Jul 10, 2013

Amish Bread Ambush

By H. Linn Murphy

Let's talk about Amish Friendship Bread. A few years ago a friend of mine (at least they were until they saddled me with this gig) came to me and offered me what turned out to be the Trojan Horse of friendship gifts: Amish Friendship Bread.

What it really turned out to be a bag of goop that, when opened, smelled like a beer distillery (I've smelled a distillery before. Don't ask me why. I've never tasted any, though). The yeast-y stuff in there was fermented enough to make a person drunk just smelling it. I wondered what kind of a church-going friend would give me something so disgusting-smelling. It was the consistency of that green glop they sell kids to play with (snot--not play dough).

I smiled like I'd just found out I was pregnant at 50 and shut the door. I'm positive I heard snickering as she bolted for her car. I stood there examining my bag of slop, wondering what the crud I was going to do with that stuff. As an art teacher, a mom of six hooligans, and a Cub Scout leader, I was up to my eyeballs in busy.

Luckily the slop came with a card which told me exactly how to take care of my bag of plague culture. It involved a complex set of things to do (complex to a person who has a rough time keeping air ferns alive) every day from then until the earth turned to glass. I have the recipe here, should you wish to try this insane experiment:

1 (.25 oz) package of dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F or 45 degrees C)
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
3 cups white sugar, divided
3 cups milk 

1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let it stand 10 minutes. In a 2 quart glass, plastic, or ceramic container, combine 1 cup flour and one cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or the flour will lump when you add the milk. Slowly stir in 1 cup milk and the dissolved yeast mixture. Cover loosely or put in a zip lock bag and let stand until it's bubbly. This is your day 1 of the 10 day cycle. Leave it loosely covered at room temperature.

2. On days 2 through 4 stir the starter with a spoon. Or if it's in a bag, mush the bag a few times. On day 5 stir in one cup of flour, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup milk. On days 6 through 9 stir or mush the bag only.

3. On day 10, stir in 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup milk. Remove 1 cup to make your first bread, give 2 cups to friends in zip-lock bags that WON'T come open, along with this recipe and your favorite Amish Bread recipe. Store the remaining 1 cup of starter in a container in the refrigerator or begin the 10 day process all over again beginning with step number 2.

To make the bread mix the cup of starter plus:
1 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
In a separate bowl combine the following dry ingredients and mix well:
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 - (5.1 oz) box instant vanilla pudding
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup nuts
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix and pour into two well greased and sugared bread pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

So I industriously started in on the whole Amish Friendship Bread debacle. They don't tell you that that zip lock bag comes with its own miniature sweat shop. You have to keep the whole thing going. It's worse than a chain letter or a pyramid scheme. You have to find more and more friends to ambush who have never heard of this trap.

The thing is, the bread tastes great! If it were a once in a while thing, or if you had mounds and mounds of time to dedicate to it, the stuff would be golden. I didn't.

I mixed up my first batch of give-away goop and oozed it into zip lock bags. My particular recipe called for giving away six (6) VI bags of this gunk. Yeah. So since I was on the way to Cub Scouts,I thought I'd just dump the lot on my cub parents. Captive audience, right?

Then I got a phone call from a mom asking me to give her boy a ride. Normally I wouldn't, but she was my best friend. So I slung the stuff in the back seat on a tray, thinking that the boy would sit in the front. No dice. He wanted to sit in the back. I thought nothing much of it until I heard the fateful words, "Oh no!"

I slammed to a stop as the stench of fake booze wafted through the car. I looked back and beheld a horrible sight. The boy sat there with a shell-shocked look on his face. He must have poked the bag. Or something. The goop was all over the whole back seat, my seat, the boy, the floor, the roof, and probably that whole sector of city. I wanted to die and slowly was. I should have gotten a gas mask along with that first baggy. And a toxic emergency notice.

The stench hadn't left that car even after we sold it.

I carried on with this experiment for a couple more cycles and then bailed. The bread was fantastic, but the dedication wasn't there. Plus the cleaning bill for the car was prohibitive.

Good luck! If you want to get off the merry-go-round, the starter will freeze in 1 cup measures. Allow 3 hours at room temperature for it to thaw first.


  1. I'll let you do all the work ha. I'll be your taste tester, deal?

  2. Uh, not this decade. Been there, done that, fire-bombed the T-shirt...:o)

  3. AHAHAHA! Heidi, you had me laughing so hard this morning. I haven't decided yet if it was amusement or the hysterical laughter that accompanies the PTSD triggered by my own memories of Amish Bread starters. The bread is super yummy...but not only is it time consuming...I couldn't deal with the guilt that came every time I "killed" it. (or threw it out.) I didn't know I could freeze it. Maybe that's for the best though. My freezer would probably be half filled with little bags of starter...like little cryogenic babies waiting for me to bring them back to life. (shudder).
    thanks for the smile! great post!

  4. When I was a stay-at-home mom, and I baked bread (sometimes), my friend gave me sour dough starter. I kept up with it for awhile. But no kid sat on it! (guffaw!) I mean, isn't that terrible what happened with that kid. :(

  5. He actually made it to 18. He's the kind of kid who would poke a road pizza. I'm sure he poked that bag, although he swears to this day he didn't.


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