Before I tried again, I checked the with a sourdough bakers group online that I like, to see if I could find some ideas for how to proceed. And I learned some more things:
1. Sourness is adjustable. I'm actually not a huge fan, and so I'll be messing around. Apparently, baking soda can help, since it's alkaline. I'm not sure if I can add it directly to my start, and adjust it right at the outset, or if I'd have to continually adjust the dough. I may make a test batch of start and try it out to see what happens.
2. Another suggestion was to try a springform or other pan with tighter sides nested inside my dutch oven. The dutch oven keeps in the steam - and with a nested pan you can add a couple ice cubes right before you put it in - and the steam helps slow down crust formation. That would help two of my problems with the last loaf.
3. Somebody stopped by the last post and clarified about bakers' percents in the comments, which was very nice of them - it's by weight, not volume. Which is tricky; I don't have a good way to measure weight, and going out to get new equipment is not in the cards right now. But it's good to keep in the back of my head, and they had a suggestion of how they deal with the differences, which should be very helpful. I just have to figure out what this new information is going to mean when I am standing in my kitchen doing stuff.
4. I think the last batch may have been too wet, which lead to it not holding its shape. I need to read some more about hydration. Which will mean diving into more percent stuff.
So I cooked a batch of white bread with a little oats in it because I like it that way. And it turned out lovely.
So back to sourdough. I decided that the last dough was too wet, and that's why it hadn't held its shape well enough to rise up. And I took a suggestion from the sourdough people to try nesting a springform pan inside my dutch oven. That shrinks the space just a little, and gives a bit of support for the sides, and I still get the lid hold in the steam. So I made the dough and set everything all up.
The dough felt good, and it rose nicely, I shaped it and put it in the pan, and let it rise again. I was making dinner, and looking at it, and it wasn't quite done. So I stared at it. It didn't make it go faster, but I did it anyway. My husband and sister laughed at me a little. But I kept peeking at the bread because it was acting right, and I was getting excited. Turns out there was good reason for that - it turned out great! So here's the final recipe:
Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
1c sourdough start
1c warm water
about 4c whole wheat flour
Put start and water in the stand mixer with honey, salt, and oil. Begin mixing and add flour a little bit at a time. Dough should ball up around the dough hook, but still feel spongy and moist when touched (do that with your mixer turned off so you don't break your finger). Let rise 2-3 hours in the bowl, until doubled. Spray a springform pan that fits in your dutch oven with Pam, oil the dough to keep it soft, and set it in a warm place to rise till double, about 1 1/2 hours. Squeeze an ice cube between the springform and the dutch oven to provide steam, and put the lid on the dutch oven to keep it in. This helps the crust stay softer and thinner. Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes covered, then uncover and bake 5-10 more. Remove from pans carefully, and let cool 5-10 minutes before cutting.
Isn't that pretty? It's tall enough to use for sandwiches. The crust is soft enough to please even Dragon - he devoured his piece and came back for more.
It was delicious.
Up next: sourdough muffins.
Up next: sourdough muffins.