I’d never heard of Amish Friendship Bread, apparently the chain letter of baking, before receiving this bag of starter from my co-worker Jo Anne last week. For those of you who are as ignorant as I was, it’s a yeast starter that each person nurtures and “feeds” (adding flour, sugar, and milk on days 6 and 10) for 10 days, then, after quadrupling the original amount, divides it up, making bread with one part and passing the remaining three to friends who will repeat the process (and hopefully not give it right back to you.)
The thing is, the starter recipe that’s been circulating through my office requires that each portion be placed in its own Ziploc bag. Each day, the starter is kneaded through the bag until day 10. But certainly the Amish people (if they are indeed the ones who came up with this recipe… that fact is apparently in doubt according to a few Internet sources) wouldn’t have started out using plastic bags. I decided to find out the truth.
And the truth is that you can use any kind of non-metal container and instead of kneading, stir the starter with a wooden spoon. Great! I accepted the mission and that night, emptied the plastic bag into a glass bowl. Jo Anne has kindly agreed to take back the plastic bag to reuse.
This bowl doesn’t have a lid, so I used a ceramic plate on top to keep it covered, and every day stirred it up. Monday night, I made the bread (which is actually more like a heavy, rich cake) and it rocks. I’ll give my recipe below, which contains almost all ingredients bought from bulk bins without any disposable packaging. And as you can see, the remaining portions are in re-used glass jars instead of plastic bags. The lids are, of course, metal. But I think that’s okay as long as the jars remain upright.
Oh, and one other little cheat: if you can’t find friends to give it to on day 10, don’t worry. Apparently, you can actually refrigerate or even freeze the starter to slow or halt the growth process. Supposedly it will start right up again once the starter thaws out. Anyone else have experience with this?
So, here are the directions as I have adjusted them to eliminate plastic. I have two takers for my starter. I need one more. Anyone else in the SF Bay Area who wants it? Please come take my little yeastie boyz!
Amish Friendship Bread
Check with the person who gives you the starter to find out what day they are giving it to you, if it’s not Day 1. Begin where they left off.
Day 1: Do nothing with the starter.
Days 2-5: Stir with a wooden spoon.
Day 6: Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup milk. (I used whole wheat flour and nonfat milk, simply because those are what I had in the house.) Stir with a wooden spoon.
Days 7-9: Stir with a wooden spoon.
Day 10: Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Stir. Take out 3 cups and place 1 cup each into three separate non-metal containers. Give one cup and a copy of this recipe to three friends.
Making the bread:
To the balance (a little over one cup) of the batter, add the following ingredients and mix well.
2/3 cup oil (Believe it or not, I used olive oil because it was the only kind of oil we had and I didn’t want to go shopping.)
2 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (I did not add cinnamon because I don’t like it that much. I did, however, add granola and chocolate chips. Per note below, you can add pretty much anything you want.)
1 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.
Grease and flour well 2 9″x5″ bread pans. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. (I actually used one bread pan and baked for 55 minutes at a lower temp.)
Variations: Add 1/2 cup of one or more of the following – raisins, chopped apples, crushed pineapple, candied fruit, coconut, chopped dates, nuts or chocolate chips. Add to batter just before baking.
The possibilities are endless. Maybe I’ll keep the remaining batch of starter for myself and make more.