Why won't this stuff rise?
HI! I am new to this forum and I have the same brick problem.
I think I can solve that now that I know I should be adding more water and less flour, but I am so confused by so many other things with sourdough.
I got my starter about a year ago and as far as I know, it's activated or active or whatever. It does not have any commercial yeast in it nor was it started with any rye flour, just regular tap water and King Arthur bread flour. All I know is I feed it and it gets lots of bubbles in it. I've heard people say it's supposed to rise and double though, and I've never seen that. So....it's in the fridge now and here are some of the problems and questions I have:
Feeding: I'm not sure about feeding it when I take the starter out. Do I feed it as soon as I take it out of the fridge or do I feed it after it comes to room temp? When it goes back in the fridge, do I put it back right after I feed it or do I feed it and let it become active and then put it back? If I want to use a part of it, does it even have to come to room temp or could I just take a part out and stick the rest back in the fridge - and does it have to be fed at that point?
I'm not sure I understand the hydration thing. I'm putting equal parts of water and flour into the starter to feed it now after tossing half . My starter is already thick and goopy. Right now I'm trying to add more water - if I have to cut some water and add more flour, this stuff is gonna get up on its own and walk. So what am I doing wrong here?
Rising: I have yet to really see this stuff rise. Everybody talks about leaving things out overnight. The last time I left my starter out all night, it almost died. So I did the starter during the day and made the dough at night and left the bread out all night to rise. I have no idea if it rose or not, because it was still sitting there like a lump on a log the next morning.
So the next time, I did the starter in the morning and the dough at night, then put the dough in the fridge all night and left the dough to rise all day the next day where I could watch it (my fridge is too cold for anything to rise). It rose maybe a quarter of an inch? Then after 12 hours (well, I heard some sourdoughs take 12 to 18 hours to rise), when it was starting to dry out, I punched it down, kneaded it a little and gave it a second rise, which was sort of nonexsistent as well.
Kneading: I've heard 15 minutes, I've heard to just fold it over. I've heard give it a second kneading, I've heard not to give it a second kneading. I've heard to give the dough a rest (if I got that many rests I'd be fired), but no one seems to agree on when and for how long.
Baking: Here comes my next problem. If I try to bake it free form as a rounded loaf, I get pizza dough (good pizza dough though). So I put it in a bread pan. Now it's about an inch or so below the top of the bread pan and it didn't rise as it baked. The first loaf never got brown on the top. This last loaf, I let bake in the bread pan until it had a form, then I dumped it out and left it bake on the racks of the oven so it might get a little brown. I did have a small pan of water on the lower rack and I've had people tell me to just throw ice cubes on the bottom of the oven and that's supposed to work. Anyway, this last loaf had good French bread flavor, awful texture, and could serve as a deadly weapon should the need arise. I will solve that with more water the next time I bake, but if I want a round loaf, I need to add more flour if I don't want bread pancakes, don't I?
By the way, I am in the Pacific Northwest where we have humidity and temperature swings. We just finished having days of over 90° which would have killed the starter. Three days later we are having days of 60° and the starter could go into hibernation. And add to that, it is getting cooler here, especially at night now, and in winter, I don't have the temp in my trailer over 65° and I never have the temp on at night, winter or summer. I don't have a stove where I can turn on the oven light, but I do have a warm setting. I bring my oven up to warm before turning it off for regular bread and that rises fine, but I'm thinking the warm setting is too warm for sourdough, so I just put it on warm for about 30 seconds and then turn it off again.
So with my starter in the fridge as I type, how do I begin again the correct way if I want to make a loaf of sourdough by Monday morning? Thanks for any hlep you guys can give!
Call me Confuzzled