I've been making yeasted bread for a few years now. Got it down to 2 hours to have two lovely fresh loaves. I was making sourdough for a few weeks, with a donated starter, but I went away to work for a few weeks and forgot to put it in the fridge. Any tips on how to recover it are welcome, or should I just stick it in the bin and start again??
If it isn't mouldy/doesn't smell off then try using a couple of spoons of the old starter into some fresh flour/water mix, leave for a couple of days until it bubbles, then repeat the cycle until you get back to an active starter.
If it's dead then nothing will happen. It's very easy to make your own starter - just use organic rye flour - instructions available online
Would also recommend the Dan Lepard book, "The Handmade Loaf"
Similar to mik82, I reckon you might as well try with the existing one. I'm not really sure how much better sourdough is than any standard homemade bread, but I find the process quite therapeutic and rewarding.
If you need to start again, I found the instructions from feastingathome.com to work well for me. Nothing special really, but it's a bit like doing a school biology experiment in your house. I found standard bread flour (initially wholemeal, now just white) worked well for me, but lots of people swear by more fancy flours.
As mik82 says, you can recover a working starter from something surprisingly manky-looking. If it’s got black liquid sitting on top, just dig under for a teaspoon full of the putty-like paste underneath.
If speed is important though, you’re better with yeast. A sourdough loaf can take all day (though you don’t have to do much). It’s the sitting around gently fermenting that gives the extra flavour.
It took me a few goes before I was happy with it, but it is great once you get the hang. I found Dan Lepard’s book helpful (and inspiring) too.