It was a dud. I totally jinxed myself.
Days 1-3 were great. So much activity, bubbles, and growth.
Day 4 and things took a turn for the worse. The starter developed a layer of cloudy liquid near the bottom. I did some research and found out that this was most likely hooch and part of the fermentation process. I tried to pour off the liquid without much success and then fed the starter its daily flour/water combo.
Later that day, the liquid reappeared near the top of the starter. I read that this often means the starter is hungry and needs to be fed. The liquid is a way of protecting itself from any outside bacteria. So, I poured off the liquid and fed it again. Two feeds in about 8 hours. By the time I went to bed, the liquid was back. I could not keep up with this thing. It would need to be fed every few hours to stave off the liquid.
On the morning of day 5, the starter looked sluggish. It had a reddish tinge to the top, the bubbles were minimal, and the once almost frothy looking starter seemed quite runny. Many different websites say that consistency is not indicative of a spoiled starter, but I could tell that something was up.
I fed the starter a couple times that day to see if things would turn around. I got it to the point where the bubbles were somewhat back, so I attempted to bake a simple loaf when everything was looking good. A recipe by Paul Hollywood for a classic sourdough loaf, which can be found HERE.
Total dud. No rise and after proving for 3 hours a strong, bad odour. Disappointment.
I have two options now. Most websites seem to claim that sourdough is resilient. This is not my experience at all. I really looked after this starter. All of the ingredients were weighed and it was kept at a consistent temperature and fed often. So, I ordered a pre-made freeze-dried starter from a company in America and we’ll see if I have any better luck with that.
In the meantime, I’m going to try and get the terrible smell out of my kitchen from this fussy mess.