A few more questions answered about sourdough…
What size Dutch oven do I need to use?
Mine are Piral Dutch ovens, terracotta pots imported from Italy, that were given to me as a gift when the first cookbook was published. They are between 3 1/2 to 5 inches tall and 8 to 9 1/4 inches wide. I know Mark Bittman uses Le Creuset pots. It's also possible to use a sauce pan if it has a lid and is large enough to receive the dough. It's not necessary to have top of the line pots, you just need one that is close to the right size and has an oven proof lid.
Can I use starter to make bread in the bread machine?
You can and in this case it would be more for adding flavor than for any levening properties. Replace 7/8 cup of water in your recipe with one cup of sourdough. This is an approximation and you'll need to see how your recipes respond.
If my starter smells like ammonia or nail polish remover, is it bad?
No. It's still good, this layer is just the "waste product," for lack of a better term, of the yeast eating the starch in the flour. It does mean you could feed it a little more often if you chose to, but it's possible to have healthy sourdough that you only feed once a week.
© 2009 Anne Mahle