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Yeasted Mashed Potatoes: A Really, Really Bad Idea!

Here’s another off-kilter food idea that’s gone viral on Instagram. It’s Yeasted Mashed Potatoes. Sound weird? It is. But those who like the idea say Yeasted Mashed Potatoes are a revelation Alas, they could also be dangerous…

Mom's Mashed Potatoes - © theseasonalgourmet.caMom’s Mashed Potatoes: Clean, simple, light and fluffy.
No additives except a pinch of salt and a
dollop of golden butter…

@NYTcooking is an instagram channel that posts all kinds of recipes. The variety may be at least partly due to the fact that it pools the output of 7 different young, trendy-looking chefs. Well, they call themselves chefs. For Instagram purposes, at least. Perhaps – if the Yeasted Mashed Potatoes (YMP) video is any indication – their work ought to be labelled ‘For Entertainment Purposes Only’.

What the ‘enhanced’ spuds are

NYTcooking contributor ‘Ham’ says YMPs are simple to make. Just whip up (literally) a batch of your favourite mashed spuds. Don’t add any butter or cream. Then whisk in a packet of active dry yeast you’ve bloomed in ‘a little’ warm water or warmed cream (or whole milk). Pour the slighly thinned mash/puree back into cooking vessel deep enough to allow the mixture to rise.

Ham says let it ‘proof’ – stealing a term from bread making – until the mash about doubles in volume.

Then all you have to do is reheat it to serving temperature and serve. Ham reports the finished product has a distinctive earthy, tangy flavour. So intense that he refers to ‘yeasting’ as a seasoning technique.

Ham claims YMPs are the best mashed potatoes you’ll ever eat. I’m not so sure. And I have some food safety concerns about the whole process…

Where do I start?

First, yeast is not meant for foods like mashed veg (of any kind). It’s suited to – and intended for – leavening breads and fermenting alcoholic beverages.

As such, yeast produces alcohol when the it consumes sugars in the host food and gives off both alcohol and carbon dioxide. The CO2 bubbles do the leavening. The alcohol – in regular applications makes beverages woozifying. Alas, a quick re-heat of Yeasted Spuds will not be sufficient to evaporate out all the alcohol – which is what happens when bread is baked for 20-30 minutes at 375 – 400 F. That’s why you don’t get drunk from eating bread. And it’s safe for kids.

Second, Ham off-handedly mentions that the end result is, indeed, light and fluffy. And the texture takes on what he calls a ‘chewy’ edge. Yeast fermentation also activates the gluten in the flour when you make bread. That keeps the bread from falling apart like short pastry, and makes it springy. Potatoes have no gluten, but I suspect something similar is happening as the yeast acts on potato starch, resulting in that ‘chewy’ mouth feel.

And there’s more…

Same as raw cookie dough?

Same health warning, different reasons…

Healthline.com warns that eating raw activated baking yeast is inherently dangerous: “Consuming raw yeast is generally discouraged, as it can lead to bloating, cramps, constipation, or diarrhea. It may also increase the risk of fungal infections, especially in people who are critically ill or have a compromised immune system.”

This is probably a good time to point out that bread and beer yeasts are completely different products than nutritional yeast. Healthline explains: “This inactive [nutritonal] yeast culture can be used to add a savory, cheesy, or nutty flavor to foods. Nutritional yeast is deactivated during manufacturing and often fortified with additional vitamins and minerals.”

My take

I have to wonder if @NYTcooking is really affiliated with, or even sanctioned by The New York Times. They use the NYT Logo on their Instagram page. But not in the same manner that the real Times does. The newspaper has a top reputation for accuracy, balance and fairness. And the highest moral and ethical standards. @NYTcooking, not so much.

On a pragmatic level…

I don’t want my potatoes to taste earthy or tangy, thank you very much. And I know from experience that if you use the right kind of potatoes and prepare them properly, you’ll get lovely, fluffy mashed potatoes without the fuss and hazards associated with yeast.

The bottom line?

Just don’t bother with Yeasted Mashed Potatoes. They’re nothing more than a silly foodie’s novelty. And they could be hazardous to your health…

~ Maggie J.

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