With a starter typically passed around the office or given by a friendly neighbor, Amish friendship bread is a sweet batter bread created from a fermented leavener that does not have the same sour flavor as other fermented yeast starters, such as sourdough bread. The bread itself is not actually Amish in origin, and there are a few cheats that can be used in order to start and finish the bread without having to wait for a starter to be given.
Amish friendship bread is named not due to its origins, but for how the starter is passed through a social network. Once given, the starter multiplies and after 10 days should be divided into 6, with one part retained to make bread and the other 5 given away for others to continue the chain. Any non-metal container is used for both the distribution and for storing the starter itself, ranging from plastic bags to glass containers. Once done, the starter is used to create a rich sweet quick-bread that is a cross between white bread and a coffee cake in texture.
While Amish friendship bread is typically made from a starter given by other people, it can also be easily created in a kitchen. Blend a cup of warm water and a cup of flour together and allow it to sit, covered, in a warm place for about a week. Feed it once a day by throwing away half of the mixture and adding more water and flour, until it begins to naturally bubble.
Alternatively, starters are easily bought from specialty food stores or health food stores. They provide the same taste and texture to the finished bread, and are prepared according to food safety regulations, so are often the wiser choice than the starter passed around the lunchroom.
If continually passing around bread starter does not seem like either a desirable or viable option, the starter can be stored either to slow down the fermentation process, requiring less feeding of the starter, or to use at a later date. The starter can either be refrigerated or frozen, depending on how long you want to store it and how often it will be used. For Amish friendship bread starter that is used only for special occasions, portion it and store it in the freezer. If making the bread weekly or biweekly, store the starter in the refrigerator.
Fermented starter is not only for making Amish sweet bread, but can also make a variety of other leavened baked goods as well. Sourdough is created through this method too, though it has a distinctly tangy taste. The starter can also be used all at once to make several loaves of Amish sweet bread. The loaves can be frozen for use at a later date. A variety of flavors work well in the bread itself, from chopped fruit like apples to nuts and raisins. For a tropical flavor, try using bananas, pineapple and coconut mixed into the dough.
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