If you love Amish Friendship Bread, having an active starter on hand is a must. It’s usually passed from person to person, so each bag of starter carries with it a little bit of love from the kitchen it came from (and any kitchens before that). Amish Friendship Bread starter is the heart of what makes Amish Friendship Bread so special, because it’s all about sharing what we have with others. A little starter, in other words, can go a long way.
But what if you don’t have any starter and you’re dying to make some Amish Friendship Bread? Here’s the recipe for making your own starter so you can not only bake for yourself but get some AFB love going in your community.
Follow the 10-day instructions for caring for your starter. On Day 10 you’ll divvy up your starter by measuring out 1 cup for every gallon-sized Ziploc bag and reserving 1 cup for you to bake with. You might end up with 4 to 6 Ziploc bags, depending on how active your starter is. You’ll then pass those bags to friends, neighbors and co-workers in your community and bake two loaves with your 1 cup.
If you only want to make Amish Friendship Bread once, you’re done. But if you want to be able to bake it whenever you’d like, save an extra bag for yourself and either toss it in the freezer until ready to use or start the process all over again, treating Day 10 as Day 1. The starter tastes better over time, so rather than making it fresh whenever you want some Amish Friendship, consider keeping a bag on hand.
One of the most frequently asked questions is, “Why do I have to use commercial yeast?” Well, the answer is that you don’t. You can try to get your starter going just by letting it grab the wild yeasts in the air, but unless you live in San Francisco, it doesn’t always work. Commercial yeast gives your starter a kickstart, and after that it will use the wild yeasts in the air to keep itself going. The flour, sugar and milk feed the starter, and that’s what gives your Amish Friendship Bread starter its unique flavor.
For those of you who are new to Amish Friendship Bread, it may seem strange and even unsanitary to keep it on the counter, especially since the starter contains milk. But the starter is quick to break down the flour, milk and sugar and it’s a fermentation process that seems to keep itself healthy.
A healthy and active starter is bubbly at least once during the 10-day cycle (other days it may be “quiet” or flat), especially after being fed. If your starter goes bad or spoils, you’ll know–it may discolor or smell funky. Granted, I’m not one of those people who thinks a starter smells great, but a simple sniff, bubble and color check will reveal the state of your starter. Here’s a quick starter check-up:
- Smell. Should be yeasty and beer-like. If it smells sharp and hasn’t been fed in the past 4-6 days, give it a feed and then give another sniff in 24-48 hours.
- Bubbles. After a feeding, it should be active and bubbly within 24 hours. On other days it may be flat like pancake batter, but a quick stir should reveal a few bubbles. It’s important to squeeze the bag or give your starter a stir on a daily basis, just to make sure all the ingredients have a chance to get metabolized.
- Color. Creamy, off-white.
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And before you give away that last bag of starter, remember that there are over 250 Amish Friendship Bread recipes in the Recipe Box. That’s a lot of different ways to use your 1 cup of starter, and I’m coming up with new recipes all the time (you can get our latest cookbook with 50 quick and easy Amish Friendship Bread recipes here). So whatever you decide to do, have fun with it and remember to share whatever you bake with others!