Okay, I'm lost. I've been trying to read forums, google, ask - this only led me to more confusion :( I feel like I'm a total idiot who can't get the basic notions of baking. So I'd GREATLY appreciate if you could answer some of my questions, or point me to a source where I can read about it (online, plz, I don't have access to majority of published books). I know that these questions will sound foolish to most of you, but I'm a total novice.
1. I don't get the starter hydration. If I have traditinal levain (thick), how do I adjust it to different recipes? Some call for 100% hydration, some 70%, some 166%.
2. Keeping the starter. Some say it ought to be fed daily (3 oz flour), some - several times per day (gasp). One person said that it can stay in the fridge, and be fed once-twice per week, a double amount of water and flour per amount of starter. Can it be done? If so, how do I prepare it for being used in a recipe?
3. How much starter should I keep? If I'm not mistaken, I have about 10 oz right now. I'm thinking about baking 2-3 times per week, only one batch of a given recipe.
4. Freezing starter. I've read at Reinhart's book that biga can be frozen. He doesn't say anything about other types of starters. If it is indeed so, do I simply let it sit for about 6 hours at room temp, and use straightaway? Or it needs to be fed? If so, how much and when?
5. Substituting starter. Levain for biga, vice versa, etc? What difference does it make?
6. Can any recipe be changed to no-knead and be made by autolyse? I don't have a kitchenaid-like mixer, so my only options are either autolyse, or kneading by hand. Also, are there different kneading techniques for different types of bread? I've made French bread kneading by hand - slapping the dough onto the table, repeatedly, with rest periods in between.
Well, these are my major "blank points". I'm sure I'll have more questions, so if you're willing to help me out - I'd be forever grateful!