I made bread with my home-made sourdough starter but it wasn't a great success (that's not it in the photograph). My loaf didn't rise well and so was very dense with a gluey texture. The taste was intriguing, though - certainly different from bread made with commercial yeast. I was following the instructions in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Fizz Carr's book, The River Cottage Family Cookbook, and I think maybe that's the problem - I need a specialist sourdough bread reference.
So I bought Nancy Silverton's book Breads from the La Brea Bakery. It's supposed to be "the I am" of sourdough baking. But I didn't fancy her instructions for making a starter because the quantities were too great - you end up with 7lbs of starter! That's great for a commercial bakery, but crazy for home use.
I decided to build up the starter I have already made, using the principles in the Silverton book, but with smaller quantities. So I have been feeding it two or three times a day, and stirring it in between times, in the hope of making it a bit more active. It's definitely working and today I have taken the plunge and tried again to makebread with it. This time I'm following Silverton's instructions. Again her quantities are too big - I am making two large loaves of bread. What's more, the whole process takes two days. This really is not a book for someone who wants to whip up a little bit of bread for their own family without too much bother. But I've invested in the book and I'm hoping to learn some general principles that I can simplify for my own situation.
I am still waiting for the two starters which a kind person on the Yahoo Sourdough group has mailed me from Florida. I've also ordered a baking stone - that's a heavy stone slab you place in your oven when baking bread or pizza. It recreates the conditions in stone-built bread ovens, and is supposed to make a big difference to your finished bread. And just for fun, I ordered a cane proofing bowl. It's a spiral basket you put the boule of dough in for it's final rise before baking, and it's what give the loaves in the picture their characteristic spiral pattern. It's fun to play with a totally different way of making bread.