Thursday, November 1, 2012

the never-ending gift or With Friends Like These...

Amish Friendship Bread.  It all sounds so nice as your friend slips you a bag of goo and an over-copied sheet of instructions.  "Make sure you get some instant pudding when you shop this week," she says urgently.  You begin to notice the shifty wild eyes as she looks around for her next victim.  She has three more Ziploc bags in her purse.

So here's the truth about AFB, the little secret no one tells you.  It's a sweet sourdough starter. Amish were involved.  You can actually make your own.  After all, someone has to start the cycle!

Original Starter for Amish Friendship Bread (aka Sweet Sourdough Starter)

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk (seeing a trend here?)
1 pkg of active dry yeast
1/4 cup 100F water

Bloom the yeast in the water for 10 minutes in a non-reactive bowl (Glass and ceramic are preferred, stainless steel is verboten), stir in other ingredients, cover and rest in a cool corner of the kitchen.  Glance at it when you remember and give it a stir if you see a watery substance on top.

On day 7 add:

1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar

Stir, cover, rest.

On day 14 add:

1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar

What I have done in a bowl can be done in a well-sealed Ziploc plastic bag.  This is especially fun for small children and should be left in an area of the kitchen they will see and remember to "squish it every day."  Also, the 7 days between adding additional ingredients is not firm.  So long as there are 5 days between, you are fine.  Wing it!  Also, you can reduce the whole white flour extravaganza by using whole wheat or white whole wheat for some of those 1 cup flour add-ins.

After you have run through the initial process, whatever is left of your starter can be kept alive by adding smaller amounts of the feeder ingredients - ie 1/4 cup each milk, sugar, flour - to create the quantity of starter you intend to use. You can also hold the starter in stasis in the refrigerator.  Just be sure to refresh it on the day of use by adding the feeder ingredients.  You can also revisit this starter by freezing a portion of it and feeding it (building it up) after it has been defrosted.

So, now what do you do?  Well, that depends on your friends LOL.  You can put a hefty cup of starter into Ziploc bags and send it on its merry way with a sheet of instructions you can find anywhere on the internet by Googling "Amish Friendship Bread," or you can simply fish out the starter as needed and cook it up yourself.  The online recipes will include that aforementioned box of pudding.  Feel free to find and use that yourself as it is easily located.  I prefer to use the starter to make quick breads, waffles, pancakes and cakes like the following!

Pumpkin Bread

1 cup starter
1/3 cup flavorless oil like canola
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin spice
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup of canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) or cooked and mashed fresh pumpkin
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit (optional)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Grease and sugar (not flour) your baking pan(s).  Fill 2/3 full of batter.  Bake in 325F oven 45 to 90 minutes depending on the size pan you are using.  Mini-loaf pans - check after 30 minutes (four loaves), full size pans could be as long as an hour and a half (1 loaf).

mmmmm, pumpkin bread!

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