The term “sourdough starter” provokes trepidation and confusion in many folks, understandably so. This post will explain the different types of sourdough starters as well as show you how to start and maintain a sourdough starter with potato flakes.
The Difference Between Potato Flake Starter and Flour Starter
There are two main types of starter to make sourdough bread: flour based and potato based.
Flour based starter is a precisely measured mixture of high hydration flour and water. The mixture ferments at room temperature cultivating natural yeast that is later used to bake bread.
It’s a bit more fussy, if you will.
Potato based starter is a mixture of dehydrated potato flakes, water, sugar, and activated yeast that ferments at room temperature.
The biggest difference between the two starters is that flour based starters require multiple feedings, multiple times per day in the beginning, and require large amounts of discarded starter.
Discarding starter is a chief complaint of flour based sourdough starter. Yes, discard can be used in other recipes but you are left with copious amounts of discard in your refrigerator.
Alternatively potato based starters are fed once every four days and do not require discarding, unless you do not bake. (But you will because this bread is the bees knees!)
Both starters are aged, or fermented, for several days before use cultivating the good bacteria which gives sourdough that unique tangy flavor.
Neither starter is inherently better than they other. They simply yield two different styles of sourdough bread.
Why are potato flakes used?
Not to be confused with potato flour or potato starch, potato flakes are simply dehydrated potatoes. Typically they are used to make instant mashed potatoes.
Surprisingly, you can do quite a lot with potato flakes! Potato flakes add starch, flavor, and softness to baked goods.
The potato flakes in the starter add starch that replaces the gluten in a flour based starter. You cannot omit this ingredient.
Potato Flake Sourdough Starter Ingredients
If you do not have access to sourdough starter from a friend or neighbor, making a sourdough starter with potato flakes is very simple.
The first feeding is simply water, sugar, potato flakes, and activated (not instant) yeast. This is the only time you will give the starter yeast.
The ingredients are mixed together in a jar, covered loosely, and left at room temperature for 4 days. I really like these jars for starter.
On the 5th day, you will feed your starter a second time but without additional yeast. Let it ferment for 8 hours before using to bake.
At this point the starter can go into the fridge until you’re ready to bake.
Maintaining a Sourdough Starter with Potato Flakes
For beginner bread bakers, sourdough starter with potato flakes is the most forgiving and easiest to maintain.
After the first two feedings, you will store the starter on and feed every 4 to 5 days if you’re not baking.
You will need to discard about 1 cup of starter if you don’t plan to bake. This is a good time to gift some to a friend.
If you do want to bake, pull the starter out of the fridge and feed it. Let the starter sit at room temperature for 8 hours.
After using your starter to bake bread, put the starter back in the fridge and feed again in five days.
The cycle will continue indefinitely. This starter is truly fool proof.
My easy sourdough bread tutorial is here to teach you how to use this sourdough starter with potato flakes for the best sourdough sandwich bread! You’ll never need, or want, to go to the store for bread again!
- 1 cup filtered water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons dehydrated potato flakes
- 2 1/4 teaspoons activated yeast, or 1 packet (not instant)
- In a tall jar with a loose fitting lid, add all ingredients. Stir well.
- Let the starter rest on the counter 4 days, stirring once each day.
- On the 5th day, feed the starter again without the instant yeast. Do not discard any of the starter yet.
- Let the starter rest on the counter 8 hours.
- Use the starter to bake bread or refrigerate up to 5 days before feeding again.
- Maintain weekly feedings every 5 days.