Sour dough HELP!!!
Hello everyone, I have been following this site for the last couple of months, I learned about sourdough starter and though of giving it a try. The first recipe I used called for 4 days at room temperature and then keep it in the fridge, it was bubbly up to the point when I put it in the fridge then I tried baking with it and the dough didn't rise. So I discarded it. a couple of weeks later I decided to try again, so I used another recipe I found here which called for 8 days at room temperature, I saw bubbles and "active" for the first three days and then nothing happened, the bubbles disappear and by day 7 I added white wine vinegar (what I had available at that moment) so the following day it was alive, then I decided to start baking bagel (recipe found here as well) it called for 100% hydration, now I am not a baker at all, I love homemade, and that's why I am here (in fact I'm a nurse, so I do not understand this hydration language) anyway I did my Google research and understood what I had to do, so I took 1/4 cup of starter and mix with 1/4 cup of unbleached AP flour and 1/4 cup of filtered water. Next day my starter was dead... :( I went ahead and baked with it but cheated by adding yeast (ha-ha!) because I knew what the result was going to be. anyway even with the yeast my bagels came out very hard like a rock, at first the dough was way too wet, when I boiled them one of them fell apart, and the baking was supposed to take 8 min, mine took like 1 hour.
What am I doing wrong? I discarded the rest of my dead starter, but I see the pictures of perfectly and delicious looking breads I don't want to give up, please give me some advice.
By the way one thing that kills me really kills me about starter is the fact that I have to discard so much flour and I am not the type of person that would do it, I actually collected it and tried baking with mine but the same thing happened, it didn't work. Also I don't own any baking books, I see many of you praise somebody call Reinhart, sorry I don't know him. I guess he is an excellent baker, I should buy his books.
Thanks for any advice