The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

October 1, 2008

Amish Friendship Bread: Skipping the Ziploc bag.

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.)
3 eggs
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.

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11 years ago

yes i often freeze my starter if i don’t have friends who want one or just am not ready to start again usualy though i will pull my bag or bowel out in the evening and start my first day the next morning after it has had plenty of time to thaw and get back to room temp idk if this makes a differance but it what i always do

12 years ago

I agree about the plastic, the first time I had this starter it was in a tub. now I recieved it in a ziplock. thank you to all who knew a little more than I. I have some bread in the oven. my husband loves the choc. bread.. now I donot have to buy it.

12 years ago

In answer to why you shouldn’t use metal utensils or bowls: According to my husband who has his bachelor’s degree in Biology, the metal can “kill” the yeast in a sourdough-type starter. I didn’t care to know anymore than that. My mother used to make this bread quite a bit when I was young, and 30 years later I get a starter from one of my co-workers. To adjust the amount of starters you end up giving out, adjust the recipe up or down by 1/2 cup increments on the flour, milk and sugar for the day 10 additions before you mix and dole out new starters. For example, if you want to keep one and give out 4 starters, you would add 2 cups of each. If you just want to keep one for yourself, just add a 1/2 cup each.
I have successfully frozen starter and used it. If you are truly worried about the metal on the lid of the jar interfering with the starter, use a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper and place it on top of the jar, then screw down the lid. That should keep the starter from touching the metal of the lid. I’d much rather have a lovely crock to keep my starter in than the plastic baggie I got it in, and I’m glad to see other people are doing something like that.

13 years ago

Last month I found myself at work, saying “Thankyou” to a co-worker who had handed me a ziplock bag of goop, and a recipe sheet. So I followed all directions until it came to the last group. I do not care too much for cinnamon, so after a bit of thought I decided to change out a few things. I left out the cinnamon, kept all else the same, but added a tsp. of Almond flavoring, and 1/3 cup poppyseeds. (Almond Poppyseed muffins seem to have gone extinct in my area and I miss them). Instead of a loaf pan or sheet pan, I used cupcake papers and muffin tins and OH MY . . . 35 muffins later I was done. It only took 25 min to bake two tins full at a time. They were wonderful!
Warning though. The papers seem to leech oil out of the little flat-topped muffins, by day 2. Next time I will not use the papers, and will dust each with either flour or sugar, I have yet to decide. I was not sure how changing things would turn out, but I always figure, “Nothing ventured – nothing gained”. Outside of work, I have no friends to give it to, and work is flooded with starters from my co-worker. So as sad and hard as it seems … you can just Throw-away the extra batters, and keep just the one cup for yourself. Its a simple easy solution. I was very glad to see posted here that keeping it frozen is possible, and that I can use something besides the plastic container. My husband is the cook and kitchen keeper in the family and that plastic bag has been giving him “fits”. He likes his counters the way he likes his counters, without that bag!
A last coment: I actually took the time to measure the remaining amount that is left after taking out the “give aways” It came to almost exactly 1-3/4 cups of the starter.
Thank you for having this wonderful site. It answered every question I had about using and storing the starter.

13 years ago

hey! thanks everyone for all your information!! It really helped me understand the process. I recieved a AFB from a lady at work, with no real understanding of it (other than the instructions). Also, she gave it to me on like day 7….judging by what you all have said…I’m just going to act like today is my day 2 (got the starter yesterday). Also, she gave me a little sample of her baked AFB along w/ the starter, so I knew what I was making (I thought that was a good idea, seems I had never even heard of it before!). YUM, it was awesome! Can’t wait to bake mine!! :)

13 years ago

im really confused with whether to refrigerate it or not thru the 10 days. some people do and some dont. i think the yeast needs the room temp to ferment and grow but it seems bad to not keep it in the refrigerator for so long. ive made the bread once after having kept it in the fridge. it didnt raise much but tasted good. im wondering if thats because i did not keep it at romm temp?

Beth Terry
13 years ago
Reply to  gail

Hi Gail. You do need to keep it warmer. And you don’t need to worry about it going “bad.” You want the bacteria to grow. They are good bacteria. If you refrigerate them, they won’t grow and your bread won’t really rise the way it should. Cooling the batter is a way to slow down the process.

14 years ago

On day ten, instead of adding 1.5 cups of milk, sugar, and flour, add only 3/8 cups of each. Do not measure out three one cup amounts for other bags. Continue the recipe as stated and voila! You have made the bread without extra starter.

I use up the extra bags this way and when I get down to one bag I then make the extra starters and freeze them until I am ready to use them.

14 years ago

I just baked my FB and yumm..I had this in the 70's and we would keep in a large mayo jar in the fridge for use anytime. I believe we had to feed it every so many days, or if we took out a cup we had to add a cup of flour?
Anyways, I love this blog and wanted to share what I baked.
I used the cinnamon but reduced it in half, and also diced up 2 medium apples. It is so good! but next time I think I'll reduce the sugar, and also I'm going to try. Instead of all the oil, use half oil and half apple sauce.
In the oven now I have added 3 mashed bananas and reduced the sugar, and added brown sugar mixed with butter on top like a struesel topping… hoping it is as good as the other :)
I'm also wanting a recipe for more of a sandwich bread if anyone has it.

14 years ago

I have another use for the starter. We have been taking two of the extra cups after baking, and on day 3 I use them in a standard sourdough recipe that comes from Bread Alone. It comes out a tiny bit sweeter than regular sourdough bread (because the starter has sugar in it) but it makes awesome sandwich bread.

14 years ago

The last time that I made the bread I used brown sugar and cinnamon for the topping and swirled it into the batter so that when it was done the mixture was swirled through the bread instead of the crusty top that falls off when you slice it!

14 years ago

Ali, in response to your question about baking wih the starter early- I think that would be fine, since the 10 days “needed” are really just there to feed/grow the starter into a bigger quantity- if you use it earlier, you will just have less of a quantity of starter in your batch- it shouldn’t affect the composition of the starter. I’d just measure out what you need for your recipe and let the remaining starter keep growing for next time.

14 years ago

Also, in response to the plastic bag, when I first did this in the 80’s, I got my first starter in a butter tub. I know it is still plastic, but at least it is re-using!

14 years ago

It is a very forgiving recipe. A day early or late wont matter. I have done it both ways with no problem. With most of our busy schedules this is one thing that wont blow up on us if we don’t get to it on time. Just don’t forget to kneed the bag.

14 years ago

I see that many of you have miscounted the days and baked it LATE and given out the starter late- however, has anyone done it in reverse? I have 2 starters which after I use, will yield 8 starters to give out. I am seeing about 15 women on the day 9. Can I do it one day early (so I have more of a chance to give out my starters)?

14 years ago

Someone had a comment about the undesirability of using pudding mix in the amish bread. I tried an interesting substitute, 1/2 cup of “bob’s red mill” stone ground garbanzo bean flour. this adds a nice texture and better nutrition. I also substituted 1 cup of rye flour for 1 cup of white, and added raisins and pecans. I baked it 1 hr and 8 min. at 325 and it was over done so I’m going to shorten the time. I’m also going to go for the jar instead of the plastic bag! Thanks, Karen

Grandmother Witch
14 years ago

I am so happy I found this, because frankly I was concerned as well with the plastic issue. The first time I received the starter was twenty years ago, and it came in a glass jar. I was surprised to receive it recently in the plastic bag.

14 years ago

Here are some other variations, of course you need starter for all of them. ENJOY!


2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup vegetable oil, butter, or Crisco
1 rounded cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown or white sugar
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon buttermilk powder (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Myer’s rum or banana liqueur
1/2 cup Amish Friendship Starter
1/2 cup chopped pecans, walnuts, or macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine all ingredients. Turn out into a well greased and floured bread loaf pan, flattening the center slightly.
When a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean (about 50 minutes later) remove from oven. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and run a butter knife along side of pan to free cake. Remove from pan and spread butter on the top of cake, if desired.

“Chocolate Covered Cherries”
Another version of the Amish Friendship Cake, (Bread – AW). It’s great for people who always wanted to make the candy version, but couldn’t pull it off.
You use Cherry Jell-O instead of Pudding Mix. You use Maraschino Cherry Juice instead of Vanilla Extract. You add 1/2 cup Maraschino Cherries and 1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips. I don’t use nuts for this one.
I like to make this as a Bundt Cake topped with chocolate glaze and garnished with maraschino cherries on the top. For Glaze (I never measure when I make glaze, I’m estimating here): about 1 tbsp cocoa powder, 1 or 2 cup confectioner’s sugar, 1-2 Tbs. maraschino cherry juice and milk (as needed for consistency).

Amish Sourdough Bread

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp salt
1 – 1/2 cups warm water
1 cup Amish batter
6 cups bread flour

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Oil bottom & sides of large bowl & put bread dough in. Let stand overnight at room temperature. In morning, punch dough down 4-5 times and divide into 3 equal balls. Kneed each ball 8-10 times and put into 3 greased and floured loaf pans. Brush tops with oil and cover with oiled foil. Let stand 4-5 hours or all day. (If dough has not risen well, put small pan of water on bottom rack in oven, heat to 200 degrees, turn off oven. Put dough on top rack for 1-2 hours.) Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. (Cover with foil after lightly browned.)

14 years ago

Hi, I loved reading all the posts. I have a question I didn’t see addressed and would like a response. I am baking my second round of AFB. I was 2 or 3 days late in baking it. The trouble I’m having is that the bread is falling in the middle as it cools. I baked it at 350 degrees for 1 hour. I also tried baking it at 325 for an hour and 20-30 min. Am I doing something wrong?
Thanks for your help.

14 years ago

Heres a link with lots of recipe variations, enjoy!

14 years ago

I was so glad to run across your blog in my web search for more precise directions. I had been given some starter over 20 years ago, and then again this week. I couldn’t remember if you left the stuff out on the counter since mine was given to me straight out of someone’s freezer. The directions given with the starter didn’t say anything about leaving it out of the fridge. Your blog was the clearest in letting me know, yes! leave it sitting on the counter. In the process of finding your blog, I ran across MANY recipes and variations using the Amish Starter… I didn’t have all this 20 years ago and I’m pumped about getting my batch. Another thing… 20 years ago I didn’t use a ziploc bag, I had mine in a old fashioned glass jar with a hinged lid. My kids thought shaking the jar was so much fun. I’m going to start saving jars to pass along to friends.

Jenna and Jeff
14 years ago

Great website! I had so many questions about the bread and I found all the answers!

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Hi Chris. As far as I know, starter never goes bad. Fermenting is a bacterial action. As long as you follow the directions, you can have starter that lasts for years and years. That’s the fun of it.

14 years ago

My question is…When you divide the parts to give to friends, how long/many times can it be devided before it really goes bad? Or does it ever go bad? For example, my friend gave it to me and said…im on day 7 all you have to do is follow the directions from there…I was fine with it and all, but I started to think…HOW MANY TIMES HAS THIS BAG BEEN PART OF A STARTER? (firmenting is normal…pppuuuuu) Either way, I will follow thru with it just cuz I read everyones post on HOW GOOD IT IS. I just want to know for myself.
My hubby and uncle both said…if nothing else, you can make it and feed it to the birds…I laughed and said, “yeah, it is winter and the bird are hungry too.” LOL
Thanks, Chris

14 years ago

Freezing the starter works just fine. We’ve done it quite a few times and cannot tell the difference. Day one is the day you take it out of the freezer. Does anyone know why the starter isn’t supposed to come into contact with anything metal?

Cindy in Rialto

Beth Terry
15 years ago

Hi Shandy. It’s fine to bake it in a metal pan. That’s what I used.

15 years ago

Does anyone know if I can bake the bread in a METAL pan, or will that ruin it…I’ve been looking on the internet and I can only find mention of not using metal bowls or spoons…


15 years ago

Hi- I came across this entry when I googled Amish Friendship Bread. As far as the question as to what to do with the starters you inevitably can’t figure out who else would want one, I just made an extra couple cakes. lists a lot of friendship bread recipe variations and they require 1 c. of starter- perfect if you aren’t sure of who else wants another starter- you end up with more bread or muffins and I don’t know anytime that’s been too bad of a thing :)

Beth Terry
15 years ago

Hi Vic. I too received a recipe that included pudding mix. I try not to use pudding mixes, opting for ingredients I can purchase from bulk bins using my own containers to avoid packaging waste. Also, who knows what chemicals are in pudding mix these days.

Thanks for stopping by! It’s nice to get back the original way things were done before the “convenience” of plastic packaging.

15 years ago

I am so glad I googled this today. I received a starter a few months w/a copy of the recipe and was shocked to see how much the recipe had changed from when I first received a starter close to 20 years ago and hadn’t made it in about 10 years. I had to go online and see if there were some simpler recipes. New recipes include a packet of pudding mix (more sugar than necessary), extra sugar, brown sugar and chocolate chips. I also received the ziploc bag; in the past I received a jar. And the metal utensil/bowl thing is a surprise. I used a metal bowl the last time (covered with another bowl upside down) and there was no difference in taste between that and the plastic or ceramics. I don’t know how safe the metal is, that’s what I used to do, but I now use a cermic bowl (I poured the mix out of the ziploc as soon as I got it home).

I have made dozens of loaves and have answers to many of the questions asked, mainly because I have many allergies and have had to recently alter the recipe.

Yes, you can use soy (I’m lactose intolerant too) and lactose free milk (since I’ve found out I’m allergic to soy too). Applesauce works too to break up some of the sugar and gives it a very “fall” flavor. I’ve also added nuts, pecans and walnuts work best. I’ve miscounted and it comes out fine. Frozen batter is OK too. Wheat flour works out just lovely and truly makes it taste more like a bread and is excellent warm w/butter, preserves, or apple butter on it.

Thank you for such an inspiring website!!


Beth Terry
15 years ago

Hi Anonymous. The sugar is “food” for the yeast. You could probably omit the last bit of sugar from the part that you are using to make your bread, but you do need to keep feeding sugar to the starter to grow the yeast.

Fruit is not required. None of the “variations” ingredients are required. That’s why they are under “variations.” They are just options.

But also, please note that this “bread” is more like cake. You’re not going to get the kind of bread we normally think of for sandwiches, although I don’t know why you couldn’t eat it with tuna. It would just be an interesting experience.

15 years ago

I just found the answer to my question, and operating on the principal that if one person is confused there will be others, I’m posting it here.

This recipe begins with a sourdough starter, and uses that for bread bread, and also for the cake bread which is what the Amish Friendship Bread really is.

Both starters were developed by a flour milling company. King somebody.

I’m going to try this for both starters:

15 years ago


Do I have to use all that sugar and the fruit?

I’d just like bread that I can use for tuna sandwiches. And the like.

I also do not understand why, if it’s a yeast starter, soda and baking powder are used.

15 years ago

I have miscounted the days or just didn’t have time to make the bread on day 10 and it has come out fine.

15 years ago

Anita, I don’t think it matters if you miscount the days. This recipe seems to be pretty forgiving.

If you don’t have any friends to give starter to on day 10, you can use it to make more bread. Just dip out a cup of starter for yourself and then use the rest and double the recipe to make 4 loaves of bread. You can freeze the extra loaves.

15 years ago

I would like to know if you miscount the days, will it make a difference?
I added the sugar, flour and milk on day seven instead of day six, thinking I was doing it on the right day. Does anyone know the answer?

15 years ago

I have never even heard of a starter in a bag. I’ve always seen/made them in class jars…usually old jelly jars. Makes for a much nicer presentation to your friends than a bag o’ goo. You could even put a little ribbon around it and be extra fancy.

15 years ago

Doesn’t this bread ROCK?! I am glad you showed me that I can use glass instead of plastic next time I get this treasure. Good day!

heather t
15 years ago

If you want to make it REALLY yummy, “dust” the sides of your baking pan with a cinnamon/sugar mix instead of flour. That’s the recipe I was given. I haven’t made it in probably over a year, and my kids still ask for it.

15 years ago

How can anyone give me the exact measurement to cut the recipe down till I just have one start left each time?
Thank you in advance

15 years ago

Just wondering if you had heard about Maggies Pure Land?
I’m just wondering if anyone knows how well it works. I read about it on Allie’s website.


15 years ago

I admired the photo of your Amish Friendship Bread, and beautiful Arya, and now publicly acknowledge my strength of character in saying “no” to your offer of starter. I’ve had A F B before and really, really liked it, way too much. After seeing your loaf with its crunchy-looking top and the added goodies inside, I know that if I had starter, I’d go make an AFB right now, whether or not the starter was ready, and eat the entire thing in less than 45 mins.

I was introduced to AFB in the ’70’s, when people stored it in a Best Foods Mayonnaise jar with a metal lid.

15 years ago

can anyone tell me, can you sub rice milk or soy milk for milk for those with a lactose problem?

Also, can you omit the sugar and use applesause or brown rice syrup instead? If so, how much would you reduce the oil? Do you think it would taste terrible?

I have a diabetic lactose intolerant son so I alter recipes.

15 years ago

My mother made Amish Frinedship Bread almost every 10 days for most of childhood–this really brought back memories. She never used a ziplock bag either. She had a pretty terra cotta container with a lid (which I can picture now sitting on the counter in the kitchen). It just goes to show how ‘plastic convenience’ wins out for most people. Of course the Amish didn’t use plastic bags and how friendly is really to give a ziplock to a plastic reductionist friend! Way to make this Friendship bread more friendly.

Lisa Sharp
15 years ago

My mom used to have a sourdough starter and she kept it in a glass jar.

Anarres Natural Health
15 years ago

Yay, Beth, for ditching the ziplock.

It can’t be good to keep live, wet food in plastic! My German and Dutch friends keep sourdough starter in terra cotta or ceramic pots. Glass jars are the perfect solution for local giving ~ I’m feeling anti mail lately.

15 years ago

You can also “feed” it less on the 10th day and not have so much starter. I cut it down to 1/4 the recommended amount and have enough for the batch I’m baking and one starter for next time. I use a glass Pyrex baking dish with a glass lid. Also if you do an Internet search you can find a lot of other recipes that use the same starter. I use a “Herman bread” recipe to make a regular sourdough bread with the starter. I have some starter frozen for when the weather turns cooler. So I do not yet have proof that it works after freezing.


ruchi aka arduous
15 years ago

Dude, now my stomach is growling. Thanks a lot Beth. :)