Been playing at baking for eons; some successes, mostly less than spectacular results. Got into trying sourdough with sourdough starters after picking up a book in San Francisco airport featuring sour dough tales from the goldrush days, along with a packet of "starter." Sounded like such a great idea to try and take a stand for living free of commercial products including "expensive" yeasts. Only down side besides the frequent disasters, was handling the "gloppy" dough, so invested in a "bread machine." Less sticky hands, but little improvement in the end product.
Am now on a new track. Suddenly realized "starter" does not necessarily mean sour dough. Forget waiting for wild yeasts to take over. Create a "starter" with commercial yeast, and then nurture it carefully, saving a little "dough made from starter" from each batch of "dough cycle" bread machine product.
Haven't been at it long enough to know if I'm really onto anything; but have found that starter leavened product from the bread machine dough cycle, saved and properly fed, seems to hold great promise. There does seem to be an art to what the consistancy of the nurtured starter should be. A "soupy" batch gets the familiar foul looking liquid similar to my old sour dough efforts; so have had some success maintaining it at the consistancy of a workable bread machine dough.
Therin lies another concern. My most successful bread machine dough is from a recipe I found with precise amounts of water to dry ingrdients; which if deviated from even the minutist, produces a loaf with a collapsed top; or one so dense it can only serve as a paper weight. Figuring out how to combine the ideal starter, to the additional ingrediants to make a perfect loaf has proven very tricky.