Alright, so I've been baking sourdough breads for the last year or so now, and I can't, for the life of me, get a good loaf of bread. Over the course of 2016, I tried various different sourdough starters and sourdough breads with those sourdough starters hoping to find a good recipe; however, I can't find one! Every loaf I've made has turned out dense, wet, and heavy (certainly edible, but not very enjoyable).
I've tried many different starters, as I said above, ranging in order from 100% all-purpose (liquid), 100% hard white wheat (100% hydration) and 100% whole rye (100% hydration) to 100% hard red wheat (100% hydration). I have always used filtered water (water without any chemicals of any sort). The first starter I tried, the all-purpose, did great, but I accidentally killed it after neglecting it. Plus, I wanted to try a white wheat starter. The white wheat starter really honestly has no complaints, as it was very active; however, somehow I walked out one day to feed it and found it molded over. Next, I tried a whole rye, but within 4 days it also molded over. That led me to a red wheat starter, which did great for a while, but it starter smelling a little odd. It kind of smelled like nail polish. Then, it, too, molded over. That leaves me with my current sourdough starter, a 100% all-purpose starter made with potato water and the consistency of a creamy, thick pancake batter (The recipe is out of the "Alaskan Sourdough" book."). I uses around 1/2 cup of water to 1 & 1/2 cups flour with a tablespoon of sugar each feeding. I figured that since my first starter was obviously my best one, I'd try going back to all-purpose flour.
Nope. Almost 2 weeks in, obviously excited, I made a batch of rolls yesterday. They had absolutely no rise whatsoever. I used the same recipe back when I had my white wheat starter and they turned amazing, so I don't believe it'd be the recipe's fault. I adjusted the liquid as necessary to accommodate with the slightly higher hydrated starter this time.
What odd is that the starter smells amazingly tangy and sour and makes great hotcakes, but it shows no sign of activity other than a few bubbles on the top. Most of my other starters have either doubled or tripled in size and have had bubbles EVERYWHERE. This starter had that for the first few days, but now it just seems very "dead." It smells great though. I keep it at room temperature on my kitchen counter and feed it every day (4 cups starter altogether; discard half; feed 1/2 cup water 1 & 1/2 cups of flour, more or less). What went wrong? I've read that using a 50/50 blend of all-purpose and a whole grain flour works great for this problem? How could I fix this? Also, why have I had such trouble with starters molding over and/or smelling odd? It seriously frustrates me!
Every loaf of bread (I bake mostly sandwich bread.) I've made from any of my starters has seriously sucked. My first starter didn't do AS horribly, but it still sucked. I generally make either 100% hard white wheat or 100% hard red wheat breads. I've tried so many different recipes, but they've all turned out dense, crumbly, and dry or extremely WET. Another issue I've had is the rise. My previous starters have allowed the dough to double in size in both the bulk fermentation and the final proof, but it never rises in the oven and always turns out dense and wet! Is there any way I can fix this? Why do all of my sourdough breads suck? Some recommend weighing ingredients; I've tried this, and it has offered no different results.
Most recipes I've used have used flour (around 3 cups), water (around 1 cup), salt, and starter (around 1 cup). I would like to stick to these ingredients, but I'm open to suggestions. I adjust the flour as needed to get a nice slightly sticky, thick dough.
Any help is highly appreciated.