What tools do you use?
Bench knives: Campbell’s Dough Knife & any cheap plastic dough scrapers
Baking: cordierite baking stone + different sizes of Winco steam table pan depending on load size
Dough tubs: Carlisle bus tubs
Lames: Wire Monkey Shop UFO & Scandibake disposable
Bannetons/couches: changes depending on what’s available
What flour do you use?
I use a mix of Central Milling High Mountain or Electra Light high protein flour, T85 or T70 wheat flour, and King Arthur whole wheat flours.
What even is a sourdough starter?
It's a bacteria culture that grows when you mix flour and water together, then let it sit and feed on natural yeasts/bacteria in the air & environment. There are a bajillion resources out there if you want to make one (like this one, this, here, or this)
Starter vs. levain ...?
Technically a starter/mother is your 'main' bacteria culture, and a levain/leaven is a secondary one you make from a little bit of your first one. Like in a separate container. Yes, then you have 2. The benefit here is that if you know how much you'll need, you can make a leaven of that size and use it all. That's it. No overthinking this one.
How do I feed/care for my starter?
A whole lot of people will tell you exactly how to care for your starter and what you're doing all wrong and it'll allllllllll be different. DON'T IGNORE THEM because it's likely great information, but know that you're looking for what works best for you --
The truth is what keeps your starter alive and healthy is what you should do. Does it grow when you feed it? Does it smell cool and funky and not bad? Does it make your dough happen? If yeah, then you're doing it right.
But if you need somewhere to start: feed it 1 part starter : 1 part flour : 1 part water, every night before you go to bed, and start tweaking the process from there.
How do I get big open holes in my crumb?
There are so many details that go into this, and there is no one good answer. Yes that's frustrating. It's also the honest truth about questions like this.
The realest answer is practice, and you'll learn.
How do I get even, laced holes in my crumb?
Again- HUGE question without a single clear answer, except practice.
Is my bread good?
I have no clue I haven't eaten it.
BUT THE MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ARE:
“how do I get my bread to rise/spring in the oven,” and “how do I get my bread to look like all this bread I see on Instagram?”
These are both valid questions and they both translate to:
“how do I make consistently good bread?”
The answer is the same as it would be to that question about anything. How do you learn the guitar? Practice. How do you learn to skateboard? Practice. How do you know you’re getting better? You mess up a bunch until you can identify why. Like that old dude Beckett said you “...fail again. fail better”.
So how do you shortcut learning a process that takes people years/decades/a lifetime to master? The only way I know is: fit more practice into your life than a normal person would.
Making one loaf a week and not learning fast enough? Make 20 loaves a week. Up how much dough you make. Make 10 pounds of dough 3 times a week. You’ll miss stuff your friends are doing and definitely throw money away, but you’ll be putting yourself in a situation where you’re forced to learn because if you don’t there are consequences. Sound less fun than you were having trying sourdough? Correct yeah it probably will be. So why go that route? Go at your pace and pay attention to your process.
There is no one way to make good bread and anyone who claims their method as written work for everyone everywhere is a straight up liar. The best bakers the world over and all their cookbooks will all tell you that their formulas and notes are starting places for you, and you’ll have to make changes to succeed with your ingredients in your environment (and they’re all WAY smarter than me about this). Believe them.