Monday, September 7, 2009

Amish Friendship Bread

No, this post is not about cake.  No, I'm not going to apologize.

So for those of you not "in the know" about things like this, Amish Friendship Bread is a baking chain-mail phenomenon.  You receive an innocuous-looking bag of "starter" from a friend of yours, with instructions on how to care for it and at the end of 10 days you bake some of it into bread and  it is then your responsibility to distribute starters to your friends so that they can do the same.

If you do not have very many friends who bake, however, this can lead to difficulties unloading extra starters, especially after the 2nd or 3rd go-round (since presumably your friends will be giving you some of their starters once they reach the end of their starter cycle).  This website has a very thorough explanation for the entire process.

That being said, Amish Friendship bread is delicious.  So delicious, in fact, that even knowing I would have no one to give my extra starters to, I went and found a recipe for the starter and began the process myself.  This might have been pure insanity, but I justified it to myself by reasoning that the recipe is so endlessly variable, I can just make lemon Amish Bread and Banana Amish Bread and Ginger Amish Bread and Amish Bread muffins, etc...etc...  I fear I might have been delusional.

Thankfully the starters can be frozen for later use, so I have not committed myself to feeding these things every 5 days ad infinitum while they multiply!

So, on Day 1 of the cycle you receive the 1-cup starter, which looks something like this:

On days 2-5 you stir the mixture (if you keep it in a bag you have to burp it as well).  It is important to avoid using metal containers or utensils when doing this, because they can react with the yeast in the starter.

Day 6 the stuff requires feeding-- 1 cup each of flour, sugar, and milk.

Day 7-9 more stirring (and burping, for you bag people).

Day 10 feed it again, then divide it into containers with 1 cup of starter in each.  You should have 3 "friend" starters and about 1 cup leftover for your own bread.

When you give the starters away, you should include the instructions for how to care for it.

Now it is time to contemplate which variation of the recipe to use.  For this venture, I went with the traditional cinnamon variation and a powdered sugar glaze:

The recipe I had called for a large box of vanilla pudding mix, which I did not have on hand, so I substituted a small box of butterscotch pudding mix and 3/4 of a small box of vanilla pudding mix instead.  The difference in flavor is hardly noticeable, but it is a little bit richer.

I have not yet determined what to do with the rest of the starters.  One starter is still on my counter awaiting its fate, while the others are stashed in the freezer for the time being.  I'll see if anyone at work would be willing to take them.

Otherwise, perhaps I will foist them on friends over the holidays...I read somewhere that they travel fairly well, especially in cold weather.

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