The instructions I have say to whisk 2 cups of water and 3 cups of flour into 1 cup of starter in a large bowl, then cover. This is then left for at least 12 hours at room temperature or slightly warmer.
When the starter is fully active it will double in size, becoming bubbly, aromatic, and viscous.
If activity is minimal, one cup of the mixture is saved to undergo the same steps until in begins to double. Sometimes this can take several days. The instructions say to discard the extra flour/water mixture each time.
Discard?! Perfectly good flour and water lightly tasting of sourdough? That's just silly.
I decided to do some freestyle baking. I called on my two years of bread baking experience to combine techniques, quantities, and various recipes so we could make good use of this surplus.
After reserving 1 cup of the restarting starter, to the remainder I added the following:
2 1/2 tsp Instant (aka Rapid Rise) Yeast Powder*
1 tsp Salt
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Tbs Sugar
Approx. 3 1/2 cups All Purpose Unbleached Flour
The additional yeast was necessary because the sourdough yeast was still in the process of re-colonizing the starter and wouldn't be able to provide enough leavening to make the dough rise.
*"Instant" Yeast is OK to add directly to liquid mixtures vs. "Active Dry" which has a coating that needs to be dissolved before combining and is slower acting.
The soft dough was kneaded for 8-10 minutes on a floured board, working in the last half cup of flour. This was formed then into a ball, placed and turned over in a greased bowl to coat, covered with a damp towel and kept in a warm place to rise until doubled (about 2 hours).
After the dough had doubled, it was punched down the dough, turned onto the floured board and cut it into 8 equal pieces. These were formed into balls and placed on a greased baking sheet.
I brushed the top of each roll with an egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 Tbs of water) and sprinkled variously with: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onion flakes and crumbled rosemary. These were then allowed to rise again until doubled.
Baked until lightly browned at 375F for about 18 minutes, then cooled them on a wire rack.
All this was improvisation. And they turned out just the way I'd hoped. We shared a roll with rosemary and onion flakes right out of the oven. The rest will be for sandwiches this week.
We'll be enjoying a lot of fresh baked bread this week as I continue to feed and reactivate the starter, and find new ways to use up the surplus.