Friday, September 18, 2009

Amish friendship bread

Have you ever heard of Amish friendship bread before??

I hadn't either until I received a starter for it a while back from a lab-mate. The premise is as such: a friend gives you 1 cup of starter in a plastic baggie. Each day for 10 days you mash up the bag, and add flour/sugar/milk on the 5th day to feed the starter. Then on the 10th day you add more flour/sugar/milk and divide up the batter: 4 cups are put into 4 separate bags (enough starter for yourself + 3 special friends) and then the rest gets more flour/sugar/milk/etc and gets baked into bread. Pretty neat idea, huh?

FYI: this isn't a savory type of bread. It's a slightly sweet bread, like a muffin or banana bread. A while back I was eating a ridiculous amount of this bread because at least 4 people in lab had starter and were baking bread every 10 days! Although it was a bit of friendship bread overload it wasn't that bad because each person used different kinds of spices/fruits/nuts every time they baked their bread. So it never really felt like you were eating the same old recipe over and over again.

The great things about this recipe are: (1) It's ridiculously forgiving. You can wait an extra day here and there or add all different types of ingredients to it and it turns out great every time. (2) Having to bake the bread every 10 days really challenges you to come up with new/interesting/delicious flavor combinations. And I think my labmates and I came up with some big time winners.

At the end of this post I'll include the basic recipe with ideas for flavor combinations, along with notes about how you can modify the recipe such that you are left with 1 starter at the end vs. 4 (because it really doesn't take long before you've run out of friends that want your starter).

I made this recipe a bunch of times but I took pictures when I prepared it with one of my favorite flavor combinations: lavender + orange. Yes, lavender, like the flower. I LOVE lavender in my desserts that have just a hint of sweetness to them (creme brulee, biscotti), especially when citrus is involved.

For this recipe I used lavender flowers crushed a bit (buy them at specialty food stores)...

... and my home-made candied orange peel for the citrus.

Let's get started. So here is the starter in the plastic baggie. It's marked with the date so you know when to start the process

Just follow the directions to prepare the basic bread recipe (sans cinnamon). At this point you can add any zest/add-ins/pudding mix/spices/etc for flavoring. I kept mine plain... for now.

Muffin tins, oiled/sugared up and ready to go

Add bread batter in the tins. Then sprinkle 1/4 tsp lavender + a pinch of orange peel per muffin.

All done

I know, it looks like a savory muffin with bacon and oregano. That sounds delicious as well, but these were definitely not savory. The concentrated orange flavor from the candied orange peel with the hint of lavender was soooo freaking amazing.

And just look inside, these muffins come out very light and fluffy with just the right amount of sweetness

If you want to try this yourself, try googling "Amish Friendship Bread starter" so you can make your own starter. Then share it with friends and enjoy!

Recipe, with tips.

Note: You can easily cut down the oil in this recipe if its too much for your taste/waist. On different occasions I've replaced the 1 cup oil with 3/4 cup oil or 1/2 cup oil + 1/2 cup applesauce. I honestly couldn't really tell much of a difference. (But if you're going to add the pudding mix, I'd probably leave the oil as is since the mix tends to yield a drier, denser bread.)

Amish Friendship Bread

• Do not use any type of metal spoon or bowl
• Do not refrigerate the starter
• Allow excess air out of the bag (or you’ll have quite a mess on your hands)
• It is normal for the batter to rise, bubble, and ferment

Day 1: Do nothing (this is the date written on the bag)
Day 2: Mush the bag
Day 3: Mush the bag
Day 4: Mush the bag
Day 5: Mush the bag
Day 6: Add to the bag 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk- then mush the bag
Day 7: Mush the bag
Day 8: Mush the bag
Day 9: Mush the bag
Day 10: Bake the bread following the directions below

1. Pour the entire contents of bag into a large, NON-METAL bowl.
2. Add 1.5 cups flour, 1.5 cups sugar, and 1.5 cups milk
3. Get four 1-gallon Ziploc bags and label with the date. Measure out 1 cup of batter into EACH bag. Note: you will have batter left in the bowl with which you will make your bread (step 5)
4. Keep one bag (starter) for yourself and give the other three bags to friends, along with a copy of the recipe.
5. To the batter in your bowl add:

• 3 eggs
• 1 cup oil
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1 cup suagar
• 2 tsp cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp vanilla
• 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
• 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 2 cups flour
• 1 large box of instant vanilla pudding (1 5.0 oz or two small packages), optional

In separate bowl make a cinnamon-sugar mixture: 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar + 1.5 to 2 tsp cinnamon (to taste)

Grease two loaf pans or 1 loaf pan + 24 muffin tins. Dust the greased loaf pans with half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. (Save the other half for the top of the batter after batter is in loaf pans.)

Pour batter evenly into the two pans. Sprinkle with the remainder of the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Bake for one hour or until toothpick comes out clean (less time for muffins). Cool until bread loosens from the pan easily, about 10-15 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

• Adding the pudding mix will yield a denser, and possibly drier, bread. Feel free to experiment with different flavors of pudding as well.
• If you keep a starter for yourself, you will be baking bread every 10 days.
• If you run out of friends to give the stuff away to, you can keep it going just for yourself by halfing the feedings. That means adding only 1/2 cup flour, sugar and milk each at Day 5 and 3/4 cup flour, sugar and milk each at Day 10 feeding time. Then instead of removing 4 cups of starter on Day 10 you remove only one cup of starter (enough for yourself) and bake the rest (following the directions as-is).
• You can freeze the starter if you want to take a break from the bread breaking. Additionally, you can put the starter in the fridge for a day or two if you’re not able to bake the bread exactly on day 10.

Flavor variations:
These are some variations to the bread people posted in the cooking community I belong to on LiveJournal. Hopefully it’ll give you ideas to have fun and experiment!

• Dried fruits, nuts, and/or chocolate chunks.
• Oils/extracts added to the batter (lemon, orange, almond extract)
• Chocolate pudding mix, dark ghiradelli chunks, and dried apricots.
• Lemon/orange zest or chopped candied citrus peel.
• Crushed lavender flowers (works well with citrus).
• Butterscotch pudding with butterscotch chips and pecans.
• Lemon pudding and poppyseeds.
• I've had good results with vanilla, chocolate, lemon and butterscotch puddings. Banana was OK, but not good enough to abandon my regular banana bread recipe. I wasn't impressed with pistachio or cheesecake; the flavor just wasn't intense enough to come through.


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