Starting Out with a Starter (Amish Friendship Bread)


Every year around Christmas, we got together with Nicole, her husband, her kids, and her mother. Nicole watched our daughters when they were small, and they were later flower girls at her wedding. We looked forward to celebrating with them and (especially) receiving a loaf of friendship bread from Nicole’s mom, who made dozens to hand out at the holidays.

The loaf was always gone within a few hours of opening it—spicy, sugary, unlike any other sweet bread I’d had. I looked up the recipe in hopes of not having to wait a year, but when I saw it involved a starter, I put it on the back burner. With two small children and a full-time job, it seemed like too much of a project.

With the girls grown up and a long Vermont winter ahead, I decided to revisit the idea, using a recipe sent to me by a guest (Hi, Eric!). It turns out the starter requires only a minute or so a day, and the results are fantastic. Our guests love it, and I think of Nicole and her mom every time I make it.

Here’s the starter recipe I used:

1 (0.25 ounce) package active dry yeast (I use SAF Red instant yeast from King Arthur)
¼ cup warm water (110° F)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup milk

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let stand 10 minutes. In a 2-quart glass, plastic or ceramic container, combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Whisk thoroughly. Slowly whisk in 1 cup milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until bubbly. Consider this Day 1 of the 10-day cycle.

Day 1: Do nothing.
Day 2: Stir the mixture.
Day 3: Stir the mixture.
Day 4: Stir the mixture.
Day 5: Stir the mixture.
Day 6: Add to the bowl: 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk. Stir to combine.
Day 7: Stir the mixture.
Day 8: Stir the mixture.
Day 9: Stir the mixture.
Day 10: Follow the directions below:

  1. Add 1½ cup flour, 1½ cup sugar, 1½ cup milk.
  2. Measure out equal portions of 1 cup each into 1-gallon Ziploc bags or plastic containers.
  3. Keep one portion for making bread that day. Freeze some starter for baking later and, if you wish, give a bag of starter to some friends along with the recipe. I ended up with six cups of starter.

Here’s the bread recipe:

1 cup Amish Friendship Bread Starter
3 eggs
1 cup oil
½ cup milk
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
1 small box vanilla instant pudding
½ cup sugar plus ½ teaspoon cinnamon for dusting

Preheat oven to 325° F. In a large mixing bowl, add ingredients as listed.

Grease two large loaf pans. Dust the greased pans with a mixture of ½ cup sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon.

Pour the batter evenly into loaf or cake pans and sprinkle the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture on the top. Bake for one hour or until the bread loosens evenly from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.