What if I don't have a Dutch oven? Can I use a Dru or other pot? I have two suggestions for this one. Yes, you can use a Dru or any other pot that has a lid and is around the correct size. First, try using any oven proof pot with a lid (who cares if it has a long handle.) It needs to be 3 1/2 to 5 inches tall and about 8 to 9 inches as the interior dimension. Second, rather than buying a brand new pot, try adding a little less water to the dough so that it is more workable and doesn't require the support of the pot to keep it upright. You'll need to experiment a bit with this one. I'll work on it here too as several people have written to say they don't have Dutch ovens and I hate to send you to the store for a new pot if we can adjust the recipe enough to make it workable without a Dutch oven.
I couldn't get rid of small lumps when I added white flour. Is that bad? No, don't worry that much about them. When I feed my starter, I just dump a cup of flour and a cup of water into the existing starter, firmly close the lid and shake well over the sink. Any lumps are small enough to be absorbed into the starter in the resting/feeding period.
You recommend storing the starter in a plastic container. Can one use glass instead? You can use glass, but you need to be SURE to crack the lid and not seal it tightly. Guess how I know this?
When I shake my starter at "feeding time," I always do it over the sink as it sometimes seeps around the edges of the lid because of the immediate pressure build up. I then seat the lid again and store it.
My well-fed starter is in the fridge and has a narrow layer of water on top. Should I worry?
No, this is just the by product of the yeast feeding on the starch of the flour. It's normal. It's also normal for it to smell more and more ammonia-like the longer you go between feedings. This simply indicates that it's needing to be feed. What I've found is that my starter is like the dog I had when we were growing up, it could always eat more. That doesn't mean it always gets more. I also have to say that there are times when my starter doesn't get even close to a regular feeding and has a big layer of thin liquid on the top. After the yeast has eaten all of the starch in the flour, it just goes into a more dormant phase until its fed again. Not ideal, but it happens for everyone who doesn't have their sourdough starter at the top of their daily "to do" list.
Keep the questions coming – I'll do my best to answer them all!
© 2009 Anne Mahle