Starting down the path
If you read my intro, you know I'm new at this, so be gentle. Anyway, a few months ago I decided to expand my repertoir into sour dough. Not knowing where to go for the starter, I turned to the Internet and found a site that explained how to make my own from water and whole wheat flour. After two attempts, no joy. At that point, I rememembered my sole bread book had a section on sour dough and that included "how to" make starters. Three of them in fact.
The options presented were:
Starter from wild yeast in the air, using milk and flour.
Starter from bread yeast, sugar and water.
A potato based starter.
Note all three include some type of sugar, along with the liquid and flour to get this going.
I used the milk version that depends on wild yeast. Basic process is to take one cup of milk (skim or whole.....I used whole), put that in a container and leave out on the counter covered loosly with cheesecloth for 24 hours. I'm guessing this is an innoculation period. Then add one cup of AP unbleached white flour, cover with a double layer of cheesecloth and let it sit on the counter until it starts working. Mine kicked over at about 36 hours. At that point, you start dividing, adding equal parts of milk and flour to your starter. After about 5 days, if it's going well, it's ready to use.
Maintenance and feeding is by volume: one part starter, one part milk, one part flour, although in practice and out of ignorance, I've varied that a lot. Sometimes one full cup of "week old" starter (dumping liquid hooch off the top), stirring down and then adding 1/2 cup skim milk and 1/2 cup flour. It will start actively bubbling, rise about 25% for about 2 or 3 hours, then fall back to the original level. At that point.......about 3 or 4 hours.....back in the refer, where it may sit for up to a week. Dump the hooch off and repeat.
This basic process appears to be similar to the famour Carl's starter. It's maintained as a fairly wet starter. Note, all these include some type of sugar in the liquid, which from my beer making days, I realize is attacked instantly by the yeast. To me, it has a nice smell about it and if you taste it, it's "fizzy" from the carbonation. It has a sour taste that is not at all unpleasant. But it's nothing at all like what you folks seem to be using. It seems to work well for some SD applications like biscuits or batters (pancake, waffles, etc), but iffy on the breads. Or maybe I'm not doing the breads right either?
Now before you spank me for doing wrong, know that as of this morning, I've mixed together an infant starter of orange juice and organic whole rye flour. I'm blessed in that a local store has an extensive bulk foods section (source of my rye flour), stocks a wide variety of KA flours and the option for me to grind my own high gluten hard red spring wheat flour from whole wheat kernels. Its ground fresh in the store.
So with that, kudos or critiques. I'm all ears.