On Friday I was given a container of Amish Friendship Bread starter.
I have to admit, the gesture is nice. You receive a bag/container of starter and ten days later you return a loaf of the bread to the person who gave you the starter. You also have a loaf or two for you and your family/friends/co-workers. In the end, you are left with enough starter to pass on one cup to a friend and enough to continue baking yourself. It should foster an appreciation for sharing food with friends. This is precisely what we are trying to promote on this blog.
While the idea is really lovely, I just have two small problems. I don’t want to tend to the starter unless I know that I love the resulting bread. Why would I want extra starter if I don’t want to use it myself or if I don’t have someone to pass the starter off to? Furthermore, I don’t really find the recipes for Amish Friendship Bread appealing. I think food should be simple. I don’t mind if a recipe requires time so long as that time pays off in terms of flavour or texture. What I do mind are long lists of ingredients and ingredients that have ingredients, such as the pudding mix. The majority of the recipes call for pudding mix. I don’t even know what is in pudding mix.
It shames me to admit, but the first time a friend gave me a bag of Amish Friendship Bread starter it went into the garbage. I don’t believe in wasting food. But that time I did. So in an attempt to not waste this second batch I decided I needed to simplify both the process and the recipe.
After reading over the instructions, it became apparent that the purpose of pampering the starter for ten days is to increase its volume. That is all. The majority of the recipes call for one cup of the starter. This is exactly the amount that was passed on to me. I really only needed to keep the starter for ten days (feeding it on day 5) if I wanted to have left over starter and more to pass on. So I made the decision to use all of the starter in one recipe. I also needed a birthday cake for my dad so things were going to work out well!
I realised there must be other people out there who want a simplified recipe for their Amish Friendship Bread. And after searching a few blogs, I found that there are plenty of people who are making this bread without pudding mix with varying degrees of success. Many of these people also don’t understand what, if anything, the pudding mix adds. So they have done away with it and have replaced it with mashed banana or apple sauce. Much healthier options!
I decided on the very simple recipe below because I had all of the ingredients in my pantry already.
Really Simple Amish Friendship Bread Recipe (Sans Pudding):
1 cup starter
2/3 cup oil
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla
Tools you need:
– 2 glass, ceramic or plastic bowls
– 1 wooden or plastic spoon/spatula
– 2 loaf pans
– Measuring cups (dry and liquid)
– Measuring spoons
Most recipes advise against using metal tools. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a very scientific explanation. Apparently, metal will inhibit the ability of the yeast to act as a leaven.
- Combine all of the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon) in one bowl. If your bowls are two different sizes it is best to use the smaller bowl for this (see why in step 3). I like to sift my dry ingredients together into a bowl because it is pretty humid where I live and this gets rid of any lumps. I used a metal whisk to fluff up my flour before measuring it. This is generally a good idea if, like me, you buy flour in bulk and it is kept in a container. Over time the flour gets packed down and this can skew the accuracy of your measurements. Weighing your dry ingredients will also work if you can find a recipe with weight measurements and you have a food scale.
- In the other bowl (the larger one, if they are different sizes) combine the wet ingredients (oil, vanilla, eggs and starter). If you can, try to use liquid measuring cups. I must admit, I did not use a liquid measuring cup to measure the starter. I already had the dry 1 cup measuring cup out so I just used that. I used a metal whisk to mix the eggs and oil. Then I used a wooden spoon to mix the starter and the vanilla into egg and oil mixture.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients (which are in the larger bowl, thankfully) and use the wooden spoon to stir.
- At this point you can add any additional flavours you would like. I chose chocolate chips and chopped pecans simply because I had them in my pantry.
- Take a knob of butter and rub it around the inside of both pans and sprinkle in some sugar.
- Pour the batter evenly between the two pans.
- Bake in an oven at 350 degrees Celsius for 40 to 45 minutes.
Things I liked about the recipe:
- It doesn’t call for pudding mix and I had all of the ingredients that it does call for in my pantry. Because this recipe omits the pudding, the sweet flavour imparted by the yeast comes through.
- The recipe is very simple. I used only 1 dry measuring cup (the 1 cup measure), 1 wet measuring cup and one measuring spoon (the ½ teaspoon measure).
Things I didn’t like about the recipe:
- It calls for a lot of white sugar and white flour. For a birthday cake, this is fine. It is a celebration after all. (I think “bread” is a misnomer. With this much sugar and white flour, it really is a cake.)
- The cakes did not rise very much (maybe because I used a metal whisk and metal sieve at points during the preparation?). I think that the majority of the leavening came from the baking powder. I’m glad that I didn’t tend to the starter for ten days for this reason.
Improvements to be made:
- I should probably remember to include the cinnamon next time! It would have added another level to the flavour. Fortunately, the cake tastes fine without it.
- I burned the bottoms of the cakes a little bit. I have to remember that my oven is pretty hot. When I bake I often end up taking things out before the recommended bake time. 35 minutes would probably have been adequate. I am fortunate because my dad happens to like things a little burned. At least that is what he has told me my whole life. If you do accidentally burn the bottoms, don’t sweat it! Just cut the burned bottom crust off.