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Ingredient Mon Nov 12 2007

Amish Bread Starter, Anyone?

A few days ago, a friend gave me a gallon-sized Ziploc baggie filled with about a cup of what looks like flesh-colored glue. In fact, it is a bread starter that ostensibly originated with the Amish, who reportedly are the only people in the world who have the recipe for the goo in question. In what essentially amounts to a chain letter made out of yeast, baggies of this starter are cultivated by one person and then passed along to three others with whom they want to share the joy that is Amish Friendship Bread.

It goes like this: the baggie comes with instructions to tend the starter for five days, feed it on the sixth day, tend to it for several more days, and ultimately bake a delicious, double batch of cinnamon-y sweet bread on the 10th day.

More specifically, tending to the bag involves “mushing” it and letting out any air that has accumulated due to fermentation. Feeding it means adding a cup each of milk, sugar and flour to roughly quadruple the contents. On the 10th day, according to the instructions, the baker feeds the starter once more, this time with a cup-and-a-half each of milk, sugar and flour. Then the baker divides the starter, leaving one cup in the batter bowl and depositing one cup of the mixture into each of three gallon-sized Ziploc bags to pass on to friends. (It occurs to me that perhaps this is all a racket, originating not with the Amish at all, but with the people behind Ziploc baggies.)

No matter. As a result of my experiment, I now have two delicious loaves of crunchy-on-the-outside, cakey-on-the-inside Amish Friendship Bread. I also have three bags of starter – and only one taker. The first two Chicagoans to respond to this post are welcome to a baggie, which I will lovingly mush until you take them off my hands.

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christine / November 13, 2007 8:23 AM

As I was reading this post, I was thinking, "Man, I wish I knew someone who could pass this on. It sounds really good!" And now I'm one of the first two to comment!

Katherine Bucar / November 13, 2007 9:39 AM

My initial hunch was that the instant pudding folks, also an ingredient in the bread, were behind the racket. Having the starter on my counter for the last ten days has certainly got me excited about pudding. I've been to the jello web site twice and spent far too many hours debating whether the next batch will star pistachio or banana cream pudding. Pistachio will most likely reign supreme, since there is nothing more lovely than green bread.

(I made a batch of the amish bread last night, with chocolate instead of vanilla pudding. The results have fared well with my co-workers thus far!)

liz / November 13, 2007 10:44 AM

I would thoroughly enjoy this bread. Thanks!

cf / November 13, 2007 12:29 PM

The amish bread project reminds me of a week in seventh grade when we all became "parents" of a darling little sack of flour, to teach us tweens the harsh responsibilites of parenthood. Amish frienship bread is similar: Mush, mush, mush, feed, mush, mush, and then one day you have two beautiful loaves of crunchy sweet bread to love.

Reba / November 13, 2007 4:12 PM

My parents always made these loaves when I was growing up, and I remember it being like a starter-pet--the feeding, the baking, the carbohydratey-overload...But I also remember how yummy the bread is!

Mandy / November 15, 2007 10:50 AM

Christine and Liz, you're the winners! I'll be out of town this weekend, but the starter will be yours within a week.

Mandy / November 18, 2007 4:37 PM

About those bread starters: I can't get them to you unless I know where to find you. I thought I'd be able to find your e-mail on the back-end site, but I can't. So my suggestion is to e-mail Andrew of the GB staff,, and ask him to send your e-mail to me. In the meantime, I will keep your starter happy and growing. :)

Sherry Stevens / February 20, 2008 8:50 PM

Could you email me a copy of your feeing ingredients and your recipe.

Thank you,

Sherry Stevens

Sherry Stevens / February 20, 2008 8:51 PM

Could you email me a copy of your feeing ingredients and your recipe.

Thank you,

Sherry Stevens

Sharon / October 2, 2008 4:51 AM

I was fortunate enough to have a colleague to give me a bag of these starter. It's like caring for a child. Mush, and mush more for the next 5 days, and feed on the 6th day and must more for the next 5 days and feed more and divide them into bags. It's so neat to make this bread. Your friends will absolutely love this and will makes friends happy that you were thinking of them when you make this starter.

So good luck and enjoy the bread. I did!!

Kay / December 23, 2011 10:42 PM

My family and I have passed along bags of this famous amish bread every year. Usually around the holidays. Just wanted to add that if you need to prolong the 10 day phase you can stick it in the fridge, that will buy you 2-3 days, as thwis slows down the fermintation, untill you are able to pass your extra baggies along to your friends. Also you can freeze your extras but this should be done when you first recieve your bag or soon after but before you "feed it" on the 6th day. That will buy you about 3 months. To thaw place in fridge for one day or untill no longer frozen, then place on counter at room temp and consider this day 1, as if you have just recieved your baggie of amish friendship bread. Hope this helps. Good luck!

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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