A. Starter that is just starting out. There is no activity, and the flour has sunken to rest beneath the water. You can leave it like this or help it a bit by stirring occasionally. Either way it should eventually wake up!
B. Wetter starters (higher water to flour ratio) make for a more frothy fermentation (this one is very active).
C. A more firm starter (lower ratio water to flour) makes for larger bubbles and pockets and more subdued appearance than image B.
D. Past the peak of activity (the starter will look like a mini whirlpool, as it deflates on itself and exhuasts its food supply).
E. Hooch that is forming in the middle. Can also form at the top, and at the bottom. Itwill sometimes appear during a feeding and disappear when stirred to redistribute. Most of the time it appears after the starter has exhausted its food supply.
F. Hooch that has formed on the top. Solid, non-bubbly flour that looks like sediment now rests at the bottom. You can pour this off, or mix back in. Be sure to feed you starter if you see it looking like this!
G. Doubling in size (rubberband marks starter’s original level).
H. Covering sourdough - Try anything on hand (papertowel, kleenex, newspaper, coffee filters, paper, blankets, etc!).
I. Covering dough while it proofs is important to keep it warm and moist. You can use a moist, floured towel (flour to prevent sticking), floured plastic wrap, or inverted bowls as well.
J. Proofing baskets like these help dough keep its shape while rising and in the oven.
K. Rounding and shaping the dough by spinning and pressing inwards and slightly down. This helps the dough's skin to be taut while baking, allowing it to keep its shape and encourage vertical lift of the gases inside.
L. Scoring the dough with a razor prior to baking. This allows trapped air a designated area to release instead of rupturing randomly on your crust.
M. Flying crust - crust that has seperated during baking, usually a result of the outer skin being too dry, or a liquid imbalance in the recipe.
N. Naturally bloomed crust (seperated on its own down the center while baking, no scoring was used). Also a nice exhibit of carmelized crust (brown color).
O. Pale crust happens when the bread has proofed for too long and there are no longer any sugars to carmelize properly into the nice brown color while baking. Or the surface was over-sprayed (overly wet) the first 10 minutes baking.
P. Flat bread is a common sourdough problem. Usually the dough is too moist to hold its shape, it was disturbed/deflated when transfering to the oven, there wasn't enough proofing time allowed or the starter wasn't active enough. Refer to the Starter and Baking Troubleshooting pages for more help.
Q. Open crumb (nice big holes, airy texture). A result of moist, balanced dough; much easier to achieve with white flours - very difficult with whole grain flours.
R. Tight crumb (whole grain and/or dry dough is more dense and sometimes over kneading the dough can do this too).
S. Sourdough bagels are delicious. You can also make pizzas, cinnamon rolls, crescents, waffles, pita bread, english muffins, donuts, pretzels, ciabatta, cakes and cookies out of sourdough just to name a few! Also makes great scrap glue in a pinch.
T. Sourdough pancakes - Famous in Alaska. Gotta try these for yourself to know why. Excess starter can be turned into these. The sourdough tang with some syrup on top is a flavor match made in heaven!