I have arranged to send chris some of my starter, and given him instructions on preparing one. He suggested posting that info here.
I keep my starter in the fridge. I tend to have pizza sundays, so i simply refresh it on wednesday or thursday, and then prepare the pizzas thurs/fri ready to bake on sunday. It is really easy to take care of the starter, even if you leave it for a week without feeding it will bounce back. I find that even if i used up 90% of the starter in my jar, the residue on the sides will be sufficient to 'reinfect' the new flour added. Basically, it is very hardy.
Could you tell me a typical recipe you would do and how you would incorporate the starter?
I use the spread sheet from varasano's website http://www.think2020.com/jv/recipe.htm
You adjust the number in the select column of the website to select the recipe you want. I used the standard one at first, but i have moved on to pizzanapoletana's recipe, which has no added yeast. I am working on a 4day rise at present, so the pizza is mixed (i hand knead/mix) left to rest for 20mins, kneaded for ten, then it goes in a lightly oiled tub in the refrigerator for between 1 and 4 days.
Do you add yeast as well as starter or only starter?
Depends, i went from starter only (b4 finding the website, doing everything by guesswork/eye/feel) to starter and Instant dry Yeast (IDY) back to starter. The most important thing at first is to get a recipe in weight, ie grams, not volume (cups). I weigh everything on an electronic scale, if the dough is very wet then you end up using more bench flour so you can handle it. But the dough is typically much wetter than i was used to compared to bread doughs.
When feeding it do you add water and flour?
I add a teaspoon of flour and a splash of water, i am aiming for 60:40 flour to water, most websites i ahve seen call for 50:50, but i found this makes the starter quite wet.
I feed my starter the day before using it, to refresh it, but it works ok if i forget too. I keep my starter in the fridge and weekly feeding seems to be working fine.Starter Sending and Preparation
What i have done with the starter is floured a sheet of baking paper, poured starter on top, more flour, and then more baking sheet. I have folded this and put it in a small plastic bag. Then in a jiffy bag. I think when you receive it you should just scrape it off the baking paper, into the jar or mug you plan to use. Add water a table spoon at a time and mix it up with a chopstick or wooden implement (sourdough doesn't like metal) until it is a muddy consistency. Feed it with a teaspoon of flour and add a teaspoon of water. If you keep it out of the fridge at first, you should see bubbles in a day or so, and sour smells.
It is quite easy to make a starter. Mine was prepared from Dove's (a uk brand) organic bread flour. Find a clear jar, i use any old jar i have around and poke two small holes in the lid. Sterlise it by microwaving or i place mine over the sout of my kettle and boil it.
Then i mix two teaspoons of flour and water in and leave it in a warm place, like on top of the fridge. Feed it with a teaspoon of flour and water every twelve hours or so. There is no need to get up in the middle of the night to adhere to the timetable. There is some yeast living in the flour already, so all you need to do is give it the conditions (water and warmth) to multiply. Try this with your italian flour and you might get a nice flavoured starter. I am going to try this with some OO that i have in the house. It wil; be good experience for you, and if it goes wrong the first time, do not be discouraged.
A quick note on oven temps, i cook mine at 550F, highest my oven goes too. I cook on quarry tiles that a friend got for me. Must be unglazed, cheap substitute for a pizza stone if you do not have one yet. I made a peel out of some 4mm MDF, but again you can buy good peels.
My pizza's are sort of neapolitan or new york style, bready rim, thin centre, not too much topping.
My new 'italian' 00 starter is developing well, i have a little bubbling already.