Refreshing a sourdough starter
I have a few basic questions that I hope some kind person(s) can answer!
1) Why is an older starter better than a newer one?
My bread is less tangy in flavour than a year ago, but I can't really notice any other discernable difference. I guess that doesn't say much for my bread making! After a failed attempt last July, using Peter Reinhart's approach in his book, "Artisanal Breads Everyday", I was successful with Debra Wink's pineapple/rye approach. (I found it here on this forum). I've kept my starter, "Alphie", for a year now, and he is 100% hydrated with unbleached white flour. I'm in Canada and I use either Robin Hood or Five Roses unbleached flour. I keep Alfie in the refrigerator and refresh once a week, unless I'm baking bread. In the beginning, I used to mix in a teaspoon of organic rye when refreshing but now I just stick to the unbleached white.
2) Is it true that your starter is vigorous enough to use for breadmaking if it reaches its peak in 6 hours?
I read that somewhere on this forum. My starter has never peaked at 6 hours. Before I make bread, I'd refresh it on the countertop once every 24 hours but now I do it every 12 hours. Because I'm not always at home - or I'm sleeping - I can't tell if it reaches peak earlier than 12 hours. I'm at home this week on a staycation, so I can watch it. Should I aim for 6 hours? How would I do that? That is linked to my last question:
3) How do I make my starter more vigorous? Through more feedings or a different ratio of feedings? I use a 1:2:2 ratio: 50 g starter + 100 g bottled water + 100 g unbleached white flour. Would my starter be more vigorous if I used a 1:3:3 ratio? I read that people do different things and I'm wondering what is optimum.
4) S&F doesn't totally work for me; last weekend when I baked bread the crumb was too tight. What am I doing wrong? I've seen S&F on videos on youtube and elsewhere. The one difference in my approach is that after mixing in the blender with a dough hook for a few minutes and letting my dough autolyse for 1/2 hour (then adding salt), I did S&F in an oiled container every 1/2 hour for 3 hours.
In prior bread making sessions I'd hand knead the dough after adding my salt, then I'd place it in an oiled container and S&F once an hour. What is the optimum method? (I'm asking that knowing that there is no one method for breadmaking!)
I'm hoping to bake my best bread yet this week. Thank you in advance!