I've been lurking here for several weeks and finally decided to sign up officially. I must say, everyone is so very nice on this site, to judge from the many postings I've read. I look forward to both getting and maybe giving a little advice.
In fact, I may as well start by asking for advice. I've baked yeasted bread off and on for several years, finally settling on poolish-based baguettes and batards just within the last several months as my favorites. I teach at the local community college here in Twin Falls, Idaho, and we're on spring break this week. I left campus last Friday with two sets of essays to read and a desire to try making bread with a wild yeast starter.
I began with Reinhardt's BBA wild yeast starter and got it to the point of mixing up the barm. Thus far, it all looked and smelled and seemed as it should be, according to my reading. I dutifully let the barm sit out, put it in the fridge overnight, and mixed up the firm starter for the Basic Sourdough Bread recipe in BBA. I should note there that whenever I try a recipe for the first time, I follow the book directions to the letter (and numbers, too).
To make a long story short, the final dough never really did rise. Oh, it "grew" a bit, but after five hours I got a little impatient, perhaps, formed a couple of slab-like batards, and set them to rise on a couche. Three hours later they still resembled slabs: firm they were, and imposingly heavy. I mumbled under my breath, slashed them anyway, and brushed them with an egg white mixed with a bit of water (the glaze suggested by Joe Ortiz in The Village Baker).
I put them on a baking stone that had been heating at 500 degrees for 45 minutes before I assaulted them with the lumps of dough. I reduced the heat to 450, and after two minutes, switched on the oven light and peeked at them. They were beginning to brown, but they were still lump-like, very flat. At five minutes, they were browner still but still resembled mausoleum slabs. I decided I couldn't watch any longer and went upstairs for another five minutes.
When I next checked (at about 12 minutes), they had browned beautifully and, strangely enough, risen just as nicely. At 25 minutes, they registered 205 in their centers, so I took them out, cooled them, and tasted them. Nice holes, dense but moist crumb, light sour flavor.
The wife and son loved them, but somehow I think I got more lucky than I probably deserved to. Any thoughts on what the heck is going on? I've never really seen a "real" wild yeast or sourdough starter, so I'm thinking I have it mixed up too densely, even though, as I note above, it looks like the books say it ought to.
Sorry for the long story -- this is supposed to be an introduction. I look forward to a long and fruitful association with the site and its members.