About 3 weeks ago I had a jones to make sourdough bread, triggered by a friend asking around for sourdough starter. Looked online and found a very simple recipe for making the starter. Simple but it took a week. I was in no rush, so I started with the small amount of white flour I had on hand, and a ceramic bowl. The recipe is simple: 4 oz of flour to 4 oz of water, by weight. Which is why I was looking for my kitchen scale, and why I bought one online.
Instead of something that looked like yeast activity, after the prescribed 5 days there was almost 2 quarts of poisonous orange-tinted sludge. It took me a week to admit defeat and pour that down the drain.
My last trip to The Milk Pail, they had rye flour in bulk. Not much was in the bin, so I only bought about 2 lbs. My favorite sourdough bread is rye, so I put 2 and 2 together here. The reason I had not used rye to begin with is (a) the white flour recipe made it sound like white is the most reliable and (b) I didn't have any other flour on hand.
Tangentially, this started me on a search for caraway seeds, which in my youth were always a part of sourdough rye. Safeway doesn't carry them. Neither does Trader Joe's. Lucky's does.
And I found a recipe for rye starter. It explained what I had done wrong. Looking at the original recipe, I saw that I had the proportions of flour to water all wrong, and I did not follow the command to toss half the batch out every day before adding another round of flour and water. The new recipe explained, where the original didn't, that each day you're removing half the batch and feeding it. The theory being that the yeast has already devoured what it can from yesterday's feeding, and Bad Stuff builds up in the container which will kill off the yeast if it is not cut back.
I'm at Day 3 now, and last night the rye starter was already doubled in bulk, and it is deliciously sour, so this looks like a WIN. If I really wanted to I could have put the half into another container and fed it, doubled down, but I don't have that much rye flour or that many containers of counter space to do that every day for 4 days.
I forgot what the other thing was.