The pictures probably tell the story here, yes?
Is that a toaster oven in the background and did you back that in it?
I meant to say bake it in there, not back it in there...
Judging by the size of the batard relative to the toaster oven in that photo, I'd say it's safe to say it wasn't the vehicle for this unfortunate result...
If I had to make a totally wild guess, I'd say the starter isn't ready for baking, yet. But, again, that's a total shot in the dark.
I had glanced at your posting in the making-a-sourdough-starter thread - but that's a black hole of messages and I couldn't find it again.
While I don't know any details about the age of your sourdough culture, are you by chance refreshing it and immediately refrigerating it?
Details about the recipe you are using would also be helpful.
- Built a starter from scratch using gaarp's procedure and a combination of bread flour and AP... after however many months of baking Hamelman's pre-ferment recipes, it runs against my grain (ha) to use all-purpose flour for bread. When I got to his finishing point I put the starter in the fridge.
- One week later, took it out; discarded half; fed with flour and water; waited 12 hours, starter became bubbly but didn't grow; fed again (didn't discard anything) to bring it up to recipe weight + leftovers for next batch; waited I think 24 hrs., again starter became bubbly but didn't grow but I went ahead anyway.
- Made the Norwich Sourdough recipe, more or less: combined, using about 2/3rds AP and 1/3 bread flour because I ran out of AP... not used to keeping all that much on hand; autolyse 1/2 hr.; mixed on KitchenAid speed 2 for four minutes; covered and put into the fridge overnight; took out, left at room temp about four hours (it took a good two just to bring it up to room temp), folded, waited--about six hours all told, because well, it wasn't really RISING. But it did get that soft, sticky texture I get when making Hamelman's more-hydrated breads (and which usually serves me well), so I shaped it and let it proof for two hours (too long, in retrospect), until it did the half-spring-back-when-poked business (great tip!). It was sprawling all over the place at this point, very wet and shapeless. Which is bizarre on its own b/c the autolyse + mixing gave the dough so much gluten development that I only folded once.
- Baked one loaf on a preheated stone, the smaller loaf half on stone half on preheated cookie sheet b/c the loaves sprawled so much. Results as above.
- Left the leftover starter on the counter for about a day; it became bubbly but didn't rise—sensing a theme here?; fed w/ equal weights rye flour and water; 14 hours later, it's bubbly but not rising.
So all in all it looks like I don't have enough yeast in my starter? It behaved very well during the gaarp procedure week--rose like a champ then.
I definitely suspect the starter, based on your description of it's behaviour and the behaviour of the dough during the proofing stage.
What did the starter smell like? Depending on the hydration of the starter, it may or may not rise. The real key is the scent. Was it kinda sweet and very yeasty, with an acidic twang, or was it sour and yogurty?
As an aside, 24 hours from feed to bake is, I think, a little long. When I bake with a refrigerated starter, my procedure is typically: Pull starter from fridge Friday morning, leave on the counter during the day to warm up and wake up. Feed friday night. Then feed Saturday morning and night, then bake on Sunday (at which point the starter is doubling and very active).