What do you mean you didn’t make the sourdough starter I told you about? What were you waiting for? A shortcut? Oh.
Okay, I understand. I am the procrastination queen, myself, so I have lots of things that I totally intend to do but then never get around to. I also get it that maybe you don’t want to deal with perpetual sourdough upkeep (though it’s really easy, trust me!), but at the same time you might actually want to make something that requires sourdough starter. Once again, I am here to help!
This particular starter uses regular baker’s yeast, along with flour and water, to jumpstart the fermentation process that will ultimately become sourdough starter. Normally, you would just allow the natural microorganisms in your flour to get the process going, but they are usually in smaller quantities so it takes a little time for them to get their act together and reproduce enough of a population. Once they do, they are able to transform the flour and water mixture you feed them into a sour-smelling, bubbly, ethanol laden goo that now will make your bread dough rise and give it that unique sourdough flavor.
By adding baker’s yeast, you are essentially creating a ready-made population that can now get right to work. The flavor of your final product may not be as robust as going the “natural route” since you won’t have as many different kinds of critters adding their own distinct touch, but it will still be pretty darned good. Not only that, but now you can make a whole bunch of recipes that depend on sourdough starter without the wait. You still need to plan ahead, but now you only need 24 hours, not a week or two!
Recipe for 'Cheater's' Sourdough Starter
- 3/4 cups warm water (it should just feel warm to touch, not hot)
- 1 1/3 cup flour, all purpose or whole wheat
- 1/2 tsp. baker’s yeast (look for the granular type, not the compressed cake)
Add the water to a medium, non-reactive bowl (glass, plastic, stainless steel). You will want a bowl large enough to allow your starter to triple in size. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and allow it to dissolve. Stir gently to mix. (By the way, some municipal water sources use chemical additives to help keep the water free from microorganisms. This may inhibit the growth of your yeast. Boiling the water will NOT remove those chemicals, only any other microorganisms. If you are uncertain of what your water contains, you may want to start with bottled or filtered water.)
Add the flour to the yeast mixture and gently combine. The mixture will be slightly firm and can almost hold it’s shape. Cover tightly and set someplace away from drafts or other cold spots.
It will be ready to go in 24 hours, that’s it! If you don’t need it then, or if you have leftovers, just put it in the refrigerator until needed. It can stay there for well over a month (update: my record of neglecting my starter is now three months, and it was fine)! When you are ready to use it, take it out of the refrigerator 24 hours in advance. You will likely see a grey liquid at the surface, stir that in. You will then “feed” your yeasties a mix of 1 part water to not-quite 2 parts flour. For example, for 1/2 cup of water you would add just under 1 cup of flour. Be sure to make enough “fed” starter for your recipe needs. Mix all of it together and let sit for 24 hours. You don’t need to add more yeast, because they are already there now. Your starter is now fed and ready to be used! Repeat the process of storing the leftovers in the refrigerator until the next time you need them. Easy!