Good Starter, Bad Bread
I have very vigorous wild culture i captured here in the California foothills. "SpongeBob" is an organic whole wheat starter who i try to keep at 100%. I'm new to this so i'm not sure what 100% is supposed to look like but SpongeBob is a spongy(!) mass when risen and about the consistency of a stiff cookie dough when newly fed.
My only unconventional caretaking practice is, i can't bring myself to throw any away and so feedings are generally added to whatever amount of starter is in the bowl. That amount fluctuates depending on how much i use and i know that throws off the hydration so i just try to adjust the flour until i have the same approximate consistency as i do when doing it the right way.
Despite many attempts with many recipes i have yet to produce a good loaf. They are usually dense and heavy, although my wife says that they are very tasty.
I began with a no-knead recipe from Instructables .(http://www.instructables.com/id/Sourdough-Bread/ ), however that recipe is short on details for handling the dough after the first rise. I think that my dough collapsed at the point where he says to "turn" it, and i didn't get a second rise.
Since then, because it seemed it should be fool-proof, i've been using the 1-2-3 mixture for my dough and various strategies for proofing and baking. It's almost always the same story. Dough collapses, doesn't double again, and doesn't spring in the oven.
Here's the thing... i'm told that the way to get tasty bread is with longer proofing times. So usually what i've done is mix up the dough at night (and stretch and fold it in some cases), then deal with it in the morning. At that point it is usually something more than doubled and full of tiny bubbles. Thus, it collapses when handled. I can't get it formed suitable to a loaf pan, much less the more advanced shaping. It's too spongy, sticky and wet, and anything i do from that point on is slapstick comedy as i try to unstick the dough from here only to stick it to there. Then i can't get a second rise and i don't know if it's because the dough is exhausted or because it got handled too roughly.
I also tried making my dough in the daytime and keeping something of an eye on it so it didn't get over-proofed. The result, it was under-proofed and tasted like dirt.
Sorry for being so wordy but i am confused and frustrated and even in all this verbosity i probably omitted critical details. I will try to remember them if someone will try to coax the right ones out of me. I'm wondering, e.g., if my starter is way too hungry and consumes the dough before it is sufficiently proofed? I mean, does that happen? What might i possibly be doing wrong and how does a newbie go about making subtle adjustments to established recipes and procedures? I should just like to get *one* decent loaf so i can duplicate the procedure.