I am almost ready to send out what I think you will find is a more user friendly formula to test. It requires only a small amount of mash as well as your starter. Since a number of testers have asked what to do with leftover mash, and at the suggestion of a couple of you, I think the best thing would be to divide it into 40 gram pieces (about 1 1/2 ounces) and freeze it in freezer bags. That way you won't have to make a new batch each time I send you a formula to test. I'm re-tooling the original whole wheat bread formula to make it easier, so we won't return to it and its large portion of mash for awhile, but the mash is still important in the next series, though in smaller quantity. The reason the batch size of mash is so big is that it takes that amount of critical mass to hold the heat as long as it does. Many testers reported, even at this large batch size, having trouble maintaining the desired temperature range even in a crock pot, and suggested instead wrapping the bowl in a towel and putting it in a 150 degree oven. Sounds like a workable plan and then you can decide, or not, whether to remix it every ten or fifteen minutes or so. The remixing seemed to be the biggest hassle for many. Wet hands do help, teflon tools dipped in water, and other tricks you've come up with. The only reason to remix it every so often is to equalize the temperature and in the case of a crock pot, where the outer surface gets hotter than 150 degrees, to keep it from cooking too much. So I'm going to try the oven suggestion on my next batch and see how that goes. Meanwhile, for those who still have mash remaining, go ahead and divide it and freeze it (save one piece out for the new formula). After the difficulties of the first test, I think this new formula will be like a walk in the park. It should go out to you on Sunday. If you don't receive it by Monday please let me know.
I've discovered some great resource material on barms and mashes, thanks to Monica Spiller and William Rubel (whose book, The Magic of Fire, is beautiful--it's all about fireplace cooking, both contemporary and historical. Check it out.) They both alerted me to some old books, circa 1903-07, that explain how important mashes were "back in the days." Surprising how the science holds up 100 years later. I'm still digesting all this information and plan to work it into the book. Ahhh, the world of enzymes and micro-organisms...fascinating stuff, like falling down a rabbit hole....
May Your Bread Always Rise! (or, as one tester wrote, May your moon always shine!)