Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bag O'Friendship

So you arrive at work early, isn't it always early when you have to go to that place? Anyway, A co-worker wags a zippy bag of something yummy and asks, "You want some?" Your coffee could use a companion... your sedentary spread begs to differ. Okay, just a little taste. Yum. Your pal now tells you, "Its Amish Friendship Bread and I'll bring you a bag of starter tomorrow with directions." Easy peasy. I can read and I can actually bake, which means you read all the directions.

Next day a zippy bag of whitish ooze sits politely by your keyboard and you dutifully carry it home and proclaim, "We'll have tasty Amish bread in ten days." Each day you squish or mush the bag, letting out the extra air (this stuff is fermenting away), and finally you get to feed it. Several more days and you're ready to give out several bags of your own mushy stuff and yes, bake it up.

My only problem is that I forget about baking until 10:30 pm. My husband ran out earlier to get the large box of instant vanilla pudding for the recipe. However, I forgot I need both baking powder AND soda. No box in the frig and any baker worth their salt (pun intended) knows you can't skip an ingredient. I'm texting my neighbor anxiously awaiting a reply, I'm cracking eggs, measuring cinnamon, salt, etc. Then, I find myself standing stunned in the kitchen. I was supposed to separate out those pesky "friendship" starter bags! I am not a good friend :(

The instructions basically tell me I'm shit out of luck... the starter is only available from an Amish person. What? Remembering that I live in Texas, I realize that the my chances were rather slim to find an Amish or Mennonite community, particularly after 10:00 pm.

So, what I do know of the Amish (or was it Mennonite) is that they had a farm stand in Homestead Florida. There you could purchase the most delectable, scrumptious strawberry shake. While slurping it down, you could purchase wholesome and amazing breads (dilly, a family fav), pies and veggies. I don't recall seeing anything that resembles Amish Friendship Bread. This particular group migrated from the North for strawberry season. Yes, the men and women were dressed in their plain garb, nearly all had blue eyes and were polite and soft-spoken. I doubt they would give any of their recipes away on a photocopied sheet. Besides, would they really use a box of instant vanilla pudding in any recipe?

So where did this recipe come from and why was I feeling like a bad friend? After dumping the less than friendly bread batter down the sink and cursing in an unAmish fashion, I remembered that I killed a Bag O'Friendship in the past. I am not destined to bake a bag of mush. But my curiosity was peaked and a quick visit to my friend wikipedia revealed, "There is no reason to think that the sweet, cinnamon-flavored bread has any connection to the Amish people although the name is taken from them. According to Elizabeth Coblentz, a member of the Old Order Amish and the author of the syndicated column 'The Amish Cook' true Amish Friendship Bread is "just sourdough bread that is passed around to the sick and needy...The instructions distributed with Amish Friendship Bread typically omit instructions on how to prepare starter from scratch, and frequently claim that the recipe is a secret "known only to the Amish".

Now I feel better. None of my friends are sick or needy at the moment. I guess its an omen and I'm off the hook.

BTW: Here is a recipe for a starter that I found on the Internet. And I thought the Amish did not embrace technology.

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C) 3 cups all-purpose flour, divided 3 cups white sugar, divided 3 cups milk


In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let stand 10 minutes. In a 2 quart container glass, plastic or ceramic container, combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or flour will lump when milk is added. Slowly stir in 1 cup milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Cover loosely and let stand until bubbly. Consider this day 1 of the 10 day cycle. Leave loosely covered at room temperature.

On days 2 thru 4; stir starter with a spoon. Day 5; stir in 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Days 6 thru 9; stir only.

Day 10; stir in 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Remove 1 cup to make your first bread, give 2 cups to friends along with this recipe, and your favorite Amish Bread recipe. Store the remaining 1 cup starter in a container in the refrigerator, or begin the 10 day process over again (beginning with step 2).

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  1. The Amish were very hamish about their baked goods. The best were the sticky buns - one box for the car, two boxes for the house, and gone in one day. The Amish were actually aliens in disguise,, from the planet bakeastrudel - outer orbit. Their mission, which they accomplished easily, was to invade our gene pool via the sticky buns. As a result we are all starter bakeastrudels addicted to sugar and getting fatter by the generation. By the way the recipe is authentic - I know because I am a first gemeration bakeastrudlian.

  2. Yummmmm it looks so delicious!!!