Sunday, March 27, 2011

Amish Friendship Bread

Calling all bread bakers! Good cooks are everywhere, but someone that can bake bread and have it come out perfect every single time is...well an artisan in my books! I'm not talking about quick breads either. I don't know anyone who can't bake a quick bread. However, I do know several who have a hard time making yeast breads and for the last 22 years I can honestly and most unfortunately say, myself included. 

When I moved to New Mexico, I brought with me a sourdough starter called Amish Friendship Bread and another starter for Potato Bread. Prior to moving to the Land of Enchantment, I made bread twice a week and due to the fact that after a while, you run out of people to give starters to, I had enough starter to make several batches of bread at one time. So here I was with these Amish and Potato bread starters that I had cared for and fed for several years- LOL kinda like a chia pet only better!  I'd been making these breads for so long that I didn't even need the recipes anymore and they came out perfect every time! 

So what happened? After moving to New Mexico and making several attempts at baking these breads, my prize-winning loaves of bread became like flat bread that even the Navajo in this area wouldn't even consider using for Fry Bread!  Dry, crumbly, and hard. Ick!  Who wants bread like that? And I had no idea at that time the problems I was having had to do with the altitude at which we lived. While it might have made good croutons for a salad, I gave up after about 3 months and trashed both the Amish and the Potato bread starters.  No longer a stay-at home mom, raising my family, working and going to school full time, it wasn't long before bread baking became a past time and was soon forgotten. Of course I made several attempts over the years with other recipes, but none compared to my "Okie" breads. And since I no longer had starters, I couldn't try my sourdough breads again. So for the last 22 years I've stuck with quick breads and when rolls were required, the frozen Rhodes Rolls have done a pretty good job!

A few days ago, Janet, a Facebook friend and customer posted on her Facebook wall that she liked a link to a book called "Friendship Bread: The Novel."  The title caught by eye and naturally having made Amish Friendship bread years ago, I had to check it out.  Little did I know when I clicked that link, that I would find myself feeding and nurturing a bread starter again.  I've pre-ordered the book and can't wait to read it. But the great thing is that the author has made available the recipe and I'm finding myself reminiscing about the friendships that began just because of a bread starter!

But why blog about bread? More specifically why blog about THIS bread? Years ago, my friends and I used to pass a version of this Amish Friendship bread around to everyone.  When one of us needed a break from making it (didn’t know you could freeze it back then) we always knew where to go to get a new starter.  We  passed this around so many times, that I think some of our family and friends ran the other way if they saw us heading towards them with a jar of starter! Though we don’t live close to each other anymore, some of my fondest memories of being together in Oklahoma are sitting around our kitchen tables sharing fresh baked friendship bread and having a cup of coffee, talking about our kids, our husbands and everything else in between. Just enjoying each others company!  I just feel something this good has to be shared!
My original handwritten recipe

I'm on day 6 and have just fed my starter and given it another good stirring. Four days to go until bake time! I'm nervous and excited all at the same time and I'm hoping since this was started here and not in Oklahoma, that I'll have better luck. I've learned over the years that some recipes require a bit of adjusting due to us being at an altitude of 5860 feet. So in the event this recipe doesn't turn out the first time, I'm prepared to take notes and make the necessary adjustments for that perfect bread!  LOL and yes, I'll be sure to let you know how it turns out!

Amish Friendship Bread Starter

Thank you again  to Janet for sharing the link!  By next Saturday, I'm hoping to find myself in bread heaven again! : )  If anyone is interested in starting their own Amish Friendship Bread, be sure to visit the Friendship Bread Kitchen.  You'll find the recipe for the starter here and whether you share the bread starter with an old friend or someone you don't even know,  don't be surprised when something so simple as this recipe can be become the start of or be used to strengthen something so warm and wonderful as a friendship.

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