So my favorite recipe for sourdough starter replaces water with raw apple juice for the initial fermentation, it has always given me wonderfull bread without the "sour" of other sourdoughs, but it takes a loooong time rising and proofing, usually 16 to 18 hrs.
Ideally I'd like it to be reduced to 4 hrs or so, something that could be finished in an evening.....without the addition of yeast. (Frankly yeast makes my tummy hurt!)
To be honest my sourdough spends inordinate amounts of time in cold storage, and I usually pull it out and mix it up and refeed it a few times, a day, or two, prior to baking, it always has good bubbling action at the time of its being put to service but still its rising action is weak.
Wise Bakers of Permies! Impart your wisdom and grant my starter the energy of a four year old on his third cola and second bag of gummie bears, and I'll name a small houseplant in your honor!
Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently patient fool!
I hate people who use big words just to make themselves look perspicacious.
My sourdough starter is slower than using regular yeast, but not as slow as you describe. I think it needs feeding and using more. Use some plain white sugar the next time or two you feed it. Might help. Mine spends most of its time in the fridge anymore.
I agree that the key is to feed and use often.
I also now keep the sourdough really warm after feeding and put back into the fridge before losing its peak (the top has to be rounded upwards, not sunken in).
I posted about a new sourdough book in another thread which gives some uses for sourdough - if you really feed it you will soon have an excess and if you are like me you don't want to waste it.
So apart from giving it to the chickens you can make almost all baked goods with a good dollop of sourdough, including waffles, muffins, panettone, pizza, rolls, pasta, pancakes, flatbread, pita bread, batter for fried veggies, roux sauce and lots more.
I sent my kids to the supermarket this morning as I still have a bit of a cold (and I am over 50 years old, so in the risk group...) and there was no bread flour and my neighbour told me there is no dry yeast to be bought anywhere.
So learning to bake with sourdough is never a bad idea.
If someone wants to make pizza dough or similar and does not find a recipe online I can try to translate one of the recipes in my book.
I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do. (E.E.Hale)
so I generally have the opposite problem, my sourdough is too energetic and bolts (makes hooch) immediately. The remedy for that has been to make the starter much thicker, not liquidy at all, and keep it in the fridge. I wonder if the opposite is true where the weather is cooler (or if watery starter just doesnt work here).
I do hear people say they get better results using rye flour, and I know I have heard someone talk about fruit juice.
I was reading a sourdough book recently that said that for the first month of making a starter from scratch, it needs to be fed daily and kept away from the fridge, and it won't rise bread quickly until the end of that month. Once the month is over, it can go to living in the fridge with a weekly feed.
I think this makes sense, because there's a lot of life in the sourdough that might take a while to develop.
I make bread with a prefermenting stage - I put all the water and enough flour to make a thick batter in with a few tablespoons of starter, this only takes a minute. I leave that until ferments, usually overnight, then I take some of it out to use as a starter later, add the salt and the rest of the flour and it rises quite quickly after that in warm weather, and doesn't end up tasting sour.
Your issue may be with the strain of the starter - in my experience, they all have different characteristics. I've used 4 types of sourdough starters over the years. Three came from Cultures for Health, one was a wild one. I didn't keep the wild one going because I didn't like the flavor.
In the Cultures for Health literature, they say that different strains replicate at different rates. Some are naturally faster than others. The rye sourdough starter I had was very slow and I eventually let it go. It also was intensely sour when used with wheat - too sour. I love sour but this made people's teeth hurt! So it was slow to develop, and had a crazy sour result - which I think means that the organisms in that batch had a very high tolerance for their waste products (sour).
You couldn't use that starter faster than it was ready or it hadn't developed properly and your bread wouldn't rise properly - does that make sense? The cultures had their own timing, and a very high tolerance for their sour by-products.
After a couple years of babysitting multiple sourdough starters I realized I wanted an all-purpose sourdough starter.... one that would work for pizza, a nice crusty sourdough bread, English muffins, and a really good rye bread for sandwiches.
In the end, I stuck with Camaldoli Sourdough starter, which is fast rising/replicating (about 4 hours) and can create a wide range of sourness. So at 4 hours, the starter has totally risen and is only very mildly sour. Great for pizza - people don't even realize it's soured dough if I am attentive to the rising process. We like it sour, but this way I can serve it to an assortment of people. When I use it the Camaldoli for bread, I leave it longer and it makes a nice, tart, well-developed sourdough or soured rye bread. I have it separated into a batch I feed with wheat flour, and a batch I feed with rye flour for this purpose. The rye bread recipe I like requires the rye portion of the dough to be all starter.
I'm not an expert on how these cultures work, by any means, but this was both my experience and what I've read up on. So if you want a faster starter, you might need to introduce new organisms to your mix. I believe that would be easiest to do from someone who already has a fast starter. But I love experiments! Please do let us know what your results are in the end.
Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts. ~Wendell Berry