All About Potato Flake Sourdough
We are absolutely crazy about a potato flake sourdough. Sourdough is a healthier bread option, it’s versatile, and it’s easy (once you know the basics). Whether you’re a sourdough beginner or an expert, you’ll find this article full of great information including recipes, health benefits, trouble shooting tips, helpful product links, and FAQs. There are many different kinds of sourdough starters, but this article focuses on a potato flake starter. The team here at Big Plate loves ALL sourdough, but for now we’re diving into potato flake sourdough for several reasons:
Pros of a Potato Flake Sourdough Starter
- Potato flake sourdough starter yields a soft textured bread.
- Products made with this starter tend to have a sweeter sourdough taste, which is usually more palatable for those who are new to sourdough products.
- This starter is gluten and dairy free, so it can be used in gluten free and dairy free sourdough recipes for people with those dietary needs.
- It’s easy to make from scratch, and you probably already have the necessary ingredients.
Full disclaimer, however: there are some downsides to a potato flake sourdough starter (as there are with EVERY kind of sourdough starter). These include:
Cons of a Potato Flake Sourdough Starter
- Potato flake sourdough starter doesn’t bubble as much as other starters, so it can be more difficult for a beginner to determine the yeast’s activity level.
- It’s not as resilient as some other types of starters if you neglect it.
- This kind of starter doesn’t freeze well.
- The potato flake sourdough starter is thinner than most starters, so it’s not a 1:1 substitution in most sourdough recipes that aren’t specifically for the potato flake starter.
Make Your Potato Flake Sourdough Starter
Gather your utensils:
We recommend a wide-mouthed, quart-sized glass jar (although pottery and food-safe plastic jars work well, too). A wide mouth allows you to easily pour in the ingredients. The quart size will allow plenty of room for feeding and stirring. (Bigger is fine, but you have to store it in the refrigerator, so keep that in mind.) Glass is non-reactive, hard to scratch, and easy to clean. Small chips in ceramic or scratches in plastic containers can harbor bacteria which could ruin your starter.
You have several options when it comes to the lid. The most important factor in choosing the lid for your sourdough starter is to make sure it is breathable. Sourdough starters release gasses, and these gasses must escape. One method of covering your starter is to use a canning lid with holes poked in it. You can use a towel, a paper towel, or a coffee filter over the top of the jar, secured with a rubber band. Several layers of cheesecloth is a good option. You could even use film wrap with holes poked in it. You do want to capture wild yeast from the air (which will happen naturally), but you also want to limit other airborne contaminants that could compete with the microorganisms you NEED for a healthy starter.
Note: Some sourdough experts dislike the lid with holes idea, feeling that it allows too much air from the outside into your starter environment. They recommend using a lid that is only loosely on the jar. The problem with that method is that it can be a dropping hazard when transporting the jar, or someone could inadvertently tighten it, which could result in your starter container exploding!
Sourdough (especially the starter) is acidic, which means it can react with some surfaces. Avoid aluminum and other metals that aren’t stainless steel. Safe materials include BPA-free plastic, glass, pottery, and stainless steel.
Gather your ingredients:
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 Tbsp potato flakes (instant potatoes)
Mix these ingredients in your jar, loosely cover, and allow to ferment at room temperature for two days. Stir at least once each day. At the end of two days, either cover and refrigerate for 3-5 days or feed the starter.
Feed Your Potato Flake Sourdough Starter
Gather your ingredients:
- 1 cup warm water
- 3 Tbsp potato flakes
- 3/4 cup sugar
Stir these into the starter, cover loosely, and ferment at room temperature for eight to twelve hours. At the end of the fermentation, pour off one cup of starter to use in a recipe, give away, or discard. Cover the start jar loosely and refrigerate for three to five days before feeding again.
Make Your Sourdough Dough
Gather your ingredients:
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup potato flake sourdough starter
- 1/4 cup oil
- 3 cups flour
Mix all ingredients well. Cover dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled. Rise time will vary drastically based on temperature and strength of starter. When dough has doubled, turn it out on a floured surface and knead well.
For bread, place dough in a loaf pan or proofing bowl. Rise until doubled. Rise time will vary drastically based on temperature and strength of starter. When dough has doubled, bake at 350 degrees F for 35-45 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
Make Your Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
Gather your ingredients:
- 1 batch sourdough dough (see the above recipe)
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup sugar
Place dough on a floured surface and roll into a 18″ x 12″ rectangle. Spread butter evenly over entire surface of dough, leaving a 1″ strip on a long end. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over butter. Roll dough up long ways (starting at the opposite side of where you left off the butter). At the end of the roll, seal dough without butter to the roll. Use dental floss to cut roll into twelve pieces.
Put 12 rolls in a 9×13 pan, cover, and let rise until doubled. Rise time will vary drastically based on temperature and strength of starter. Once rolls have risen, bake at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool, then ice if desired.
FAQ: How Does a Potato Flake Sourdough Starter Work?
Any sourdough starter requires yeast and bacteria plus something for those microorganisms to metabolize. This process is called fermentation. In the case of a potato flake sourdough starter, the microbes are fermenting both potato flakes and sugar. Once the starter is mixed into ingredients for bread, the microbes will ferment the flour and sugar in the dough. We initiate our starter with active dry yeast to encourage an initial healthy ecosystem of yeast and bacteria, but over time the starter will accumulate wild yeast from your local environment, as well. As the yeast from the starter ferments the dough ingredients, the gas produced in the fermentation process leavens the bread (makes it rise).
FAQ: Why is Wild Yeast Better Than Baker’s Yeast?
Wild yeast can survive at a lower pH than baker’s yeast, which means that wild yeast can work together with bacteria that produce lactic acid. The presence of lactic acid gives sourdough its distinctive odor, flavor, and texture. It also means that the rising process is slower, which gives the microbes more time to digest the gluten in the dough. This yields a healthier bread product (see FAQ: Is Sourdough Bread Healthier Than Other Bread?).
FAQ: Is Sourdough Bread Healthier Than Other Bread?
The fermentation process for sourdough bread yields a product that has less gluten, is easier to digest, and contains more nutrients. Many gluten-sensitive people can eat sourdough bread with no digestive problems since the yeast and bacteria have already partially digested the gluten.
The lactic acid in sourdough products helps deactivate phytic acid (or phytate), a chemical present in grain-based foods that binds to healthy minerals and inhibits their availability to the body. Therefore the body can more effectively metabolize the nutrients present in sourdough bread than it can the nutrients in bread leavened with baker’s yeast.
Sourdough bread also improves the flavor and texture of whole grains, so many people find it easier to increase their consumption of healthy whole grain products if they’re leavened with sourdough starter.
The microbes responsible for fermenting sourdough products produce prebiotics, a type of indigestible fiber that feeds the good bacteria in your gut, thereby aiding in digestion and decreasing bloat.
While scientists don’t fully understand how, the fermentation process of sourdough bread is thought to change the molecular structure of the carbohydrates, lowering the glycemic index, and making the bread easier on blood sugar levels.
FAQ: How Do I Know if My Starter Has Gone Bad?
Before using your starter, check the color and the odor. If the starter is dark brown or pink, the wrong microbes are growing and you should throw it out. It should have a “yeasty” smell, like raw dough. If the starter smells foul or moldy, throw it out.
FAQ: Can Bad Sourdough Starter Make Me Sick?
Sourdough starter is very acidic because a by-product of the fermentation process is lactic acid. This acidic environment means that harmful microbes will find it difficult to grow in your starter. Therefore bad starter is usually not a safety issue but a quality issue. You need the right strains of healthy, active yeast and bacteria with the right products to “eat” and the right conditions to thrive (warm temperature, adequate time, correct amount of salt, etc.) for your bread to rise properly. In addition, bread products are fully cooked, so any harmful microbes that might be present should be killed in the baking process. That being said, we still recommend that if your starter develops an odd color or odor, you throw it out and start over. Better safe than sorry.
FAQ: Can I Taste Raw Sourdough Starter or Dough?
The short answer is: you should NOT eat (or taste) raw dough of any kind, including sourdough. There are several reasons why. One is that potato flakes and flour are raw agricultural products that can become contaminated at several points along the supply chain, including in your own home. Baking, of course, destroys any of these contaminants. But raw starter or dough could contain contaminants from your flour and/or potato flakes.
Other Sourdough Recipe Ideas
Several of these recipes call for a flour-based sourdough starter, so you’ll have to experiment with substituting your runnier potato-flake sourdough starter. Begin by decreasing the liquid ingredient(s) by about a cup. You may also need to slightly increase the amount of flour.
- Sourdough Pretzels
- Sourdough Bagels
- Sourdough Crackers
- Sourdough Tortillas
- Sourdough Donuts
- Sourdough Hot Rolls
- Sourdough Cake
- Sourdough Waffles
- Sourdough Focaccia
- Sourdough Crescent Rolls
- Sourdough English Muffins
- Sourdough Pie Crust
- Sourdough Buns
- Sourdough Banana Bread
- Sourdough Pizza Crust
- Sourdough Biscuits
In addition to ALL these ideas, you can find sourdough recipes for just about every kind of flour: rye, einkorn, whole wheat, spelt, Khorasan, etc. We’d love to hear how your sourdough journey goes!