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I enjoy making bread, but the bread I make using standard yeast of course lacks that sourdough taste. But the process of making and maintaining a sourdough starter frankly requires a bit too much work and consistent attention from me. Is there a way to approximate that sourdough taste using a process less complicated and high-maintenance than a "real" sourdough starter?

(As a footnote, ideally this would be a process that could start the night before one made bread, but not much more than that).

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4 Answers 4

You can try a pâté fermentee. This is essentially a dough you leave to prove overnight. It is how most french bread is made. You simply make half a batch of dough, leave it overnight, then make the other half and knead the PF through it. While the flavour isn't quite as sour as sourdough, it does have a bit more of a tang than 'normal' bread.

You might also try a slow, 2 or 3 day prove in the fridge for any bread dough.

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Some companies sell a "Sourdough flavor" that is usually just sourdough waste products, some deactivated yeast, and filler. The waste products are what you usually taste in sourdough, so these might be somewhat effective.

Since a lot of the flavor is from acids like lactic acid, you could try adding something else that contains lactic acid. The juice from fermented pickles, sauerkraut, kimchee, yogurt, etc... should all contain some lactic acid and may give you a bit of the flavor you're looking for. These may contain other flavors though, so be sure they won't conflict with what you're trying to do. For instance, kimchee frequently has garlic in it, so if you don't want the garlic flavor in your bread in addition to the sour flavor, be sure to find a kimchee that lacks garlic (or has less).

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If you make home made sauerkraut you can use a half cup of the juice in place of some of the water. The juice contains live lactic bacteria as well as lactic acid. Make the dough the day before. Cut the amount of yeast used in half and reduce the salt since the sauerkraut juice is salted. Put the dough in a floured bowl and cover with plastic. Let rise at room temp for a few hours then stick in the fridge. The next day, remove the dough and shape to your liking. Let rise for 2 hours. Score and bake.

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No, there is not.

The sour flavour of sourdough comes from the lactic acid produced by lactobacilli. Lactobacilli have a symbiotic relationship with the wild yeast - you can't have one without the other. The wild yeast develops slowly, and at lower concentrations that commercial yeast, which is why it takes days to make a good sour dough loaf.

However, if you just want better flavour then you can use a pre-ferment, such as a biga or a sponge. That'll do some good magic over-night. Or, if you're after the waxy crumb of sourdough, then you could try the semi-famous no-knead bread. I've made this several times and it's delicious and very easy, possibly the easiest bread to make. The crumb always seems to come out too sticky, so maybe I've not got it right yet, but the flavour is really good.

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In a sourdough culture, the yeast and lactobacilli grow together, but there are lots of things that use lactic acid fermentation that don't involve yeast. –  sourd'oh Sep 2 '13 at 19:08

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