My starter lives in a 500ml mason jar in the back of the fridge.
But when I make a new starter, I use :
1 cup white bread flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
and enough water to turn it all into a thick batter.
I mix this all together right there in the jar and leave it on the counter for about 24 hours or until its nice and foamy like this…
Then I put a loose lid on and place it in the back of the fridge until I need it for making bread.
When it's time to make a loaf, I pour out about 2/3 cup of the starter into a mixing bowl. I then replace the starter by adding flour and water in the jar again to bring it back to the batter consistency it was before, mixing it all together with a wooden spoon. This new flour and water is fresh 'food' for the leftover yeasty starter in the bottom of the jar. Once the starter is replenished, leave the jar out on the counter overnight or until it gets foamy again.
To the starter in the mixing bowl I add:
3 cups of bread flour (I use a combination of wholewheat, spelt and white and add 1 Tablespoon of gluten flour per cup of any non-white flour. This keeps the finished loaf from being too dense.)
2 teaspoons salt
1 generous teaspoon honey or other sweetener like molasses or sugar.
Mix this all together with enough water to form a smooth, kneadable dough. Knead for 5-10 minutes until it's soft and smooth and holds together nicely. It's okay if it's tacky but it should not be dry or crumbly. Add water or flour incrementally as needed to keep it smooth and elastic.
Place kneaded dough into greased bowl and set aside to rise overnight or up to 24 hours. The upper photo is the dough still early in its rising.
This photo is dough after about 18 hours. Notice the big bubbles; that means the starter has been working nicely.
A big Rubbermaid bowl with a snap on lid works great for rising dough.
If the dough proofs for too long it will collapse when touched and will need to be reshaped and proofed again, probably for less time, maybe 40 minutes instead of 60.
I like to wipe a small bit of grape seed oil all over the inside of the pot.
Gently unwrap the dough and score the top with a sharp knife to allow for a controlled expansion while baking.
Quickly but gently lift the dough from the towel and straight into the pot. Since I have to use both hands for this, it helps to have someone else there to pull the towel away as I lift. The dough is very soft and pillowy and won't hold up to much handling. Once the dough is nicely nestled in the bottom of the pot, I put the lid back on and place the whole thing back in the oven to bake at 450 for 20 min. After 20 minutes I take the lid off and turn the temp down to about 400 for another 15-20 minutes. When it's done, it should look . . .
There are so many possible variations when making bread, it's hard to say exactly what will work and what won't. So much of it is a matter of taste along with some trial and error. I tend to go more by feel and consistency when making bread, than exact amounts and times. A good vigorous sourdough starter is much more forgiving than the instant packaged yeasts, although I still use packaged yeasts for loaves I need quickly in a couple of hours. But if I have more time, a good, basic, rustic loaf of sourdough bread just can't be beat.