[Norwich] Sourdough tastes great, but won't rise enough.
A bit of background on me: I've been baking bread using the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day "no-knead" method since the book first came out. So, I guess about four years now...with probably 90% fantastic results (after a short breaking-in period). Recently I got the bug to try sourdough and I wanted to do it properly. I've been reading The Fresh Loaf for a while and there were such good things said about the Norwich sourdough that I thought I'd start with that. My goal was, pick one recipe, master it, learn how things change if you tweak this factor or that factor, and then move on to some other recipes or tweak till I find out what I like best.
Well, I've not gotten very far down that road. I started my starter about two months ago, initially a rye starter but I've been feeding it with white flour so it's mostly white at this point. I'm keeping it on my counter (probably about 70-72 degrees in my kitchen right now) and feeding it once a week. It looks happy and bubbly any time I peek at it, and after I've fed it, if I stir it down I can see that it's bubbled up quite nicely. It smells good, too, except for the occasional hooch, but I deal with that.
I should note that every time I've made this I've halved the recipe.
My first loaves were actually pretty decent:
But I only did the 2.5-hour proof on the counter and they didn't taste sourdough-y, so the second time I proofed them overnight in the fridge and baked in the morning. These were gorgeous:
This is when things started to go downhill. My third batch, I did something stupid, so we won't count that. My fourth and fifth batches, I went back to the original recipe (what I did for batch 1), and they all turned out as flat as a pancake. Awful. I didn't even take pics of these, they were so bad. After batch 5 I got annoyed and decided to feed my starter again, and try again the same weekend (I had a lot left). So I tossed out half, fed it, waited for some healthy bubbling activity, made another batch of dough, and this time proofed it on the counter a bit and then overnight in the fridge like I did with batch 2 (which was awesome).
Okay, so we got some rise, but still not a ton. The only difference here is that I did a boule shape, but everything else should have been the same.
I haven't cut into these yet, I popped them on the cooling rack and ran out the door, so if a picture of the crumb is helpful I'm happy to take some. They smell good though, nice and sour.
I guess what I'm wondering is, why the lackluster rise? The first rise looks like it does okay, but after I shape the loaves it's very meh, and I get almost no oven spring (or in some cases none at all). Am I not proofing it long enough? I did the poke test and it filled out about halfway or so, and that was on one of the flat loaves.
Making bread the "real" way is all very new to me so while I understand the theory behind it, the reality is a lot more complicated. :)