The bread that keeps on giving

If you’ve ever been given a bag of Amish Friendship Bread starter, then this blog will strike a chord with you. According to Wikipedia, Amish Friendship Bread is a type of bread or cake made from a sourdough starter that is often shared in a manner similar to a chain letter. Ransom note is more like it!

I received my first starter in 2008 and I’m sure some people were cursing my name by the time I stopped circulating the bread a few months later. After a disturbing incident in which my friend Stacy’s Weimaraner Gatsby ate two Ziploc bags filled with starter (and the bags themselves) and a move to Virginia, I kind of let the cycle fizzle out.

The way it works is someone gives you a plastic Ziploc bag filled with one cup of the liquid yeast culture. After five days of letting the starter sit at room temperature, you feed it one cup of sugar, one cup of flour and one cup of milk. Then you let the dough sit out at room temperature for another five days, after which you use one cup of the mixture to bake a loaf of bread using this recipe. (Note down below, I added a few things to the recipe, such as applesauce to replace some oil and a package of vanilla instant pudding mix.) The remainder of the dough is shared in one cup increments with friends along with instructions and the recipe.

For Christmas, I decided to bake some Amish Friendship Bread. I found a starter recipe online. Rather than give the gift that keeps on giving, I decided I would just bake up as many loaves as I could muster from the batch.

The bread is sweet with just the perfect hint of sour to it. I did find the bread to be a little drier than I remembered. I think next time I’ll add more applesauce and some fresh apples to the mixture. Be sure to use plastic or wooden utensils when making this. Do not use metal. I’m not sure why. That’s just what I’ve read.

To make the starter you’ll need:

  • 1 package of active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup of warm water (110 degrees)
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • 1 cup of warm milk (110 degrees)

Dissolve the yeast in warm water in a small bowl for about 10 minutes. Stir well.

In a 2-quart glass bowl or a large Ziploc bag, combine 1 cup of sifted flour and 1 cup of sugar. Be sure to mix thoroughly or the flour will get lumpy when you add the milk.

Slowly stir in the warm milk and dissolved yeast mixture. If you used a bowl, cover with plastic wrap. The mixture will get bubbly. If you use a plastic bag, you don’t have to stir the mixture; you can just mix it around in the bag using your hands.

For the next 10 days, handle the starter according to these directions. Consider this day 1 of the cycle.

  • Day 1 through 4 – stir the starter
  • Day 5  – feed the starter 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of milk
  • Day 6 through 9 – stir the starter
  • Day 10 – If you want to share the starter, fill three Ziploc bags with one cup of the dough each and pass along to friends with a copy of the recipe and instructions.

To bake your loaves, reserve one cup of starter in a large bowl and add the following ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup oil (I used 1/3 cup applesauce and 1/3 cup oil to cut back on the fat. Next time I will increase that to 2/3 cup of applesauce and add fresh apples to add moisture)
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 to 1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 package of instant vanilla pudding mixture (Not part of the original recipe)

Using a fork, beat the mixture by hand until well blended. You can add raisins, nuts or apples.  Grease two loaf pans with butter and sprinkle them with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool for 10 minutes and remove the loaves from the pans.

Since I baked the entire batch of dough, I wound up repeating this process four times, yielding about four large loaves, five medium loaves and about 16 small loaves.

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