This is my second post as a new member so be kind...
I've been making home pizza for >20 years and recently got a bug to revamp my entire process including the use of natural starters and a hijacked electric oven (tricking the thermocouple, cleaning cycle, etc). I'm an engineer by trade so of course, I must create a starter from scratch just to see if I can do it. The oven is another matter (my wife and kids think I've good mad).
The first attempt to make a home grown culture wasn't so successfully. I tried a (well known) method using a few store bought grapes. The first two days were fine but on the third day, I came downstairs to my wife saying one of my basset hounds got sick by the back door (not unusual!). She threw the carpet runner outside (thinking it was that) but it didn't cure the problem - of course. I have to admit it was pretty bad. Anyhow, my culture was on the counter brewing away and I removed the lid to feed it. OMG - run away! Even the dogs flipped out. Down the drain and back to the drawing board.
My second attempt was more successful using a method I found on http://www.thefreshloaf.com/
. Pretty simple with just flour, water, and pineapple juice. I managed to create what I think is a pretty good culture with a nice sour smell. I've used it a few times with decent taste but the problem I'm finding is there just isn't enough leavening power. I keep it in the refrig most of the time (due to my frequent business travel) and extract a portion 2-3 days and begin the feeding process getting ready for pizza day. Well, I haven't used the culture in a few weeks (but did feed it ~1 Tbs flour & 1Tbs water during this period) and what I'm finding now is I can't get it activated very well. Also, the smell is a bit off (not bad, just different than I remember). There's no hooch developing in the jar during cold storage. The consistency is a bit "dense" but I think it's pretty close to ~100% hydration based on my feeding regiment since creation.
So, I thought to get the activity started again I'd wash it. This leads to a question.
The washing process states to first remove 1 cup of culture and add 3 cups of warm water (filtered). Stir vigorously and discard all but 1 cup. Then feed 2/3 cups flour and enough water(~1/2 cup) to create a thick batter . So here's the question. After diluting the culture 3:1 and adding the flour the consistency is pretty thin. Nothing close to 100% hydration and not what I would call a "thick batter". This is before adding the 1/2 cup water so what's the deal?
I don't see how to get back to 100% hydration unless I severally restrict the amount of water added during the subsequent feedings.
Is this normal? I'm I missing something?
Thanks everyone. I'm happy I found this awesome site!!!!
BTW: I just started to activate of a new Ischia culture from sourdough international. It should be interesting to see how it compares. Hopefully I don't need to wash it though!