Your Questions About Sourdough Starter Potato

Lisa asks…

What is a good vegetarian grocery list?

I’m going back to college in a week and I’ll be living in an apartment, so I’ll have to cook. The problem is I really don’t know what food to buy, and the make things more complicated I’m a vegetarian. A basic list of food for breakfast lunch and dinner vegetarian groceries would be so helpful.

sourdough answers:

Basic list just minus animal products. Make sure you get fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables (especially green and leafy vegetables and sea vegetables), dried fruits, whole grains (pasta, cereal, bread), nuts (almonds, raw cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil, etc), seeds (flax, sunflower, pumpkin, etc), beans (black, pinto, baked, kidney, refried, navy, etc), seiten, tofu, tvp, felafel’s, potatoes, vegan margarine/butter, quinoa, tempeh, lentils, fortified plant milk (soy, hemp, almond, etc), chickpeas, hummus, braggs liquids aminos, peanut butter, couscous, rice (brown or white), mushrooms, fortied cereals (hot or cold), bread (pita, rye, spelt, hemp, sourdough, tortillas, baugtte, biscuts, etc), vegetable and seed oils, soups, nutritional yeast flakes, vegan cheese, flour, cornstarch, maple or brown rice suryp, stevia or agave nectar, vegan ice cream/yogurt, spices and herbs and seasonings, vegan condiments (mustard, vegan mayo, etc), other whole grains and legumes, etc…

Veg convience foods:
Amy’s: Pizza, pockets, bowls, pot pies, entrees, chili, burritos, burgers.
Tofurky: Deli slices, sausages, superburgers, franks, tempeh, jurky.
LightLife: Meat substitutes such as tempeh, bacon, chicken, & beef.
Boca: Burgers
Morgingstar: Burgers, meal starters.
Gardenburger: Burgers, BBQ riblets, other meat substitutes such as chicken, & sausage.
Silk Soymilk: Chocolate, Vanilla, Nog, Pumpkin, Spice, & Chai.
Tofutti: Better Than Cream Cheese.
Earth Balance: Whipped Spread.
Vegan Gourmet: Cheese
So Delicious/Purely Decadent: Ice Cream & yogurt.
Also: Yves, Nate’s, Cedarlane, Mon Cuisine, TastyBite, LaBriute Meals, plus others

Here is some links to a guide of common grocery store foods that are mostly vegan, and definitely vegetarian:

Joseph asks…

levin/organic bread is raised by natural yeast. How is that yeast produced?

sourdough answers:

This is a really long answer, but I hope it helps. I REALLY love to bake with natural yeast, and have five different strains in my fridge!

Natural yeast is wild yeast, that is, yeast captured from the air. It’s essentially the same thing as sourdough yeast, but don’t let that scare you. Not all sourdough starters are ultra tangy. I captured one here in the Midwest that has a sweet twist and smells like aplle cider. The species used for baking include Saccharomyces exiguus and Saccharomyces inusitatus, but in any one sourdough starter there may be several species of wild yeast, depending upon where and when it was collected, and what ingredients were in the initial batter.

It’s not only the yeast that makes the difference, but also the bacteria that accompanies the yeast. For example, the sourdough breads of San Francisco have a unique flavor in part because of a species of lactobacilli that can only be found in the ecosystem surrounding the Bay area (which makes it REALLY tangy!). Similarly, Alaskan sourdough pancakes have a special flavor and texture because of the lactobacilli found in that environment.

There are a variety of methods that may be used to capture wild yeast: some use mashed potatoes or grape skins, others include fresh hops or rye meal, and the liquid varies from water to milk to a combination. A really terrific, detailed description can be found at, but here’s summary:

Mix two cups of flour and two cups of water in a glass or pottery bowl. Lay a double layer of cheesecloth over the top (attach with a large rubber band if you think it might blow off). Let the bowl sit outside in a sunny spot for the day. The wild yeast floating in the air will make its way to your flour/water mixture. It will then start growing and dividing.

After 24 hours, bring the bowl inside and pour off about a cup of the mixture and feed it with another cup of flour and another cup of water. In a few days, the mixture will become frothy as the yeast population grows. The froth is caused by the carbon dioxide that the yeast is generating. Leave the starter on the kitchen counter for five days. As the starter ferments, it will develop a strong aroma — bready and alcoholy and not particular appetizing. Feed it every day or two by dividing it in half and adding a cup of flour and a cup of water to one half of it (you can throw the other half away). When you see a watery substance floating to the top, stir it. Sourdough bakers call this “hooch.” Over the week the starter became a thick liquid, like pancake batter. It will be slightly yellowish.

How you use the yeast is a whole ’nother question! Here’s a brief annotated bibliography.

Alaska Sourdough by Ruth Allman (Alaska Northwest Books, 1976, ISBN 0882400851). Mrs. Allman lived in a lodge north of Juneau for many years, so she’s the real deal. This book includes 95+ recipes, including several different recipes for starter

Classic Sourdoughs: A Home Baker’s Handbook by Ed Wood (Ten Speed Press, 2001, ISBN 1580083447). This book is an updated version of World Sourdoughs from Antiquity (1996, ISBN 0898158435 ) by the same author (which is the edition I own). Either book is an excellent resource for sourdough baking, especially for those who want more than recipes.

Sourdough Jack’s Cookery and Other Things by Jack Mabee (Argonaut Press, 1970, out of print) If you want real sourdough cookery by an authentic Alaskan cook, this is your book. Although out of print, copies of the book regularly appear on eBay. Great stories, pictures, and Alaskan lore, and detailed, step-by-step descriptions for every recipe.

Steven asks…

What do you know about yeast?

I understand that yeast is basically a dormant culture whcih comes alive when used for cooking or distilling, but where does yeast originate. Don’t say the grocery store. Where in the wild…or whatever is yeast found or produced

sourdough answers:

Yeast is a natural fungus found most everywhere in the air we breathe all over the world. The few places that can not sustain yeast are in very dry arid areas like death valley or the dry very hot deserts of some middle eastern countries. Yeast must have some moisture to survive and be active. In the wild yeast is active, not dormant. It needs a lot of yeast to gather in one area with the food source to make it happy and active where we can see it. (sourdough starters) each place has its own little own variation that can not be duplicated any where else in the world, the most famous being San Francisco. There are some yeasts specific to grapes and potatoes also but, these are not the same yeasts that make good quality bread. Brewing yeast used to make beer and wine can be used for some breads but are very difficult to keep active and alive as they are very sensitive to certain changes and are fragile when it comes to bread handling. Yeast, although related to mold is from the same family as mold but is a completely organisim.

All of my sourdough starters (6 in my home, 4 in the mail to me) come from all over the world and all have different characteristics. They all come from leaving a flour and water mixture out in a shady area to collect the natural yeast floating in the air. The yeast and starter are then slowly dried out to make the yeast dormant. It is sent to me and i reactivate it by rehydrating and adding more flour and water. Yeas is all over on fruits and vegetables, in soil, in the air its all over.

Susan asks…

how is bread yeast made?

I want to make yeast starter from scratch so I dont have to keep running to the store for packages. My Gram used to have a yeast stash but I dont know how to start

sourdough answers:

All yeast is made the same way. Yeast are just a tiny plant-like microorganism that exists all around us – in soil, on plants and even in the air. It has existed for so long, it is referred to as ‘the oldest plant cultivated by man’.
Many yeasts can be isolated from sugar-rich environmental samples. Some good examples include fruits and berries (such as grapes, apples or peaches), exudates from plants (such as plant saps or cacti). Some yeasts are found in association with insects.
A common medium used for the cultivation of yeasts is called potato dextrose agar (PDA) or potato dextrose broth. Potato extract is made by autoclave (i.e. Pressure-cooking) cut-up potatoes with water for 5 to 10 minutes and then decanting off the broth. Dextrose (glucose) is then added (10 g/L) and the medium is sterilized by autoclave (using your pressure cooker to sterilize the mixture; here is the info
Your problem is isolating the right strain for your bread. This is why, grandmothers kept their “yeast stash” in the kitchen and passed it down in their families (the various bakeries in San Francisco keep this tradition alive for their “sourdough” breads.) The difficulty of starting up this process and keeping it going is what has make companies like Fleishmans their money. They have a good web site about baking and yeast
If you really want to start your own home strain, here is a site that tells you how:
Good luck and may your bread always rise high in the pan.

David asks…

Which starter recipe is this for bread?

About five years ago my grandmother quit making her bread because her starter died. She says it was a sourdough type. It was some kind of liquid in a jar and every week you would feed it some instant mashed potato flakes. Does anyone know what the starter is? Or how to make it?

sourdough answers:

Just FYI, some of those starters are passed down from generation to generation and they develop into a unique colony of bacteria that you can’t just duplicate from a recipe. Once it’s dead, it’s gone for good.
But you can get something similar with a sourdough starter. There are tons and tons of variations.

Here’s a recipe for one that uses potato flakes:

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