623: Amish Friendship Bread

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Don’t do it. It’s a trap.

Over the course of my life, I have gotten from several acquaintances a container of Amish Friendship Bread starter. For those of you who have not been so blessed, it is a sourdough (sweetened) fermented dough, used as a leavening agent in a future bread product – in this case, a loaf of Amish Friendship Bread. Whether this has anything to do with the Amish, I haven’t a clue, but it does impose on your friends, hence the Friendship part of the name. See, when you get this container of starter, you have to stir it daily, and feed it in about a week, and stir it daily for another week until it is ready to bake; at which point you feed it again, divide it into three new containers, leaving you with enough starter to bake one recipe loaf of the bread, and one starter for the next loaf (plus three), in another two weeks – after the stir and feed routine. You are supposed to give the three starter containers to three of your friends, who are then obligated to do the same, like a kitchen coffee klatch-style pyramid scheme. I can foresee the stuff taking over the world.

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There is a Facebook post that I have seen several times, and it goes something like this: If you send me a messenger post that tells me to copy and paste, and repost to 10 of my friends (TEN!!!! Like, who has ten friends?): know this, dear post sharer: my inbox is where your messages come to die. I do not repost. I do not share.

I have learned similar lessons about the Amish Friendship Bread. I accept the container of starter, of course – who wants to be labeled a non-friend for refusing? I stir and feed it for the requisite two weeks, and when it is ready for dividing, sharing, and baking, I simply kill all of it by mixing up and baking four loaves of bread at once. Problem solved. No friends involved. I will take the finished loaves of bread to work to share with friends as it does make a tasty coffee cake and such is usually received with delighted gratitude and disappears with alacrity whenever anyone is moved to donate.

Just in case you are intrigued, poor hapless soul who has no IDEA what you are starting: here is the recipe.

To make the starter, in a glass or plastic jar (with a lid) or a gallon zipper plastic bag, mix one cup of milk (any fat level), one cup of sugar and one cup of plain flour. Do not refrigerate it. Stir it (mash the bag) daily for five days. You should see it begin to ferment (bubble) during this process. On day five, feed your starter with one cup each again of milk, sugar, and flour. Stir or mash well.

Day 6-10, stir/mash once daily. On day ten, you are ready to bake your one loaf and abuse/addict your friends. Feed the starter again (1 cup each milk, sugar and flour). By now, you may have to move up up a mixing bowl. Put three cups of the starter into three new containers (1 cup each), and give one container to three of your friends that you don’t care for overly much. They will each think of you repeatedly over the next two weeks, believe me.

You will also have a cup of starter for yourself, to return to your original, cleaned container to start your own feed and stir routine for the next two weeks, on your way to your next loaf (and next three friends, because the first three will delicately avoid you when they see you coming). That will leave you with one measure of starter with which to mix up your long-awaited loaf of Amish Friendship Bread.

To that last measure of starter, add the following:

1 cup oil (vegetable-based, your choice), 1 cup sugar, 3 large eggs, 1/2 cup of milk, 2 cups flour, 5 oz box of instant pudding (any flavor you like), 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Optional: chopped nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, applesauce, craisins, etc. It’s a pretty loose recipe. Mix well.

Grease two loaf pans, and dust them with a sugar/cinnamon mix. It should take a teaspoon of cinnamon to a 1/2 cup of sugar to dust both greased loaf pans. Fill each pan with half of your batter, and bake 45-60 minutes at 325 until done – test with a toothpick in the center. Let them stand 10 minutes in their cooling pans before you loosen and tip them out to completely cool.

Or, forego the three new containers of friendship starter, and mix up four loaves’ worth of bread batter and bake the whole shebang yourself, and spare your friends. It is a pretty tasty coffee loaf, it freezes well, and it’s difficult to screw up the recipe, pretty much regardless of the extra ingredients you add. So, maybe you will want to share the starter for the first few batches – but nobody lasts longer than three months, trust me. Eventually the whole thing will sour on you – and I don’t mean the sourdough starter, either.

If someone ever tries to give you a container of starter – you are now forewarned and forearmed. You are welcome.

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