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Cheat's sourdough

Updated: Mon, 1 March, 2021

Good Food cheat's sourdough is really fake 'sourdough' as it has yeast in it. But it's such a delicious bread made with minimum hassle that it deserves the title of 'next best thing'.

cheats sourdough bread

Sourdough isn't quick or easy

I am no stranger to sourdough bread. I have been growing it, feeding it, kneading, baking and eating it for about fifteen years now so by now it's almost like I've raised a teenager of my capabilities.

I love sourdough and appreciate its benefits to general health and especially the intolerance friendliness: sourdough is usually better digestible at people with mild gluten intolerances.

It can't be beaten on flavour, it has a great texture and of course that crackling golden crust is to die for. But I completely understand that it might be daunting.

Sourdough is a fussy customer. All the feeding, mollycoddling and keeping the right temperature and still sometimes it refuses to bubble because it doesn't like the water from your tap, for instance.

I am a fan, but not a fanatic of sourdough. I don't subscribe to the snobbery over wild yeast and disdain towards bakers' yeast. After all the latter is produced from the former too, in a concentrated form. People who scoff at bakers' yeast still buy cream in the shops instead of skimming their own from milk.

fake sourdough loaf

Accomplished bakers not keen on sourdough

So I appreciate that home bakers will happily and successfully shape baguettes and rolls out off yeasted dough but baulk at jars of sourdough starter that need to be stored in the fridge. And if you can get a result not miles away from the real McCoy but applying a safe and comfortable method and a relatively easy recipe - this is it.

It is NOT sourdough. It is bread leavened on a small amount of yeast but using the long period of fermentation to develop the flavours, slightly sour, resembling proper sourdough. The outcome is unfailingly good every time.

how to cheat at sourdough flavour

How to make fake sourdough

It is a little more elaborate and prolonged in time than your average no-knead. There is the starter dough, mixed with a proportion of wheat flour, some rye flour and water, plus a little yeast. Whether you prefer to use fresh or dry yeast, is entirely up to you. That mixture sits for 24 hours at room temperature, undisturbed.

A day later, it is refreshed with a substantial quantity of fresh flour, more water, salt and a little yeast again. From then on, the normal bread-making proceedings: kneading until smooth and supple, raising in bulk, then shaping a round loaf for the final rise.

24 hour sourdough

How to bake the cheat sourdough

The most foolproof baking technique ever is so called Dutch oven or a heavy cast iron casserole. The difference between the two is small: a classic Dutch oven has a lid that may also serve as a dish, only shallower. Dough is placed in the preheated shallow part and covered with the deep one like a big hat. That has the advantage of ensuring the bottom is flatter than the risen dome.

But a standard casserole, with a knobbed lid works very well too. The only trick there is that the dough has to be dropped from the proving basket into the deep casserole which will also be roaring hot. But it's perfectly possible to do well and even if the loaf lands a bit askew, you can shake the dish gently to help it find its central spot.

If you have no such dish, you can use a preheated pizza stone and spray the oven with water when the bread goes in (a plant spray bottle is ideal). That is obviously not necessary with a Dutch oven as the closed dish keeps the humidity in.

And if all else fails, use a heavy baking tray instead of a stone. The result will be much more pleasing than a Hovis sliced all the same.

I came across the recipe in the Good Food magazine and must have baked dozens of cheat's loaves since the first time. It isn't sourdough - but it's the next best thing.


Cheat's sourdough

Servings: one large loafTime: 3 hours plus fermenting for 24 hours
Tags: bread, easy

  • For the starter:
  • 100g strong white bread flour
  • 100g dark rye flour
  • 10g fresh or 3g (1 tsp) fast action yeast
  • 250g cold water
  • For the final dough:
  • 400g strong white flour
  • 1tbsp salt
  • 10g fresh or 3g (1 tsp) fast action yeast
  • 200g cold water


1. Mix all the ingredients for the starter thoroughly in a large bowl, cover with cling film and leave in ambient temperature for 24 hours.

2. The next day add the remaining ingredients to the starter, mix well, then knead on a floured surface or in a standing mixer with a dough hook attachment for at least 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic and bounces off the sides of the bowl or stops sticking to your hands. Cover and leave in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in volume.

3. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and fold onto itself from four sides to shape it into a round. Place it seam side up in a well-floured proving basket or a bowl lined with cloth and floured generously. Put the proving basket in a plastic bag inflated a bit so it doesn’t touch the dough (just blow into it and tie the end!) and leave for about 40 minutes.

proving cheats sourdough loaf

4. Preheat a cast iron casserole, a baking stone or a heavy baking sheet in the middle of the oven at 220C/425F/gas 7.

5. When ready to bake, tip the loaf into the casserole or onto the stone or tray (remove the dish from the oven for this stage, use oven gloves), slash a rectangle shape on the top with a very sharp knife and put it back in the oven.

6. With the casserole, put the lid back on and if baking on a stone, spray the inside of the oven generously with water. In the casserole: bake for 20 minutes with the lid on and 20 minutes uncovered. On a stone, bake for 30 minutes until golden, crusty and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Originally published: Sun, 14 June, 2015

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Your comments

Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Meena - firstly, this isn't proper sourdough as the article clearly states. Secondly, sourdough is not gluten free unless made from a special flour mix. Wheat and rye flour both contain gluten.
2 years ago
Does this type of sourdough have any gluten?
2 years ago
Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Debbie - glad to hear it!
4 years ago
Debbie Packenham
Best bread I’ve ever baked by far!
4 years ago
Anna @ CuisineFiend
Ha! Sourdough is a fickle beast, I have had times when I thought I'd lost my mojo. This is a decent approximation though purists will argue...
5 years ago
HI, thanks for your comment. Duly noted. Now rising nicely, will post the end result, did I mention I am using fresh yeast? Interested to see how much oven spring I get. And flavour.We love sourdough, but I have had nightmares trying to keep various starters going. Been making bread and stuff for years and I reckon I must have some not good wild yeasts floating around my kitchen .
5 years ago
Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Barbara - I'm surprised you had to add extra flour but I guess types of flour differ in water absorption; hope it comes out fine! Water weight is the same as its volume so 200g = 200ml. I personally find it useful to have liquids measured in grams as you weigh out everything else so you just use the scales and there's no need for measuring jugs. Hope this helps.
5 years ago
I have just finished mixingthis recipe, and thought I had be meticulous in converting and measuring he amounts. However, if I had added all the second amount of water to the mix I should have finished with a very runny batter. As it was I added a small amount ectra flour to 'rescue' the mix. It is rising just now. Will up-date you on he result1What I want to know is, do you convert 200g of water to 2200ml? If not, what the story here, very confusing to give liquid by weight.
5 years ago
Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Patricia - yes, that’s bread flour. It’s sometimes called ‘strong’ because it has higher protein content than plain flour. And the addition of rye flour makes the bread taste more like sourdough but you can use all bread flour or replace the rye with the same amount of wholemeal flour.
5 years ago
Hello! Would normal bread flour work on this recipe? Thanks!
5 years ago

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

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