My first tip would be this:
don’t read too much!
There’s a wealth of information about sourdough in the world, including some very definite ideas and do’s and don’t’s, and supposed hard and fast rules…it’s very easy to get drawn in and end up quite confused; I know, I did it.
Now, I always suggest finding a source that you trust and like to really get to grips with sourdough and the nature of the starter, and once you’ve mastered that, then start to expand and research.
Many people believe there are rules you must stick to for making sourdough, I believe everything is open to experimentation and interpretation!
Sourdough and weather
Sourdough is greatly affected by heat; a spell in the fridge ‘retards’ or slows the proving process, just as a warm kitchen or weather speeds it up.
This can be useful in the fact that you can feed your starter and it will be active and ready to go in an hour, but the dough benefits from its long prove, so you may need to manage the timings if the temperatures are high.
You learn best through experiencing these changes, but my suggestion would be to utilise the fridge if you feel your dough is growing too fast. Or put your dough together as late as possible at night and work with it as early as possible the next morning.
I’ve woken up to some really well proved dough during the summer, and all it needed was pulling together in the morning, placing in the banneton and into the fridge to firm up.
This was my dough one morning, luckily the shower cap caught it all! And it still provided a perfect loaf 🙂
Going in cold
I am questioned a lot about the fact that I put my dough into a cold pot and don’t preheat it. The pot I use does not need to be preheated, as you can see by my loaves, it works perfectly without preheating.
If you use a Dutch Oven, you can also do either.
Wetting your hands
If you are fed up with dough sticking to your hands when you work with it, you can either wear gloves, as I sometimes do, or wet your hands prior to handling the dough. Some people prefer to oil their hands.
Wash things up immediately
Sourdough is sticky stuff! Whatever utensils or bowls you use to make your sourdough, or stir your starter, wash them up quickly, or at least put them into soak. The stuff seriously hangs on, even in the dishwasher!