DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Amish Friendship Bread, made with a carefully cultivated starter dough, is light enough to be presented as a cake -- just use a cake pan instead of loaf pans.
Amish Friendship bread
The joy of baking with this tasty starter dough grows with every loaf -- and grows and grows and grows
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Beware of friends bearing gifts delivered with the warning: "You're not going to thank me for this."
Chances are, it's a gift that comes with responsibility. A living thing -- perhaps a puppy. Or a bag of dough.
One of my friends, a normally good-hearted person who often brings me treats, handed me a fated gift bag a few weeks back, with that warning and an explanation.
Inside was a bag of starter dough for something called Amish Friendship Bread. It's a squishy thing that lives and bubbles through that process known as fermentation.
You feed it -- flour, sugar and milk -- and every 10 days it ripens to the point that you can take a smidgen of it and use it as the base for a very tasty cinnamon bread (or cake, or muffins, depending on what kind of pan you use).
The catch is that the remaining starter is now much bigger than when it was gifted upon you. You're supposed give some away, keeping a little for your next batch of bread, 10 days later. (For those concerned about safety, especially since the starter contains milk -- food safety experts say as long as it doesn't get moldy, it's OK).
You can see how this can become an eternal commitment, and how much cinnamon bread can you eat, anyway?
And furthermore, when it's time to bake, you must add eggs, leaveners, more flour, sugar and eggs -- even a box of vanilla pudding. It seems you have a whole cake in there, even without the starter that you so carefully tended. What's the point?
Well, it's the sharing and the novelty. And the bread is truly delicious, much better when baked with the starter than without (I tried). In fact, the trick to giving away starter dough is to include some baked bread. This is what sucked me in.
But now, my friend and I are awash in bags of starter. So here's the offer: The first 12 people to call (529-4777) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) can have a bag. You must pick it up at the Star-Bulletin office in Restaurant Row during weekday office hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) before next Wednesday.
Take my word: It's worth going through the process at least once. And it doesn't have to be a lifelong commitment. You can always throw out your extra starter. I don't think any karmic punishment will result.
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DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
It takes some time to cultivate Amish Friendship Bread from starter to pastry, but the cinnamon bread is worth the wait, and worth sharing with another baker.
If you are given a batch of starter batter, you'll need to care for it for 10 days before you can bake your bread. It will ferment and bubble a little on your countertop -- occasionally you might need to open the top and squeeze out excess air.
Caring for your starter
Keep 1 cup starter in sealable plastic bag. Do not refrigerate.
Day 1 to Day 5: Knead the starter lightly each day while in the bag.
Day 6: Add 1 cup milk, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour; smoosh and squish in bag until mixed
Days 7 to 9: Knead the bag each day
Day 10: Empty bag into a bowl. Add 1 cup milk, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour; stir. Take 3 portions (1 cup each) and put into resealable bags. Give two away and keep one for yourself. Use fourth portion to make your bread.
Starter dough may be ordered online from the Web site www.armchair.com/store/gourmet/am1.html, in sets including a crock for storing.
This starter is adapted to be refrigerated. Sets start from $26.
Friendship Bread Starter
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
3 cups flour, divided
3 cups white sugar, divided
3 cups milk
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 through 4; stir starter with a spoon. On Day 5; stir in 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Days 6 through 9; stir only.
On Day 10; stir in 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Remove 1 cup to make your first bread, keep another cup as the starter for your next batch and give the other 2 cups away.
Once you have your starter and it's been properly aged for 10 days, you can bake!
Amish Friendship Bread
1 cup starter
1 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 large (5-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 large loaf pans or 1 9-by-13-inch cake pan. Combine starter with oil, milk, eggs and vanilla. Stir well.
In separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda and pudding mix. Add to wet mixture, stirring well with wooden spoon. Pour batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle top of batter with more cinnamon and sugar. Bake 1 hour, until toothpick comes out clean.
Nutritional information unavailable.