So I fed up my starter and when it was very active I tried again. This time I followed the very detailed descriptions for sourdough bread from Nancy Silverton's sourdough bible, Breads from the La Brea Bakery.
This attempt is much more of a success. The bread behaved as Silverton said it would. Primarily it rose as it should. They don't have that nice spiral pattern because my proofing basket hasn't arrived yet, so I proofed them in mixing bowls lined with tea towels. They have taken the shape of the folds and creases in the towels, and are somewhat misshapen and asymmetrical as a result. When I dusted them with flour, I think I used too much. I slashed the loaves with my sharpest knife but the cut is still ragged, because the surface of the bread was tougher than I expected. Silverton recommends the use of a tool called a lame, which is like a razor mounted on a stick. Perhaps I can make my own. My loaves are also darker than I expected, and I'm not sure why that is. I didn't bake it as hot as she said to, because my oven doesn't go up to 500°F. Is my bread overcooked? Or is sourdough bread supposed to look like this? Silverton says:
If I had to choose a Crayola-box crayon to describe its colour, it would be burnt sienna.
Yes, you could say this bread is burnt sienna. Or maybe it's just burnt. I'll know when I taste it, but I'm not allowed to eat it yet. Silverton insists I must wait until it is cool. I don't think I can wait that long.