I have made a lot of sourdough bread, and it is common for me to have a starter going in my kitchen. However, I always wondered if many stores and bakeries cheat and make their sourdough without a traditional starter. This would involve less time and effort, and thus be less costly. Also, many store-bought sourdoughs have a much more tart aroma and taste to them, which leads me to believe they were 'cheating'. I thought I would try my hand at this cheating and see if it would work for me also. This is what I tried, it turned out great!
Sourdough French Bread (Easy method, no starter)
4-5 cups bread flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 pkgs. dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 cup sour cream or plain full fat yogurt (I used my homemade sour cream, see post dated 10/22
2 Tbsp. vinegar
1 egg white
1 Tbsp. water
First, mix a package of yeast with the cup of warm water (100-110 degrees), then add a Tablespoon of sugar and stir gently. Allow the yeast to rise for about 15 minutes. It will really grow a head on it so be sure to place in a container that will contain it. I use a very large coffee mug that I have pre-warmed, a cool cup will cool the water down too much.
Combine 1-1/2 cups flour and remaining dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add water, sour cream or yogurt, and vinegar and beat well. Stir in additional 2 to 2-1/2 cups flour until dough forms.
On floured surface, knead in 1/2 to 1 cup more flour until the bread dough is smooth and elastic. I usually knead it about 100 cycles. Place dough in greased bowl, turning dough over once to grease top. Cover and let rise for 45-60 minutes.
Grease large cookie sheet. Punch down dough and cover with an overturned bowl on the counter for 15 minutes. Divide the dough in half. Roll each half to about a 14x8" rectangle. Starting with long side, roll dough up tightly and pinch edges firmly to seal. Place seam side down on prepared cookie sheet. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 15 minutes.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake bread for 25 minutes. Beat egg white and water in small bowl until frothy. Brush over partially baked bread. Return to oven and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Immediately remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack.