Complaint #1: I don't like recipes that try to help me with extra starter to save. Just tell me how to make only as much sponge (or other pre-dough) as I need to make the bread at hand. I can take care of my own starter, thank you very much.
Bread recipe adapted from Maggie Glezer’s My Sourdough Challah in A Blessing of Bread. I haven't reviewed this book yet because (a) my first attempt included a major deviation from the recipe, and (b) I have not read any other pages. I was so excited to see a true sourdough challah recipe that I did not wait for anything else.
Recipe and screw up
135g bread flour
I added an extra 30 grams of water because the sponge did not hold together at all with the recommended amount. Covered and let sit.
I let the sponge sit in a reasonably warm kitchen, maybe 70-72 degrees, for 12 hours. This was fine as the sponge was relatively dense, rather than wet. (We had a nice winter thaw; what a pleasure.) I awoke to a wet, beautifully bubbly starter.
400g bread flour
Back to confession #1 and dough experience
What can you say about a recipe that takes more than a half hour longer to do a few simple steps than you think it will? You say it’s the first time I'm making this recipe. The dough was a sticky mess, really wet. Did I say sticking to my fingers so I had about as much dough on them as was in the actual mass of dough?
I ended up adding about 40 grams of extra bread flour. I don’t know the exact amount because my hands were so sticky and full of goo that I could not possibly measure. Did I knead? I'm not sure what the process is called with something more akin to goop than dough.
Eureka moment and not in a good way: Oh fuck, I did it again. I added all of the starter instead of all but 50 grams. No wonder the dough was so wet. Shit. And it took a half an hour longer than expected, plus kitchen a mess, plus bleeding into work time on telework day. Serenity now.
Assumption at the moment
I clearly ruined this challah because proportions are off. Braided strands will blend. I’ll either throw this away, which I even considered doing before going any further, or I will make this in a loaf pan, maybe braided in a loaf pan. After recommended two hour wait not looking or feeling like a challah dough. Will try again.
Did the recommended two-hour wait, the dough covered and in a bowl.
Supposed to sit for five hours, but I let sit for 5 2/3 hours after a couple of dent tests.
Preheat oven for one hour at 325 degrees. Almost every challah recipe, including this one, says 350. Sorry, that temperature produces overdone challahs. We like less well done challahs. I felt confident in departing from the recipe on this one. I baked at 325 for 37 minutes.
Due to my own mistake, braids somewhat disappeared, but not completely, as I had predicted. After bread out of oven, spouse immediately sends photo to offspring about my treasonous deviation from usual recipe.
So much better than expected
Taste is actually pretty good; looks beautiful. Spouse impressed. Does not taste sour at all. Despite allegations of treason, spouse managed to eat quite a bit of this challah and it got eaten when I offered it to dinner guests about 24 hours later. In fact, compliments and comment of "this doesn't taste sour at all."
Not a disaster. Second try soon, without making same mistake, I hope. Crumb not bad either for what looked like a disaster in the making.