I'm posting here, although I am probably a more rank beginner at this bread baking stuff than really anyone. I started baking last week: made 3 loaves from commercial yeast and some random recipe I found on the internet that seemed to be more about propagate religion rather than breadmaking but broke down the steps pretty well. I love to make things and to read about things, but have an aversion to instructions, which might not be the greatest way to start in making bread, but I'm all about trial and error!
The yeast breads have been kind of flat with no fluffly holes, which I now realize is due to the punching down the recipe suggested. They were however, fairly delicious even they weren't going to win me any competitions. But I really wanted to get started with my starter, so I did.
Following the simplest thing I could find on the interweb, i mixed flour and water in a jar (didn't sterlize the jar) and placed in on the radiator to make my starter. I put it on the radiator because it's really cold in my house and nothing is going to grow if i put it on the table. After two days and one "feeding" (well, one dumping of some extra flour and water...) it started smelling vaugely cheese-like and bubbling.
My bread is made with a mix of all purpose flour, organic red-fife flour, some olive oil, a bit of organic sugar and a pinch of salt. These ingredients were combined in some random numbers until the dough texture was just slightly too sticky to knead comfortably. (i don't like instructions, and I don't have any proper measuring stuff in the house right now anyway. nor do I have a proper baking pan, only a tin-foil cookie sheet).
I poured half my starter into the dough mix and mixed up all the powders, kneaded a bit and then let it rise overnight for about 6 hours (near, but not on the radiator.) When I woke up it was a large ball, expanded probably 3 times. Then I punched it down, which was probably a fatal error as i read later in the day that gets rid of big air holes that I want. (But it feels so squishy and delicious to punch it!) Then I had to go to work, so I left it in the fridge until I got back 6 hours later. In the fridge it developed a skin and didn't rise much. so I put it out on the counter on a cutting board, shaping a loaf as best i could. Where it rose a bit after i left it for an hour or two. But then when I tried to transfer it to the cookie sheet it stuck to the board and deflated. So I put it on the radiator, wondering if I'd wrecked it. It rose a bit. I tried to make slices in the top but I don't think I did it right. Then I decided that I may as well put it in the oven as I was probably rising and deflating and overproccesing the dough to death.
I put it in the oven at 425. I also put a bowl of water in the oven to..is that what i'm supposed to do? I was happy to see that my bread seemed to be cooking and getting bigger and smelling delicious. I left it in the oven for some random amount of time until I tapped it with a spoon and decided it was done. Then I took it out of the oven.
Then I tried to wait until my boyfriend got home, but I couldn't and cut it open to eat it. Success! It tastes delicious, way better than my commercial yeast breads I had made more carefully according to instructions and measured the ingredients. Also, it rose more and had a nicer and more open texture. I was happy to see that my bread turned out despite my brand-new sourdough culture and my slackass ways, and lack of a recipe. I guess I will continue to experiment and eat the evidence.*
(* I did save some for my boyfriend who said it was delicious. He was also pleased that I cleaned up all the flour and dishes I had created. Although not so pleased at the jar of weird stuff on the radiator)