Potato Starter Bread … by Popular Demand!

You asked for it, and reader Gwen Glaze answered.


When we posted the recipe for Pioneer Bread, a reader commented that she remembered her mother making bread using a starter made from potatoes fermented in water. Gwen Glaze of Mutual, Oklahoma, mentioned that she had a recipe for this potato starter bread and soon, we had more than a dozen people saying that they’d love that recipe, too!

Gwen writes that this comes from a cookbook published in the 1970s: Old-Fashioned Recipe Book, An Encyclopedia of Country Living. I asked Gwen to tell us a little about herself, too, and she tells us they live in an old farm home built in 1921 on an original homestead, surrounded by acres of wheat, corn, milo and sunflower crops. They raise chickens and ducks; own dogs, cats and horses; and plant a vegetable garden that gets larger every year!  “We love living in the country and will never go back to city life, God willing,” Gwen says.

If you try this recipe, be sure to let us know in the comments how your efforts turned out.

Potato Starter Bread

Peel and slice very thin one medium potato into a 1 or 2 qt. sized glass casserole dish (preferably a Russet). To the sliced potato add:

  • 1 TB sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 TB yellow or white cornmeal (fresh stone-ground works best, see notation at the bottom of recipe)
  • 2 c boiling water

Mix well, place the lid on the casserole dish and wrap the dish in a heavy terrycloth bath towel. Put in a warm place to ferment, such as an oven which has a pilot light burning. Let stand overnight until very bubbly. This can take from 8 to 14 hours (most often 10-12). At this stage, the starter will have an odor vaguely like that of sharp cheddar cheese. (Note:  If the starter has not fermented at the end of 14 hours, discard it and try again.)

After fermenting, remove the potatoes from the dish and pour the remaining liquid into a mixing bowl. Add:

  • 1 c very warm milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 TB sugar
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 3 TB melted shortening or salad oil
  • 2 c all-purpose flour

Mix well until smooth, cover the top of the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and set the bowl in a pan of very hot water. Place in oven or other warm place to rise until very light and bubbly. This can take 1 or 2 hours. When the batter has reached this stage, sift into it 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour and mix well.

Turn mixture out on a well-floured board and knead for 7 or 8 minutes, adding flour to the board as needed to prevent sticking. Some cornmeal will work out of the dough as it is kneaded–this is normal. When the dough is smooth and elastic, shape into two loaves and place in well-greased small bread pans (8½ x4½ x 2½ inches). Cover pans with a dishtowel and place in a warm place to rise until at least doubled in bulk (this can take about 2 hours or so). Bake in a preheated (375 degree) oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degree and bake for 30 to 35 minutes longer until golden brown. Turn loaves out of pans to cool.

The texture of this bread will be finer and more compact than that of ordinary yeast bread and it should be sliced a little thinner. Makes an excellent toast, having a mildly cheese-like flavor and aroma. Keeps well for two or three weeks if wrapped in plastic and kept in the refrigerator.

(Note: “Degerminated” cornmeal often causes self-starter recipes to fail. This recipe recommends using stone-ground or home-ground cornmeal, in which the corn germ is left intact in the meal. Stone-ground cornmeals can be purchased at organic grocery stores, health food stores, online and at some supermarkets.)

pioneer bread Our blog post on Doris Musick’s recipe for Pioneer Bread (loaves of which are pictured above) ignited an interest in another bread recipe: potato starter bread.

NOTE: The Country Magazine Test Kitchen has not tested this recipe and therefore cannot attest to the accuracy of the recipe or representation as to the results.

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