About a year ago, a friend taught me how she makes her sourdough bread and gave me a portion of her starter. It works great and makes fantastic loaves. I've started to look at other recipes online and in various books (e.g. Flour, Water, Salt) to better understand how different types of sourdough breads are made and I've realized that the splitting/feeding of the starter in my recipe is quite a radical departure from every other Levain/sourdough-starter recipe I've found. Otherwise, it seems to be the standard high-hydration (78%-80%), autolyse (2 hr), bake-in-a-dutch-oven approach that's so common these days.
I typically only have time to bake once a week, so I store my sourdough culture in a glass jar in the fridge.
For most of the past year, when preparing my dough I would simply
take the starter out of the fridge, split it, and dissolve both
portions directly in warm water (~90 F).
The starter would then get some flour and be put back in the fridge
(100g starter, 100g water, 100g flour).
The portion for the bread would simply have the flour and salt added, autolyzed with occasional folding, divided and allowed to rise
overnight (~12 hours).
In contrast to this simple approach of dissolving the starter directly in water and then adding the flour for autolysing, every other recipe I've found seems to require a 12 or 24 hour pre-feeding routine that involves feeding the starter first, then discarding most of this newly fed starter before adding this "revived" starter to the water/flour before either a long bulk fermentation or a long rise time. Or some even require multiple feedings...
Why do people spend so much time and energy on long drawn out pre-feeding routines? My approach obviously works - the bread rises just fine, the crumb is fantastic (that's mostly due to autolyse and cooking in a dutch oven), it develops a nice flavor and a little sourness over the 12 hour rise time (especially if it's a cold night).
What am I missing? Better flavor? I can seen an argument for getting the culture more active this way, but I don't see much difference between that and simply allowing my culture to warm up to room temperature. In fact, I've started letting my culture warm up before splitting it this past month, as well as leaving the newly fed cut at room temperature for several hours before sticking it back in the fridge - however, I haven't noticed any difference in flavor nor in how long it takes to rise, etc.