Okay, enough results are in to convince me that the first formula I sent out for testing is too difficult, too inconsistent, and not ready for publication. I am now completely reformulating it using the Asian "soup seed" mash method sent to me by tester Huiling (others of you have also mentioned hearing of something similar). It is much easier, requires no crockpot, and (here's the best part), no hand kneading! I am reformulating the basic loaf to use this method. I am also playing with the wild yeast starter instructions and, again thanks to your feedback, will be simplifying the terminology and the steps. This does not mean you should discard your starters--the goal is the same and you are already there if you have a viable mother starter. But for the book I want to make it clear, easy, and fool proof. Your feedback about the daily remixing was a true breakthrough and saved a lot of seed cultures that were just sitting there. Thank you!
Some of you have asked what to do with all the mother starter you now have. I would suggest using it to make any of your favorite sourdough breads, ryes, or levains--you have a viable starter and if, for instance, you use it in a 100% white flour sourdough formula you will have something akin to a pain au levain. You can also keep it in smaller amounts as you refresh it. If you prefer a wetter, sponge style starter simply imcrease the hydration to your desired texture. These starters are very flexible and can be kept in either wet or firm modes.
Another tester asked about the strong smell in the mother starter, almost like nail polish remover. I believe this is a combination of the residual pineapple juice, which will will eventually be diluted out from subsequent feedings, and also the first generation of alcohol and acids produced by the yeast and lactobacillus organisms. You should find the starter moving towards the more familiar aromas, I think of it as similar to fragrant apple cider vinegar, as you continue to refresh it.
The results are beginning to come in for the new simplified bread formulas. I'll keep you posted. I may not have another new formula for you to test for a week or two while I work on this new technique. Feel free to play around with what I did send, including mixing in white flour for lighter loaves. Let me know if you think you've come up with a winner. While I want the book to focus on 100% whole grain breads I am now leaning towards including a section of mixed flour formulas (that is, with some white flour). This may be a way to meet the needs of those making the transition to whole grain breads, or simply wanting lighter breads.
May your bread always rise!
PS If you have mash in the freezer, don't throw it out. It will still get used.