Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Amish Friendship Bread: Friend or Foe?

Amish Friendship Bread, Day 3

It all started innocently enough.  My friend Amy described the crunchy goodness of the Amish Friendship Bread she was making and I volunteered to take some off her hands when the time came.  Several days later, I got a call.  And a new neighbor.  

Amy was ready to divide the dough and make the bread, but she wanted to know if she could borrow a cup of sugar.  I couldn't believe it.  I had a REAL neighbor who wanted to borrow a cup of sugar!  That was almost more exciting than the idea of starting my own friendship bread.  

Amy's house is a little less than a mile away, but it's on the slope of a steep hill, and she called just before dinner-time, so I must admit that I hopped in my pickup truck and drove to my neighbor's house with a cup of sugar and an empty ziplock bag.

I giddily handed over the cup of sugar and the ziplock bag and watched Amy scoop out a gooey blob of starter dough into my plastic bag.  Then she handed me a list of instructions.  What had I gotten myself into?

For those of you unfamiliar with Amish Friendship Bread, you should know that it's actually a sweet bread, more like a coffee cake, that uses a sourdough starter to get it going.  You keep the festering blob, also known as the "Mother", in a plastic bag, and the instructions say to "mush the bag" every day for five days.  On the sixth day you give the "Mother" a fresh supply of food-- sugar, flour, and milk.  And then you continue to "mush the bag" for another five days.  On Day Ten you feed her again-- more flour, sugar, milk, and a bunch of other standard cake ingredients.  But the real kicker is that you also add a box of instant vanilla pudding.  Nothing says "Amish" more than Vanilla Instant Pudding.  Whatever.  I'm hooked.  And it's too late to stop now.  

Amish Friendship Bread, Day 12
I'm on Day Eight and my "Mother" is about to explode.  I think I need to let the air out of her.  The instructions don't say anything about how to clean up the mess your Mother makes when she decides to redecorate your kitchen while you're at work.

The recipe says that after ten days, you end up with two loaves of freshly baked Amish Friendship Bread and three new "Mothers".  You're supposed to keep one of them so you can make another two loaves of bread and give two "Mothers" away to friends.  When my friend Daniel heard about the process, he said, "It's worse than a chain letter!  Or zucchini!"  And I'm beginning to think that he's right.  

In the meantime, does anyone out there want a "Mother"?  I'll have two to spare on Thursday.  


  1. I forgot about the vanilla instant pudding. Checked my recipe collected some years ago from a weekly column titled "The Amish Cook" whose name is Elizabeth Coblentz. The note at the end of the article states that Elizabeth, who is Old Order Amish, prepares her hand-written article by lantern light at her home. Fitting vanilla instant pudding into this equation seems a stretch, but it is indeed listed in black and white in her submitted recipe.

    Oh, yes, Susie, I have had times when the "Mother" has gotten way ahead of me. Where are my friends when I need them to share in the "Mother" lode? Nowhere to be found.

  2. Thank you, Lita, for the interesting insight into Amish food culture. I must say I'm surprised to hear that a "convenience food" like vanilla instant pudding is allowed in Amish cooking. I'm guessing this means that the Amish aren't opposed to modern production methods for products they buy, but simply try to limit their own participation in the industrialized food production system. Fascinating. If there are any Amish readers out there, I'd love have you weight in on this conversation!

  3. I can't help but to wonder how traditional the freezer bag is to this recipe as well.