I know you've answered these questions a million times BUT....
Ok, I've studied this forum, books, other webpages, and experimented for about a month now. I FINALLY have two LIVING spelt starters, or chefs or mothers, or whatever they're called (it's like a soft dough form) that are at least three weeks old.
Through all my experimenting I've found I like the firm starter the best. I keep it at room temperature (which in my house right now is around 67-68 degrees) and it smells like yeast when it's actively growing (I was awoke at 3am by my barking dog and when I came into the kitchen I was met with the most lovely YEAST smell!). I'm feeding it once a day (although less than 24 hours in-between, for instance today I did it at 21 hours and it just looked a little bit forlorned, or flat instead of puffy, but still double, I keep missing the "moment" when it reaches double though, so I think it does it sometime in the night? I'm not sure because I usually feed it before noon and then forget about it until the next morning) I could probably feed it twice a day but I don't want to waste that much flour :/.
Ok, for feedings I've tried numerous things but have had the most success with 5 oz of starter, 1.2 oz of water and 2.5 oz of flour. I am mathematically retarded so all these formulas sound like Greek to me...but I've been most successful using that ratio.
I've baked with the cast off dough twice now but used the recipes that call for fed or unfed starter that have added leavening; one was 2 tsp. active dry yeast (buttery rolls from the Kind Arthur website) and another was a crumpet recipe with only 1/2 tsp of baking soda. The both turned out very nice (the crumpets were delicious, btw).
Now for my question: it's living but what IS it and am I doing anything wrong? What do I have? And how can I be sure I'm using it right in recipes? What is the hydration? 50%?
Should I be using less of the starter to feed? I know I'm using more than most people do....does that mean my starter isn't doing as good as I think it is?
Thank you so much ahead of time. You people here are the nicest people on the planet to put up with all us newbies and our silly questions :)