The Saga of the Sourdough Starter

I had high hopes that I would master the sourdough starter on my first try. I started with the instructions from what seemed like a trustworthy source. With a title like The Bread Bible, how could I possibly go astray? 

But to my dismay, my mix of 1/2 cup of organic rye flour (as prescribed in the book) with 1/4 cup of bottled water, after sitting for the recommended 48 hours, had not evolved from a ball of dough to the described pancake batter-consistency goop. Instead, it looked like a science experiment still in the shape of a ball of dough. 

While I realize sourdough requires a fermented starter, fermentation does not equal mold. So into the garbage it went.

I was determined that my second attempt would work. So I took to the internet and did some research, where I learned that sourdough starter should never come in contact with anything metallic. That must have been mistake number 1 with the first one, since I measured in steel measuring cups and stored the starter in a metal bowl. In addition, the internet said that measurements should be 1:1 rather than 2:1, and all measurements need to be exactly precise. In other words, I needed a kitchen scale.

So off to Amazon I went and bought myself a scale. It's one of those kitchen gadget purchases that I had thought of making on and off for years, and this is what it took to get me to pull the trigger.

BUT. Even Amazon Prime shipping speeds couldn't dissuade me from trying again that very night. Surely my metal-avoidance and oh-so-precise measuring skills would be enough to make a successful second sourdough starter (try saying that 10 times fast) without special equipment. Armed with my newfound knowledge about sourdough starters and an overabundance of confidence, I mixed up a second batch of flour and water and left it to ferment in a glass jar.

Days 1 and 2 looked decent, although I had a thin film of water on the top of the mixture. The instructions said that if that happened, the original measurements were off, but pouring off the film, "feeding" the starter, and mixing it very well could still lead to success. I did that, and Day 3 continued looking promising. 

However, by Day 4 I knew the second starter was also doomed. It now had a thick layer of water and was not developing a layer of foam as it should.  

And so now, new equipment in hand (thanks, Amazon...I shouldn't have been so hasty...), I will try a third time. If this one doesn't work, perhaps I'm just not cut out to make sourdough bread.