I spent two and a half days making sourdough bread. It was so relaxing.
I got a VERY active starter from King Arthur Flour; perhaps this time, all the 2x daily feedings really paid off.
The first loaf I tried was from the What's Cooking America site and is a San Francisco-Style Sourdough French bread recipe that you can "start" in a bread machine. I have a newish Breadman machine, bought mostly to help me with getting things properly kneaded. I've made bread on and off for years, but tend to get tired before the kneading is really done. Our first breads were made from our still-used James Beard's Beard on Bread book.
Friday's loaf was the Sourdough French bread version I. Saturday's version II, slightly different, seemed to be better. I'll try a few more recipes, and keep reading through the Bread Baker's apprentice. I'm learning a lot through that book, and the author is very honest about the differences between home ovens and commercial ovens and what to expect. I sort of muddled through the page or more explanation of flour percentages to everything else, but for doing more than one loaf it would be really helpful to understand all the ratios (salt, water, etc).
And, as to be expected, there are totally contradictory instructions on the many internet sites about sourdough. Some authors recommend spritzing the bread, others say "don't spritz the bread, spritz the oven walls" . Most do recommend putting a pan of water in the lower part of the oven to increase humidity. I'm looking forward to getting a clay cloche, but that will have to wait as I'm not sure mail ordering would let it arrive in one piece.
I have a list of things to order from King Arthur flour, including some additives to boost breads. Sourdough has the most basic ingredients though.
While I was waiting for the long proofings on both days, I made cinnamon bread with golden raisins in the bread maker. It is my favorite type of "sweet" bread as it isn't too sweet, and makes divine toast!