Too many times I see newcomers to sourdough baking charging about trying quite a variety of different loaves. Now this is very understandable, as in the excitement of a new hobby they wish to explore as much as possible as soon as possible. However, one of the more desirable traits in a sourdough baker is patience, as some of the newcomers will learn when they come to 3 day and 4 day recipes.
The two worst scenarios for a first time baker are, 1. a complete disaster and 2. a perfect loaf. In the first case the baker may become disheartened to the point of not trying again, in the second case the baker has not learned anything, and when the inevitable flop happens will not know what to do to avoid it next time. The ideal situation is for a first loaf to be reasonably edible, sufficient to encourage, but bad enough to try for better.
The best advice I can offer a newcomer is to get hold of a simple uncomplicated recipe for a white loaf of about 62% hydration. Join a forum where you can get advice, and don’t feel bad about asking questions and showing your mistakes. A recent newcomer to baking and a forum I am a member of, is having a problem. He posted full details of his recipe and the method he is using, and a couple of photos. It just made it so much easier to offer advice.
With the selected recipe, do it and ask questions, do it again, and again and again, untill you think it is as good as it’s ever going to get. Then do it again a couple more times and I’ll bet it improves even more.
Hopefully along the way some things have needed improvement, and by the time you have baked the “Perfect” loaf you will know how dough feels when it is properly developed, how to judge when the first proof is enough, how to handle dough and shape a loaf, how to tell when a loaf is proofed ready for baking etc etc, and how to adjust things to get everything right.
If you do this then you are ready to tackle anything, because you will know how things should be and how to adjust things to get them the way they should be.
In spite of my years of experience it still usually takes me two or three tries with a new recipe to get it right. So don’t give up, be patient, and hopefully you will get the enjoyment out of your baking that I do.