sourdough starter PAIN + the story of a very dense loaf
i hope you are all doing well, especially as this rough year comes to a close!
i'm a newbie to bread making (my enthusiasm vastly outweighs my experience at the moment) and i am struggling with two bread related things:
1) i am currently living in new mexico and for a california gal, it is very cold (50s-60s during the day, 20s-30s at night). i made a sourdough starter using the pineapple method; i started with freshly milled flour (red hard wheat berries) and then after a week, shifted to ap flour. i have very little recourse to finding a warm spot in the kitchen (no oven light, microwave, etc.) and aside from sleeping with the starter in a jar, i'm not sure what to do.
there was *very* little activity in terms of fermentation for the first week and a half (i've kept it on the counter in the kitchen for the entire time). after reading a bunch of posts on this site, i decided to keep at it and i have continued to feed the sourdough starter 1/4 cup of ap flour and 2 tablespoons of water ONCE a day. over the last two days, I've seen a little bit of activity and although it smells more sour, i also smell a little alcohol. my question: given the cold temperatures, should i just call it and start over? if i should stick with it instead, what would folks recommend i do to help nurture this starter?
2) i just made a green chili and cheddar cheese loaf. it came out okay (as in, it's edible, ha!) but i know the biggest mistake i made was not accounting for all the additional liquid. i roasted some chiles, then added the roasted chilis and some sharp cheddar cheese. the dough was VERY wet, but i figured that the french method would suffice. when i saw that the dough structure wasn't changing after 10 minutes of the slap/fold technique, i panicked and added more flour. the result has been a fairly dense bread (not what i was hoping would happen, given my budding interest in working with wet dough). my question: for those of you who are more well versed with the wet dough bread-making method, what is the most effective way to deal with adding additional wet ingredients to a fairly hydrated dough? my partner recommended that i dehydrate the green chilis after roasting; i might try that next time, though i'm worried about losing flavor. any help (or recommendations for reading materials) would be greatly appreciated!
many, MANY thanks to you all in advance.