I finally baked this bread after a 7-hour rise. If you can call it a rise when the dough just sort of spreads sideways, wets its tea towel, and produces just one blistery bubble under the crust. And no oven spring. See those slash marks? No expansion at all. My verdict is: over-proofed and overworked.
When I started the dough Tuesday a week ago, with only 1 teaspoon of yeast to 6 1/2 cups of flour, fermentation took off like a shot. I should have put that thing right in the refrigerator instead of letting it sit out on the counter for so long. Only 3 days later, the yeast did not have the strength to raise the rolls I made from half of the dough. I figured it was just a case of over handling while I formed the rolls, and not having the time to wait for them to rise.
When I pulled the dough out of the refrigerator yesterday, though, the yeast had had it. The dough had started to separate, and had produced a watery goo at the bottom. I ignored the warning signs, however, and pressed ahead, remixing the dough and pressing out any remaining gas in the process. Which is what lead up to the seven-hour non-rise. Or was it nine hours? I don't recall.
So I saved 2 ounces of that dough, which had a very sour-doughy aroma, mixed it with 3/4 cup each of flour and water and let it sit until it was bubbly. Then I added the rest of my ingredients and I'm going to try it again. Only this time, I forgot the salt. I'll figure it out, and let the dough sit in my refrigerator until Monday at the earliest. Tune in next week for my fifth attempt at "so simple a 4-year old could do it" no-knead bread.