Homebaking Friendship Bread

Friendship Bread

Posted in : baking, bread, food, food history, foodie, recipe, story, Uncategorized on by : Jeanette Rueb Tags: , ,

Friendship bread is something I first learned about in middle school as part of a science project. Making it takes a long time, if you do it the traditional way, as you have to grow and feed the yeast for about a few weeks before it’s ready. You need to feed it, burp it, keep it warm, and make sure it’s comfortable.

It’s almost like taking care of a baby. Except, you know, doughy.

In the end, you make bread with some of the yeast mixture and pass the remaining mixture on to your friends. Then, they can feed it, burp it, roll it, pat it, mark it with a B… and make bread of their own out of it. Then *they* get to pass on the mixture, and it just keeps going, ’round and ’round.

While I haven’t had time to make some myself (between work and travel), I can still give you a walk-through on how to do it. Hopefully, after I get back, I can make some myself! In the meantime, here’s a history and a how-to!

Friendship bread is an Amish creation. It probably has nothing to do with the town of Friendship, NY, which has a significant Amish population, but it’s an entertaining coincidence, nonetheless. (Yay, Upstate!)

The Amish tradition is to make the yeast mixture, called starter, and to use one cup of it in making a loaf of bread and to share the other three cups of it with friends, so that they can make bread and pass on the starter to more people.

To keep the inherited starter alive, it needs to be mixed, fed, and burped on a certain schedule.

The starter can be kept in a large Ziploc bag, which is left partially open, so gases can escape (carbon dioxide is released as a result of the yeast metabolizing the sugars in their “food,” so if you seal the bag completely, it can explode). The starter also needs to be kept relatively warm (room temperature works just fine) and in a dark place (covered with a towel will do).


Making the first batch of starter yourself is easy. First, you put the packet of yeast into a Ziploc bag, add 1/4 cup of warm water, and let stand for about 10 minutes.

In a bowl, combine one cup of milk (warmed, but not hot), one cup of flour, and one cup of sugar. Slowly add the mixture to the bag with the yeast, and knead the bag to mix everything together. Once everything is blended and happy, set the bag upright in a bowl and seal the bag, save for about an inch, so the carbon dioxide can escape.

Cover the bowl with a towel and follow the following routine:
Day 1: Do nothing.
Day 2: Knead the bag.
Day 3: Knead the bag.
Day 4: Knead the bag.
Day 5: Knead the bag.
Day 6: Add to the bag: 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk. Knead the bag.
Day 7: Knead the bag.
Day 8: Knead the bag.
Day 9: Knead the bag.
Day 10: Follow the directions below:
Pour the entire bag into a glass or plastic bowl.

Add 1½ cups of flour, 1½ cups of sugar, 1½ cups of warmed milk.

Measure out 1 cup of starter each into 4, 1-gallon Ziploc bags. Depending on how well you cared for your yeast baby, you may have a little more than four “portions.”

Keep one of the bags for yourself (or leave it in the mixing bowl if you plan to bake right away), and give the other bags to friends along with a recipe. I’ll give you a basic one to make a plain bread, and you can add your own goodies, as you see fit.

1 cup starter
3 eggs
1 cup oil
½ cup milk
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda

2 cups flour
(Some recipes call for 1-2 small boxes of instant pudding mix, for moisture)
[1 cup each of whatever goodies you want — chocolate chips, raisins, nuts, etc.]

Preheat oven to 325° F (165° C).
In a large mixing bowl, add ingredients as listed.
Grease two large loaf pans.
Dust the greased pans with a mixture of ½ cup sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon.
Pour the batter evenly into loaf or cake pans and sprinkle the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture on the top.
Bake for one hour or until the bread loosens evenly from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.


And there you have it!
Friendship bread is really fun and satisfying to make. As for goodies, I would recommend anything from walnuts, to chocolate and banana, to zucchini — Anything goes! I’ll probably resume recipes once I get back to New York, but I’m really enjoying writing about the history behind food. I feel like I have more room to be creative and people seem to be able to interact more with these entries than they can with recipes.

Let me know what other articles you would be interested in seeing, be they recipes, tips, reviews, etc. I’m planning on writing a piece on kitchen tips and tricks, so if you have an organizational or practical habits you think I should include in that article, let me know down here in the comments!

Ciao for now!

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