Grocery store out of yeast? There’s always potatoes

Commercial yeast has been hard to come by in P.E.I. during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the P.E.I. Potato Board has a solution: do it yourself potato yeast.

The recipe, posted to the board’s Facebook page, says all you need is a potato, water, flour and sugar. 

“Bread making is kind of enjoying a pandemic-driven renaissance right now, but it’s hard to find yeast for anyone, so the potato is a nice versatile vegetable,” said Mark Phillips, marketing specialist with the P.E.I. Potato Board.

“Bread was made before commercially available yeast was around, so it kind of followed some of the methods similar to vodka distilling.”

In a comment on the post, the potato board said any potato will do, but preference is given to high-starch spuds like russets and Yukon golds.

Does it work?

“It basically works like a normal yeast but it won’t be as fast acting. It works on its own timetable so it could take up to two to three times longer,” said Phillips.

“We had some people say it works well.”

With the COVID-19 baking phenomenon, store shelves in some regions have been emptied of flour, sugar, yeast and other baking essentials.

“There’s been a few people say it doesn’t work. I’m assuming that it might be they’re expecting it to work kind of as fast as commercially available yeast, but for many of the sources I’ve seen on it, they say it works.”

Phillips compares the experience of making the potato yeast to trying something from your favourite cooking show: it’s best to lower your expectations and try again.

“If I see something from a renowned chef and I try to make it with my limited experience, it’s not going to go as well,” he said.

“Plus, if people try to make this and it doesn’t work out, well they still have potatoes. They can mash or boil or bake.”

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