Amish friendship bread is a special type of baked good because the starter used to make it is passed on from one person to another. It takes a while to make because the yeast or starter has to be prepared. Although it’s unconfirmed that the Amish actually started passing out the starter to friends, it has gained popularity among western folk. The concept is someone makes the starter for the sourdough bread, makes a batch of bread with it, and then passes it on to the next person to repeat the process. It sounds complicated but it can be quite fun.
Here’s how to make the starter for an Amish friendship bread and the sweet bread itself.
- Set aside ten days to do this. It takes a while to make this bread because it takes about ten days to prepare the starter. If you want to give the starter or the bread in time for something, you need to plan ahead of time so you know you have the required ten days to get this done. Also, don’t use a metal pan or metal spoon to mix the ingredients.
- Prepare the starter. You will need a pack of active dry yeast, ¼ cup warm water, and a cup each of flour, sugar and milk. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside. In a separate glass bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Stir in the milk and the yeast in warm water. Cover the mixture with a dishtowel and set aside. Some people choose to transfer the starter to an airtight plastic bag.
- Stir the mixture from day two to four. Once a day, check on your mixture and mix it with a wooden spoon.
- Add more milk and flour. On the fifth day, check on your mixture again, but this time, add one cup each of flour, milk and sugar. Mix well and set aside again.
- Keep mixing the next four days. Once again, check on your mixture once a day for days six, seven, eight and nine. Use a wooden spoon each time and try to remove any excess air in the bag or bowl.
- Divide into four containers. On the tenth day, add one cup each of flour, sugar and milk. However, after you mix it well, get four wooden or glass containers and divide the starter into four bowls. One bowl of starter, you get to keep, while you have three others that you can pass on to your friends.
- Use the starter to make the bread. With the starter you have prepared and set aside for yourself, you can now make your Amish bread. In a large bowl, combine the starter with three eggs, 2/3 cup of oil, one cup sugar, a teaspoon of baking powder and half a teaspoon of baking soda, one teaspoon of cinnamon powder, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, half a teaspoon of salt and two cups of flour. Grease two loaf pans and sprinkle some sugar on the bottom. Divide the batter into the two pans and bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour. Remove from the oven when done.
- Pass on the starter. With the three starters you have made, you can now pack it in plastic, date it and give it to your friends. The day you pack is it day one of the starter making cycle. Include instructions so they will know what to do with it.
The idea of community and camaraderie is obviously practiced with this Amish friendship bread starter and sweet bread. If you would like to start this tradition within your family or with your circle of friends, try it out and see how far it goes.