Sourdough Starter Failure–Where Did I Go Wrong?

As promised, here is  my sourdough starter update.

Last Saturday, I started a batch of sourdough starter.  I was excited to see that there was activity and the wild yeast was growing (see photo below) until something happened when I made my first “refreshment” on Monday night.  It appeared as if the “refreshment” had halted the growth process.  I am wondering if the high humidity we had from heavy rains might had something to do with that?  I began to fret a little, but I continued to stir the starter faithfully every day just like the directions instructed.  *Note, while I did leave my kitchen window slightly cracked, I did not leave the starter sitting close to it as the directions advised.

By Wednesday morning I was convinced my batter was a dud and I would end up tossing it – so I decided to add about  a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to it.  Sugar typically helps most wild yeasts thrive and grow so I thought maybe I could kick start the yeast into growing.   To be honest, I don’t think adding the sugar helped or hurt the process.  Wednesday night I decided to do a  little on-line research before I tossed the starter out and started over.  I was eager to see what went wrong.

I ended up finding a blog called Food Wishes that chronicles (by video) the entire sourdough making process.  The video for day number 4  provided some critical information.  The directions given in the video said to remove 1/2 of the batter, and add 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 c. of warm water, so I followed this advise.

On Thursday morning when I checked my batter it had formed tiny bubbles and the froth like it’s was suppose to (see photo below).  Hallelujah – right? 

I decided to mix up my dough Thursday evening and let it rise overnight.  Friday morning when I checked on the dough it didn’t really look it had changed at all.  I was again skeptical that my firsts attempt at making sour dough had failed but I continued on with the process.  I removed the dough from the bowl and shaped it into a round loaf of bread (see photo below).  I placed the loaf on a lightly greased pizza stone and covered it with a dishtowel.

I didn’t get back to the dough until much later than I had expected to on Friday.  The directions recommend the dough triple in size.  At the end of the day I found the dough dried and flattened out, and it was obvious at this point that it wasn’t tripled in size.  *Note – I suspect that if it the dough did rise while I was gone I missed the window for optimal baking. 

Because I had gotten this far I went ahead and baked off the loaf.  In the end, the bread looked like a rock and did not have a light airy texture (see photo below).  It was like a round floury loaf  of unattractiveness.  It didn’t look like a decent loaf of sourdough bread should, and after one bite I knew our chickens were going to be treated to my first sourdough bread failure.

While I’m discouraged with the failure of this project but I do think it was a great experiment.   And I certainly have a true appreciation for store-bought yeast after this.

Have you made sourdough bread this way before?  Was is a success or failure?