Monday, July 12, 2010

Amish Friendship Bread

Or: "How to Lose a Friend in 10 Days." 

Amish Friendship Bread has been around for quite some time, and it's become somewhat of a "love it or hate it" concept.  There several different (but still basically the same) recipes for Amish Friendship Bread floating around, but here's the general idea:

- You're given a baggie or container of yeasty, fermenting "starter" liquid
- The accompanying recipe comes with so many instructions/dire warnings that you begin to doubt whether or not you should be trusted with such a precious and finnicky "gift"
- Over the course of 10 days, you'll mix/mush/stir the liquid
- You "feed" the starter with additional ingredients twice during the 10 days
- At the end of the cycle, you divide up the starter and give portions of it away, keeping some for yourself--both to bake that day and to save to start another round

It's like a nasty little chain letter, and sooner or later you'll run out of friends who are willing to take on your Yeasty Little Beastie.  I've had to turn down accepting a starter twice now, but two weeks ago I was lucky enough to be given a baggie of starter as a "gift."  I couldn't exactly say no, so I kindly accepted and set the baggie on my desk for the rest of the work day.  More than once I peered out of the corner of my eye to spy on that bubbling bag of goo and make sure it didn't explode when I wasn't looking.  I'm not kidding.  This has happened to people.   As the starter ferments, the yeast produces carbon dioxide gas.  The starter bag expands as this happens, so every few days the bag needs to be opened to release some of the (very yeasty smelling) gas.

I'll admit--I was a bit (okay, a LOT bit) grossed out by the starter.  After all, it's a fermenting bag of flour, sugar, and MILK sitting on the counter for 10 days.  And if you take into account the starter you were given was made 10 days before from a starter that was made 10 days before, and so on, and so on...who knows how old that Bag 'o Goo is?  (Try not to think about that.)  It was a little off-putting, to say the least.  But...the concept has been around for ages, with starters being successfuly maintained and passed on for years between friends and family (think: sourdough).  As far as I know, there haven't been any *reported* deaths linked to the consumption of Amish Friendship Bread. 

[In case you're wondering: YES, it's safe.  The yeast consumes the sugar and lactose (milk sugar), producing carbon dioxide and lactic acid, which creates an acidic environment that's unfriendly to unwanted nasties and assorted critters.]

All kidding aside, the end result was pretty good.  Not knock-your-socks-off-this-was-totally-worth-the-ten-day-wait good, but still quite tasty.  It's sweet, moist, cinnamony, and faintly yeasty with the kind of flavor/richness you can't quite put your finger on--from the starter, of course.   Are you brave enough to try it?  I've posted the recipe below, along with a link to a recipe to make the top secret starter that supposedly ONLY the Amish know how to make.  Isn't the Internet a swell thing?

Recipe Notes:
  • I made mine in a Bundt pan because I discovered that my sparingly used loaf pans were rusty.  You could certainly make mini loaves as well. 
  • The recipe makes 2 standard loaves, so that you can give away slices of the finished bread along with the starter.  It does take some convincing for the uninitiated, so letting them sample the finished product goes a long way towards getting your friends to accept a baggie of starter.
  • If you want to maintain your own personal starter (i.e., you don't have any willing takers), you can adjust the recipe to make less starter.  On Days 6 and 10, simply add ½ cup of each ingredient instead of the larger amount called for in the recipe.  When all is said and done, you'll end up with three cups:  2 cups to bake with, and 1 cup to start the next round.
  • If you can't bake the bread on Day 10, stash the whole thing in the fridge to slow the fermentation to a near halt.  Don't refrigerate during your 10-day cycle though, because the yeast needs to be at room temperature to "do its thing."
  • Most Amish Friendship Bread recipes warn against freezing the starter, but I've done it successfully.  Freezing will put the yeast into hibernation, but shouldn't kill them off.  Simply thaw when ready to start the next 10-day cycle.
  • Yeast needs sugar.  Those bad boys eat sugar like no tomorrow, so don't be tempted to swap out the sugar with something crazy like Splenda®.  But...if you insist, then experiment with a 50/50 blend of Splenda® and sugar and go from there.
***If you haven't been given a starter, use THIS recipe to make one before continuing with the bread recipe below.  I've typed it out exactly from the copy I was given, with my notes in Italics.***

Amish Friendship Bread (makes 2 loaves or 1 Bundt)

- Do not use any type of metal spoon or measuring cup (no reason is given, but I presume it's due to the acidic nature of the starter.  You wouldn't want to keep your starter in a metal bowl, for instance)
Do not refrigerate (Don't refrigerate during the 10 day cycle, but you can hold the starter in the fridge if you can't bake on the 10th day)
If any air gets into the bag, let it out (I don't think it's really the air "getting in" as much the air/gas being produced that needs to be let out.  Still, press out as much air as you can before sealing up your zip top baggie)
- It is normal for the batter to rise and ferment

Day 1 - Do nothing.  This is the day you get your bag
Day 2 - Mush the bag (odd choice of verb here...I would've chosen "squish")
Day 3 - Mush the bag
Day 4 - Mush the bag
Day 5 - Mush the bag
Day 6 - Add to the bag: 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1 cup milk**  Mush the bag
Day 7 - Mush the bag
Day 8 - Mush the bag
Day 9 - Mush the bag
Day 10 - Pour entire contents into of bag into a non-metal bowl.  Add: 1½ cups flour, 1½ cups sugar, and 1½ cups milk**  Mix well.

Measure out 4 separate batters of 1 cup & put each into a gallon zip lock bag.  Make copies of the recipe.  Should the bags not be given to a friend on the 1st day, put the date on the zip lock bag.  Keep starter bag for yourself & you will bake every 10 days.  The bread is good & makes a great gift.  Only the Amish know how to make the starter so if you give them all away, you will have to wait until someone gives back to you again.  (not really.)

**If you're not interested in sharing the starter with your friends (how selfish!), add ½ cup of each ingredient on Day 6 and Day 10.

Cooking Instructions:
Preheat oven to 325°F & add the following to the remaining batter in the bowl: (there should be about 2 cups batter)
1 egg
1 cup oil
½ cup milk
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1½ tsp. vanilla
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 cups flour
1 large box of instant vanilla pudding (5.1 oz or 6-serving size box)

Grease 2 large loaf pans.
Mix additional ½ cup sugar and 1½ tsp. cinnamon.
Dust the greased pans with half the mixture.
Pour the batter evenly into pans and sprinkle the remaining sugar/cinnamon mixture on top of batter.  Bake 1 hour.

You don't have to make it all in bread loaf pans.  Follow th same directions & use cupcake pans to make it crunchy all the way around.

Check back soon for more "Friendship" fun...


  1. I've always wanted to make Amish Friendship Bread. Even m aunt who is NOT a baker was given a starter and she did it! I just don't think I have 10 people who would want the bag o goo. ha!

  2. Ohhh Amish friendship bread!! I remember making this back in high school, or was it elementary school. At the time it was exciting and I didn't think anything of a bag of mush on the counter but now it kind of freaks me out haha.

  3. I've heard great things about friendship bread! Thanks for the recipe!

  4. Haha I must say the idea is a bit daunting and my props to you for taking and baking with the starter. The result sounds delicious. I have enough trouble keeping my sourdough starter alive.

  5. I love Amish friendship bread! My stepmom used to make it all the time :)

  6. Sounds so yummy, love the stuff!