Coronavirus: It's not just toilet paper -- this tiny grocery item is nearly impossible to find right now

ByLauren Gee & Alix Martichoux KGO logo
Thursday, April 2, 2020
It's not just toilet paper: This tiny grocery item is nearly impossible to find right now
'Knead' some yeast? Here's how you can get your hands on the tiny grocery that's almost impossible to find during the coronavirus pandemic.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's day 17 of the Bay Area shelter-in-place and I want to bake bread. Maybe you want to bake bread. Well guess what? Everyone wants to make some godforsaken bread.

In recent weeks, wiped out grocery store shelves have become a familiar and eerie sight. In my experience, there's one aisle that's been hit particularly hard: the baking aisle. Grocery store after grocery store, I've found it nearly impossible to find flour. Even more elusive: those little packets of dry yeast. You know, two of the main ingredients for making bread.

And I'm not the only one having trouble finding that little packet of yeasty gold. I've heard stories from around the Bay Area and from friends in Oregon and Washington, too. Flour and yeast have become almost as valuable as toilet paper.

RELATED: 'It's all gone': Fears over coronavirus fuel panic buying at Bay Area stores

But you may not have to give up on your quarantine dreams of perfecting a crusty loaf.

If your grocery store has yet to restock yeast and flour, try turning to your local bakery for ingredients instead.

Tartine in San Francisco is selling half a dozen eggs for $3. Sweet Passion Bakery in the Sunset District is also selling basic baking ingredients like yeast, flour and butter.

Churn Urban Creamery in the Excelsior is selling staple items on their website for contact-less pick-up for items like rice, onions, milk and flour. Unfortunately, they just ran out of yeast too.

Berkeley's Starter Bakery opened an online shop and they're selling pantry items a la carte. They're offering flour, sugar, yeast, butter, rolled oats and even sourdough starter. The shop is also selling care packages filled with pastries for health care workers on the front lines battling COVID-19.

Acme in Berkeley is also selling 5-pound bags of all-purpose and whole wheat flour, though they're still working on how to package yeast for individual sale, since they buy it in such large bulk quantities.

RELATED: Here's how shelter in place, stay at home orders can slow spread of COVID-19

Before heading over crazy-eyed and desperate for ingredients, try calling your local bakery to see if they'll sell you the supplies. Consider buying a few of their pastries while you're at it - chances are, they'll appreciate the business.

Pro-baking tip: You don't even need those instant yeast packets to bake an amazing loaf of bread. A sourdough starter is wild yeast, an alternative for making your bread rise, and it's made of three ingredients: flour, water and patience!

Here's a recipe to make your own starter:

Making a starter takes at least five days and requires regular feedings. The gist is to mix together equal portions of flour and water, the longer the mixture sits, wild yeast and lactic acid are produced and it will create micro-organisms that leaven your bread.


Whole wheat flour

All-purpose flour


Day 1: Combine 1 cup (113 g) of whole wheat flour with 1 cup (113g) of room temperature water in a container that's large enough for your starter to grow (At least 1 quart). Mix together until there's no dry flour. Cover the container and let sit in a warm, room temperature area for 24 hours.

Day 2: You may or may not see bubbles form, it's ok if there aren't any. The bubbles mean wild yeast is blooming. Discard half of the mixture (about 1 cup), then add equal parts all-purpose flour (113g) and lukewarm water (113g). Mix well, cover the container and let sit in a warm (70F) room temperature room for another 24 hours.

Day 3: You may see some bubbles form with a sour scent. If that's the case, it means activity is happening and it's time to start regular feedings. (Now you have a pet to keep you company on this quarantine!)

How to feed: For each feeding, weigh out about 113 g of starter, discard the remainder. Add 113 g water and 113 g of all-purpose flour. Repeat feeding every 12 hours for the next two days.

Day 4: Repeat 'how to feed' steps twice. Weigh out 113 g of starter, discard the remainder. Then add equal parts of water and all-purpose flour, every 12 hours.

Day 5: Repeat 'how to feed' steps twice. Weigh out 113 g of starter, discard the remainder. Then add equal parts of water and all-purpose flour, every 12 hours. By the end of this step, the starter should have doubled in volume and there should be many bubbles with a sour aroma. If the starter hasn't shown much growth or bubbles, continue feeding it.

Once the starter is ready to use in your bread recipe, give it one last feeding. Discard all but 113 g (1 cup) of starter. Feed it as usual and let the starter rest at room temperature before using.

Happy #QuarantineBaking!

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