cups of the mother total), split that one cup into two 1/2 cups, and refresh each of them with feedings of 1/2 cup each of bread flour and bottled water, then feed the mother, and let all sit out and ferment for 4-8 hours (sometimes more, depending on whether I go out for a while, want a more sour loaf, or whatever comes up at the time)
When the time comes to prepare the dough for my loaves, I have two cups of refreshed starter for two loaves, and the mother goes back into the fridge.
Well, last week, I removed the usual cup of starter, fed the mother, but this time put the whole cup of 'discard or refresh for a loaf or two' all into one container and let it sit out without feeding it. At first I was going to ditch it, as I wasn't going to make any loaves this time, but for some reason, I decided not to ditch it - and set it in a warm place, then forgot about it for about 12 hours.
When I realized it was sitting in my turned off oven, I just couldn't throw it out, even though it looked pretty inactive, so I decided to use the whole cup of non-refreshed starter in a loaf of bread, and see what happened. Lo and behold, the dough rose like crazy, and I ended up with a big, fluffy loaf, with a decent, albeit irregular, crumb and perfectly sour, delicious, flavor.
Ever since that 'experiment', every time I take out the mother to feed, I've been doing the same (which is great, as it saves on flour), and I'm still getting fantastic loaves. What gives? I always thought it was of major importance to refresh the amount of starter you remove for a new loaf (??).
I know there's a reasonable explanation, as in, once that non refreshed 'discard' gets mixed with the bread flour, water, and eventually salt, it's getting a huge feeding, hence the rise, but doesn't this go against the 'cardinal' rule that a starter must be refreshed before starting a new loaf? I'm happy, but a little perplexed!