Hi, I'm new to this site and in fact it's my first time to join any website forum at all. I used to work for IBM over ten years ago but hafter that it was pretty much like living under a rock as far as internet exposure. So I just figured out today that this is where one gets started. Sorry about that.
About food grade lye:
Alot of Asian recipes for steamed buns or rice cakes or I think even steamed dumpling wraps have food lye as one of the ingredients so my guess is that an Asian specialty grocery will carry it. If I'm not mistaken, it is also sometimes called ALUM. I bought a bottle many many years ago as a teenager trying out a recipe for sticky rice cakes and two weeks ago I stumbled on it as an ingredient for doughnuts, Chinese stye. My aunt bought me a bottle from Chinatown and while our doughnuts didn't rise correctly (we didn't have baker's ammonia - another story all together), we put in the alum into the mix (very little - 1/4tsp for 5 cups flour). Oh, yesterday she found baker's ammonia so we'll try out the doughnuts next week.
About my sweet yeast starter - please help!
Please help me out with my starter. I tried to make one three weeks ago using instant yeast, warm water, room temp whole milk and all purpose flour. I let this stand uncovered in a glass preserving bottle for 24 hours before refrigerating it for 48 hours. At that point it was alive, looked good (very thick) and had a good aroma. Then i took the bottle out of the fridge and began feeding the starter with a mixture of warm water, sugar and instant potatoes. Then there was lots of yeast activity and after three hours I had to transfer the starter into a gallon sized cookie jar (glass) but by then it was midnight and I was worried that the starter would run all over the kitchen counter overnight so I put the whole thing in the fridge and covered the mouth of the jar with cling wrap. The next day the starter looked spoiled - it had separated with a liquid settling at the bottom of the jar and it had a very sour smell and it no longer seemed to be alive. I'd really like to try making it again and would like to ask what you think went wrong. I'm inclined to put the starter in an airconditioned room the entire time it's feeding to control the yeast activity. Room temp where i live is low to high 90s. I got this recipe from Shirley Corriher's Cookwise.