It has been a few months now..
Its now a few months since I discovered and started reading this forum. I must say I learned a lot from the very experienced members here.
However I find it hard to contribute as I am not formally trained nor did I have such resources as the Internet or popular books when I started baking bread, 35 years ago.
I do things a bit different than the common wisdom, so my not much of my experience actually apply. Not to mention that I did not have the professional terminology to describe what I'm doing (but I'm learning).
I developed my bread making over the years by trial and error (lots of errors) and here is how I make sourdough bread.
My starter I'm using now is probably over 15 years old. I made it myself by mixing flour and water and natural fermentation. I dry a sample of the starter every year, and now my freezer has many many ziplock bags with dry starter..
I always have a small plastic jar in the fridge that is 3/4 full of starter. When I decide to make bread (at least once a week) I put the WHOLE jar of starter in the mixer bowl and add all the water I would use for the bread and half the flour I would use for the bread.
I mix well until homogeneous, and let ferment for 8 to 10 hours (temp dependent).
once it is nice and bubbly I return some of the fermented mixture to my starter jar (same amount, 3/4 of the jar), and that is my starter for next time.
Now I add to the mixing bowl all the other dry and liquid ingredients and make the bread. From now on the process is pretty conventional.
I almost never "feed" the starter as I use it and renew it once or twice a week. When on occasion I can not make bread, and the starter gets too hoochy, I discard 3/4 of it and add fresh flour and water in ratio of, what now I know is called, 100% hydration (I guess that is "feeding")..
there are some things which I learned about making the bread, which I believe, are specific to my starter: the starter is very lively, but can not go through more then 2 full cycles of fermentation. The third rising is too slow and low. If I ferment the mixture for over 12 hours it damages the structure of the dough (gluten I presume) and all loaves become focaccia.. :)
for the many years I am baking bread I was using volume (cups) to measure flour and liquids, and for the most part the breads were consistent. But as friends and family started baking my bread I needed to figure out what the stuff weighs, and now I use weight to measure quantities. I also learned which flour work best for me, and now I use Beehive Patent Flour, unbleached, from Honeyville Grains, or King Arthur unbleached bread flour, or in a pinch, Gold Medal - better for bread - unbleached unbromated ...
I have posted my recipe on line: http://www.litman.com/food/recipes.htm and click on "Bread"