Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What to do with Friendship Bread Starter

I am going to leave off the "Amish" part of the title, because my understanding is that it had nothing to do with the Amish. Regardless "Friendship Bread" and the starters that are passed along to friends have been around for a long time. This is my third go-round with it, my first being back in the 1980s, when it was called a "Herman" Starter. 

This bread used the addition of 1/2 teaspoon butterscotch flavor and a bag of chocolate covered caramel chips
The second time I worked with this Friendship Bread Starter was about 4 or 5 years ago, when I was visiting my sister Barb, in Tucson. She had a starter going and was making the breads and coffee cakes repeatedly. She has a family with a lot of friends and extended families, and always has someone visiting at meals. Since my only experience prior to this was back in the 1980s, I really had little recollection of what I had done with the Herman starter, so Barb's breads were a revelation. Moist and delicious and with varying flavors as she would switch out the instant pudding flavors and other additions. The basic bread recipe calls for 1 or 2 vanilla instant pudding mixes to be added, along with cinnamon. Barb varied this, at times using Butterscotch instant pudding and nuts, or pistachio instant pudding and adding pistachios. Dates or other dried fruits can be added, and the spice does not always have to be cinnamon (though everyone loves cinnamon).

About a week and a half ago, while  helping out at The Granary, at the Dacotah Prairie Museum's Fall History Festival, someone brought in a few bags of Friendship Bread Starter (FBS, from here on out), with the instructions for feeding and making the bread. It had been a while since last making and working with the FBS, so I took one of the starters and the instructions, eager to come home and see how they compared with Barb's recipes. 

While Barb originally got her recipe online, she made some small adjustments, in order to avoid constantly looking for someone new and unsuspecting whom on to foist a FBS. This is a great way to find all your friends are now unavailable! On Day 10, when adding in the last starter ingredients, prior to dividing the starter into "one cup for bread, one cup to keep and 2 or 3 cups to give away," she added in an extra half cup of the milk, sugar and flour. What Barb did then was use 2 cups of starter per loaf, where most recipes call for only one cup per loaf. She made two bread recipes, using 4 total cups of the starter, making 4 loaves, thereby leaving only 1 cup of starter to begin the cycle again for herself. Freezing the spare loaves was one way to keep the loaves, and the other is to give them away - a much more palatable option than gifting the starter, for most people.

Using pistachio instant pudding + 1 cup of chopped pistachios + 1/4 teaspoon pistachio flavoring

What Else Can I do With my FBS?

All that aside, if you are interested in making the Friendship Bread, or Herman Bread, making the starter at home is simple enough: yeast, flour, sugar and milk. The recipes abound on the internet. I wondered though: 
  1. Can the Starter be made gluten-free?
  2. The breads and coffee cakes are so sweet; is there anything savory possible with this FBS?
Yesterday while visiting at the Dacotah Prairie Museum, I asked Marianne, who is gluten intolerant, if she knew if the FBS could be made gluten free? She had no idea. Okay, I had planned to go online and look anyway. This morning I first went online to search for Herman Bread. While no place I looked seems to equate the Herman starter with the "Amish" FBS, for all intents and purposes, it is the same thing. When I looked up "Herman Bread Starter or Amish Friendship Bread", I came to a site called Friendship Bread Kitchen, exclusively dedicated to all things Friendship Bread related. While perusing the site, comparing Barb's recipes and seeing what differences there were, I found a whole section on making the starter and the breads gluten-free!

I am not gluten intolerant myself, though I know people who are. Marianne at the Dacotah Prairie Museum is one of them, so when baking something to take there, if it is made with anything gluten, she cannot taste it. As a cook and baker, I love so much to give food to people. When someone cannot even try it, I feel bad. When making things to take to the Museum, I try to always keep that in mind and make all or at least some things gluten free where possible. For this reason, I try and keep this concept in mind. I keep a variety of GF flours and all-purpose GF flour blends on hand, just so I can experiment. I know my kitchen is not a totally GF kitchen, so if baking for others this must be kept in mind. A very gluten intolerant person would likely have difficulties with my foods, even though I try to be careful. Thankfully Marianne is not so extreme and can try the things I make.

As to the third part of that question, about making savory foods with FBS, this is also covered on the same site noted above. I want to take the time to peruse the recipes at leisure, but just at a quick glance I found two things I want to try; some Cheesy Dill Rolls and Cornbread. There are others. LOTS of others on that site. Once I begin experimenting, other ideas will come, and that's my plan. 

For now, in an effort to try and lessen the amount of sugar and oil, I used Barb's 1/2 cup applesauce and 1/2 cup oil, rather than a full cup of oil per FB Recipe. The starter itself is terribly sweet already, so I also lessened the full cup of sugar to 3/4 cup, though I believe it might be possible to bring that down to 2/3 cup or even a half cup. I will be experimenting with that also. 

Friendship Bread Starter

1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup milk

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a small bowl. While yeast is activating, whisk together the sugar and flour in a non-metal bowl (glass or plastic). Add in the milk and the yeast and stir together with a wooden or plastic spoon. No metal utensils should touch the starter. Place this mixture into a gallon sized zip top bag and seal it closed. Mark the bag with the date and leave it on the counter at room temperature.

On days 2, 3 and 4, mash the bag around a bit. If the bag becomes very bloated, let the air out and re-seal. 

On day 5, mix together and add to the bag:
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk

Mash the bag around well, then leave it on the counter for days 6, 7, 8 and 9. 

On day 10, pour the mixture into a large glass or plastic bowl. Add in:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk

Stir well, then remove 1 cup of the mixture to a new gallon sized zip top bag, mark with the date, seal and set aside.

Measure out 2 cups of the remaining starter to make Friendship Bread. There should be about 2 cups remaining in the bowl. Use the next 2 cups to make a second batch of Friendship Bread, thereby using the whole amount, or divide the remainder into 2 gallon sized zip top bags and give these away to two others, along with the instructions.

Friendship Bread (and Variations)

makes 2 loaves (make 2 recipes to use all the starter)

My Pistachio-Pistachio Loaves, fresh from the oven
2 cups Friendship Bread Starter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (snack cup size)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional, depending on flavor profile
2 (3.5 oz) packets vanilla instant pudding mix, (change instant pudding flavor for variation
1 cup nuts of choice, optional
1/2 cup raisins, dates or other dried fruit, optional
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine the last 2 ingredients in a small bowl. Grease or spray with cooking spray 2 large loaf pans. Use the sugar/cinnamon mixture to "dust" the loaf pans. Reserve any leftover to sprinkle on top later.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees (300 on Convection Bake).

In a bowl, combine and whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and instant puddings. In a separate bowl, stir together the Friendship Bread Starter, oil, applesauce, sugar, vanilla, eggs and milk until well combined. Add in the dry ingredients and mix well. Add nuts or dried fruit if using. Divide the batter between the two prepared loaf pans. Sprinkle any remaining sugar ad cinnamon mixture (from dusting the pans) over top. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans 10 minutes before turning out.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.