You can do this: cheater sourdough
A gorgeous, basic sourdough for those who don't have time to make a starter. Based off the lovely Mikey Allen's cheater recipe.
The cheat's starter
100ml warm water - 3.4 oz
100g strong white flour (aka bread flour) - 2/3 cup
1 tsp dried active yeast
400g strong white flour (aka bread flour) - 3 1/4 cup
~200ml warm water + a pinch more if the dough is too dry - 7 oz
1 tsp salt
Part 1: the cheat's starter
1. Pour yeast into mixing bowl.
2. Add the warm water.
3. Let sit 1 minute, then stir together (should turn from grainy to cloudy).
4. Mix in the flour, using a spatula or your hands.
Here's where it's a cheat. You could add more flour at this point to make dough and cook in a few hours. Or you could leave this over night and have a slightly sour-y starter for your cheater sourdough!
5. If giving the cheater sourdough a go, place the starter mix in a humid, non-drafty place overnight.
Many recommend using clingfilm or a damp towel to cover the bowl, and then place it in an off oven. I prefer avoiding clingfilm and instead place the bowl in my microwave alongside a mug of just-boiled water.
Part 2: prepping the dough
1. Add the warm water to your starter and mix until dissolved.
2. Slowly add flour and mix until it's a ball of dough. Add a pinch of water at a time if it hasn't come together. I alternate between using a mixer or using my hands for this step. Kneading is an option at this point, but I typically don't bother.
3. Cover the bowl as you did the starter, and leave in a warmish place. The warmer it is, the quicker the yeast will rise.
4. Check on it every 30 minutes. When it has risen by double to 2/3, proceed to the next step.
5. Add salt to the dough and splash a smidge of water on top to help dissolve the salt.
6. In the bowl, grab one edge of the dough, pull it up and fold it over the top. Rotate the bowl slightly, fold and repeat until the whole dough has been folded upon itself.
7. Cover the bowl, let it rest for 30 minutes, and, if it's risen by 2/3 in size again, repeat step 6.
8. Repeat the folding and resting process 3-4 times. Don't stress so much about timings; this baby's pretty forgiving.
Part 3: shaping and baking
1. Dust the counter with a little flour and place dough on top.
2. Flatten the dough gently with your palms and fingers until about 2" thick.
3. Make an 'envelope' fold: first bring the bottom up to the middle, then the top down and to the bottom. Repeat with the sides.
4. Flip the dough over and shape into a nice tight ball.
5. Dust with flour and cover with a tea towel for ~30 min.
6. Place a baking tray (or cast iron dish) in the oven, along with a metal tin at the bottom of the oven and heat to 230ºC.
7. Once heated and the bread has finished resting, pour water into the bottom metal tin. This will make the oven nice and humid, giving the bread a nice crust.
8. Remove the baking tray, dust it with polenta, cornmeal or flour and transfer your dough to it.
9. Use a sharp knife to make slices across the top of your dough. I also like to sprinkle a pinch of salt across the top because, well, it's delicious.
10. Bake at 230º for 15 minutes, then turn temperature down to 180º and bake for 35-40 minutes.
Remove from tray, and let cool on a rack for 10 minutes before cracking open and devouring.
Fun fact: during WW1, only day-old bread was permitted to be sold in Britain. Why? Because fresh bread is simply too irresistible. No joke.