A couple of weeks ago Gastronomike and I were given a starter for “Amish Friendship Bread” from another graduate student we know. It’s a yeasty, runny, milk-flour-sugar mixture that you feed for 10 days, at which time you’ll have enough starter for 5 loaves of bread. On the 10th day you’re supposed to: measure off 1 unit of starter to keep as your own starter; measure off 1 unit of starter to bake a loaf of bread for yourself; measure off 3 units of starter to give to 3 friends, so they can enjoy the pleasures of home-baked bread. Mike and I are apparently not friendly people, for today was the 10th day, and we did not measure out a single unit of starter to share with anyone. Instead, we baked up all the units of starter for ourselves and ended up with a veritable cornucopia of delicious breads.

The two darker loaves at the back of the photo are the basic “Amish Friendship Bread” recipe that came with our starter. The smaller biscuits at the upper right are a variation we found on the internet called “Sourdough-style Biscuits” and the bevy of small yellow loaves in the foreground and to the right are all “Amish Corn Bread.”

This was a neat enough experience that Gastronomike and I would like to continue baking bread from our starter. It was ridiculously easy and very satisfying, but we’re going to have to think carefully about how to make this work for us in any sort of long term way. The basic Amish Friendship Bread was extremely good and extremely sweet– it was almost more like cake than bread. Delicious, but not something either of us wants to make every 10 days or eat constantly. The two other modifications we tried– sourdough-style biscuits and cornbread– are more promising as breads to eat regularly in our home, but I’m not quite sure that either one of them is quite right for daily eating, either. I think I’d like to get my hands on a regular sourdough starter (without the MEGA amounts of sugar present in the Amish starter) and attempt some standard crusty breads with that. In the meantime, Gastronomike and I are going to try and cut down the volume of our Amish starter by about half, and plan to bake one small loaf of something every 10-12 days.

Basic Amish Friendship Bread

  • 2 cups starter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 box instant vanilla pudding

Preheat oven to 325. Mix all ingredients until smooth. Grease or oil 2 large loaf pans. Pour batter evenly between the two pans. Bake 1 hour.

In my mind there’s no reason to think that this bread actually has anything to do with the Amish, because the inclusion of a box of instant pudding seems strange for an Amish household.

Sourdough-Style Biscuits

Dry ingredients:

  • 3 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 stick butter

Blend dry ingredients with butter until well cut in.

Add:

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups Amish starter

Knead, roll, and cut biscuits. Place on greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes.

Amish Cornbread

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal

Combine in large bowl. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.

Add:

  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Mix well. Bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes.

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