For all incentive purposes, it is essentially fall. In the fall people bake. So get your loaf pans ready. I am not a big baker, but I do bake. I am a better chef then I am baker. To me, being a chef is the easier of the two. I have a lot of respect for other chefs and even more respect for bakers.
All this leads me to my story about friendship bread. For those of you who have never had it, it is addicting, not only to make, but also to eat! I received my first zip lock bag with friendship bread starter about twenty years ago. I have always talked about cooking with my fellow coworkers so it was only natural that one of them would ask if I was interested in baking a loaf of this stuff that I had never heard of. They may not have even asked me. They may have just thrust it upon me like a quest to find the Holy Grail or a Golden Fleece.
I accepted the challenge with the vigor of a young man (back then) and followed the directions as they were passed along to me. Then I proceeded to pass a bit of this goo called “starter” and the recipe to the next few unsuspecting coworkers while eating four loves of this stuff I made myself. It was indeed and amazing experience. However I did NOT save any starter when I when done and without the starter I could not make any more of these scrum-dilly-umtious loaves. It took several years before I saw this recipe come around again. By now, I had very much missed the cake like substance I had once had in the fall while drinking my coffee. This time I received the starter goo in a different building and I was a little older and a little wiser, but the recipe looked and tasted exactly the same. It was like the miracle of the friendship bread calling too me.
I learned my lesson from the first time of giving away all of the starter. I gave out the recipe and starters but always made sure to keep one batch of starter and copy of the recipe for myself. I kept making theses loaves of deliciousness every ten days and passing on the recipe to many, many, many more unsuspecting people as would take the stuff and make it. This included not only my sister, but all her coworkers as well! As I heard a group of people talking about this cake in the coffee room I thought; what have I done?! It was like and bad science fiction movie now that kept growing (like The Blob staring Steve Macqueen). Months of baking went by and just after Christmas Day I could eat no more Friendship Bread or I would spontaneously combust. Covering the walls in cinnamon. That or I would have to start buying stretchy pants. Mind you all this baking started BEFORE Thanksgiving. I finally decided to freeze my starter in the hope that in the fall it would still be good. Somehow I doubted freezing this starter would work.
In the New Year, I researched a few different recipes on Friendship Bread starter and found one that seemed like is would work best. I tested it out and gave more starters away for opinions the very next fall. My original frozen starter never came back to life, but the new recipe for a Friendship Bread starter (below) worked! It even freezes okay according to one of my coworkers.
It has been at least two years now since my last endeavor into this Friendship Bread baking frenzy, so now is a good time as any to start it again. It takes time for the started to get to be a good enough quality, taste wise, for me to giveaway so I discard my first extra batches myself and give away the stuff starting with the second batch. You guys can always let me know what you do in the comments section below.
Today, I am staring my first batch of “starter” to ultimately make two loves of Friendship Bread. I dare you to follow along with me these next few upcoming weeks leading up to Thanksgiving to see if it is a disaster or a delicious hit this year. I double dare you to join me in making said “starter” listed below and getting even more people involved in this wonderful tradition in your neck of the woods!
I am attaching the “starter” recipe below. Then in the next 10 days, I will provide you with the actual recipe to make the loaves of Friendship Bread itself. They call it friendship “bread” but it is really a cake. A yummy, cinnamony cake that is like heaven with coffee. Trust me! When it comes to coffee I do not #&%$ around. This is good shit. So lets go bake!
The Drunken (blabbering) Chef (Russ)
You can follow me and this whole process on INSTAGRAM here:
Friendship Bread “Starter” Recipe
Makes 4 to 5 starters
One box heavy duty Gallon Zip Lock type Bags
1 package of active dry yeast
¼ cup of warm water (110 degrees F / 45 degrees C)
3 cups all-purpose flour (divided)
3 cups whole milk (divided and at room temperature)
3 cups granulated sugar (divided)
(Do Not Use Any Metal mixing spoons, measuring spoon or bowls)
In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in the water. It is very important the water be the correct temperature. Use an instant read thermometer for this (see Gadgets article). Hot water will kill your yeast and cold water will take forever to bubble. Yeast is a live organism that omits carbon dioxide and that is why it bubbles. Let the yeast stand in the water for 10 minutes. In a large 2-quart glass, plastic or ceramic bowl, combined 1 cup AP flour, 1-cup sugar and mix well or it will all clump up when the water is added. Slowly stir in 1-cup milk and then the yeast mixture. Cover loosely and let stand until bubbly.
Consider this day 1 of a 10-day cycle. Leave loosely covered in a warm place in your kitchen until day 2. Just not on top of the radiator or stove! That’s a bit too warm.
On day 2, stir and transfer starter into a zip lock bag. On days 3, 4 and 5 squeeze the zip top bag several times or stir with a plastic or wooden spoon. Let some carbon dioxide escape from the bag when necessary. I have had one burst open because I forgot to let the air out and it was all over my counter and very messy.
Day 6; stir in 1-cup of AP flour, 1-cup granulated sugar and 1-cup of room temperature milk.
Days 7 thru 9; stir or squeeze the bag.
Day 10; stir in 1-cup AP four, 1-cup sugar, and 1-cup milk. Stir well. Remove 1-cup of batter to 4 to 5 zip lock bags.
NOW it’s DAY 1 again. You can give one cup (zip lock bag) to each of your friends along with a copy of the recipe found here: “Amish Friendship Bread”.
Begin the process all over again. I think by the second or third batch is when the batter is the tasting its best.
NOTES: Serve with coffee and add chopped walnuts or cholate chips for an extra twist.
Enjoy life, stay healthy, and have a great weekend!
The Drunken Chef (Russ)