I am such an excited little bread maker right now! Look.... Sourdough!!! Thanks for all advice from TFL members. I will add to this blog later this evening, but for now I have to go finish a painting.
Okay, now that I'm feeding my poor little starter the right amount, I'm sure it's happier, but I don't know if that's the reason for this sudden improvement. I've tried several new things with these loaves.
1. A well fed starter.
2. Still used the 1,2,3 recipe. This time I used half unbleached white bread flour, and half multi-grain bread mix (no added yeast). Autolyse for 30, then add salt.
3. The dough was still way too wet for my liking, but I followed Richard Bertinet's 'thwapping' method of kneading. I did this for at least 15 to 20 minutes with great improvement in the smoothness of the dough, but still way too sticky! I added just enough flour to end the sticking and then let it sit in the fridge overnight.
4. I let it rise all by itself, instead of trying to speed it up with steam baths etc. It was covered in a nice sunny spot though. Would you believe it was 16 degrees C (that's about 61 degrees F) where I am even though it's supposed to be spring! That took a long time, about 5-6 hours.
5. I heated the oven as hot as it would go AND I put a terracotta tray in as well. (I don't own a pizza stone). I also had a tray in the bottom of the oven to which I added a cup of water.
6. The boules probably weren't fully doubled before I put them in (kudos to a TFL member for that tip) and hoped like crazy to see some oven spring!
7. I spritzed at 10 min intervals after the first 20 mins. (I've done for all previous loaves.)
I sit in front of the oven with a torch (my oven light doesn't work! ha) and watch for oven spring. I gave up after about 7 minutes cos nothing happened, sat down to play with my iphone while waiting. Next time I look, wow! I actually have bread rising in there! Et voila!