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Amish Friendship Bread

amish_friendship_breadThis week for the Spin Cycle, Jen has tasked us with Holiday Baking.

I don’t bake and make candy for the holidays like I used to in the days when I couldn’t afford to buy “real” gifts (funny, but the gifts people seem to remember the most were those homemade ones).  These days the only time I really do any cooking or baking for the holidays is when we have the annual holiday party for our employees, which we host in our home (and I hope they’ll be able to ignore the fact that I didn’t have the carpets cleaned before this year’s gala…’cause it’s a mess).

However, I have enough holiday recipes that it took me awhile to decide what I’d post.  I have an absolute kick-ass fruitcake recipe, but it needs to age for at least six weeks (it’s routinely doused in Southern Comfort while it ages – you glow in the dark when you eat a piece), so I figured it was kind of late for that.  I thought about my pumpkin bread, but then again most people have a great pumpkin bread recipe, even if it isn’t baked in a coffee can.  I posted my peanut butter fudge recipe last year and didn’t want to recycle it, and everyone makes cookies.  Then it occurred to me:

Amish Friendship Bread.

If you’ve never heard of this, you’re in for a treat.  The version I make is not a yeasty-type bread that you’d run out and make a ham sandwich with, it’s more of a sweet quick bread.  (Actually, if you want my opinion, it’s really a cake.)  It is delicious:  sweet and cinnamony with a wonderfully moist crumb.

I also have to warn you, if you’ve never heard of this, you’re going to start off loving me – it is damned good – and then probably end up hating me.  Why?  Well, one of the great things about Amish Friendship Bread is that not only can you give the baked goods to friends and family, but also a “starter” of the batter that will multiply for them to use, not only to bake this marvelous bread/cake, but also leave them with lots of starter to give to their friends, and so on and so on.

It’s like a happy little chain letter you bake in the oven.

The problem is, while your family will ask for this lovely dessert/quick bread/coffee cake on a regular basis (and if you keep up your starter, you’ll be able to make it on a regular basis), you’re going to sooner or later (and it will probably be sooner) run out of people to give the starter to.  Which has always been my problem – I end up with starter for the bread running out of my ears, and eventually just pour it all down the drain.

HOWEVER, before I go on to the recipe, which includes the recipe for the starter, the instructions for tending the starter and giving it away, and the recipe for the final product, let me just say that I LOVE the internet because I have found instructions on how to tend just enough starter for personal use – no giving it away when your friends and family start to avoid you because they are drowning in vats of their own starter.

So, without further ado, Amish Friendship Bread.  CLICK HERE FOR INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO MAINTAIN THE STARTER FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY.

NOTE: Do NOT use metal bowls or spoons.  Mix the starter/batter in a glass bowl and stir only with a wood/silicone spoon or spatula.  Also, do not refrigerate the starter.  Yes, it is perfectly safe.

Amish Friendship Bread

makes 2 standard loaves or 1 Bundt pan cake, 2 cups of starter to give to friends and one cup to use for the next batch

1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water – about 110° F

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup white sugar

1 cup warm milk – about 110° F

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a small bowl and set aside for 5 minutes.  In a medium glass mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and flour.  Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly to keep the mixture smooth; add the yeast/water and stir until well combined.

Pour the mixture into a gallon zip-lock bag; seal and leave it.  This is Day 1.  (When giving the starter and instructions to friends, make note that they do nothing with the bag on Day 1.)

Don’t be alarmed if the mixture bubbles after it’s been sitting on the counter for awhile; it’s supposed to.

Day 2:  Mush the bag briefly with your hands.  Walk away and forget about it.

Day 3:  Mush the bag briefly with your hands.  Walk away and forget about it.

Day 4:  Mush the bag briefly with your hands.  Walk away and forget about it.

Day 5:  Add a cup of flour, a cup of sugar and a cup of milk to the bag.  Seal; mush with your hands until well mixed.  Walk away and forget about it.

Day 6:  Mush the bag briefly with your hands.  Walk away and forget about it.

Day 7:  Mush the bag briefly with your hands.  Walk away and forget about it.

Day 8:  Mush the bag briefly with your hands.  Walk away and forget about it.

Day 9:  Mush the bag briefly with your hands.  Walk away and forget about it.

Day 10:  Add a cup of flour, a cup of sugar and a cup of milk to the bag.  Seal; mush with your hands until well mixed.

You should now have 4 cups of starter; place 1 cup each into three 1 gallon zip-lock bags; seal and set aside – you will give two to friends, and keep the other for your next batch.  Use the fourth cup for the bread you’ll make that day.

NOTE: When you give away the starter, make sure to include the instructions for tending the starter and baking the bread.

Amish Friendship bread

2 cups all-purpose flour

1(6-serving size) package instant vanilla pudding mix

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sugar

1 cup starter

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup milk

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sugar combined with 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, divided

Preheat the oven to 350° F; grease two standard sized loaf pans or a 10-cup Bundt pan.  Dust the inside of the pan(s) with about half of the sugar/cinnamon mixture; set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, pudding mix, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda; set aside.

In a large glass or ceramic mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients (except for the sugar/cinnamon mixture), mixing well. Stir in the flour mixture, mixing only until just combined; do not over-mix. Pour into the pan(s) and sprinkle with the remaining sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes (the Bundt pan may take longer) or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack; cool completely before slicing.





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