Jun 022016
 

In the late 90s, when I was young and newly married to my first husband (eek!), I remember that Amish Friendship Bread was making the rounds in the little town where I lived. If you’re unfamiliar with it, what happens is that you receive a bag of “starter” from a friend, along with a sheet of instructions that looks like this:

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Basically, you mush the bag of starter every day until Day 6, when you feed it with some sugar, flour, and milk. On day 10 you bake the bread, reserving enough starter for yourself and 3 of your friends, and the cycle continues. Forever and ever. It’s sort of the recipe equivalent of a chain letter. Or email forwards. Or annoying Facebook memes that will not die.

Apparently Amish Friendship Bread is again popular (or maybe it always was, and I just don’t have many friends) because I’ve received two bags of starter in the last month. The people who gave them to me are very nice and well-intentioned, and my family does love the finished bread. Unfortunately, I’m unwilling to continue the endless cycle of nurturing the starter, finding unsuspecting innocents onto whom I can unload it, and baking sugary, carb-laden bread (I say bread, but let’s be honest here – it’s really cake) every 10 days….delicious though it may be.

The problem is that the friendship bread instructions don’t tell you what to do if you feel weird about giving your friends a chore with no definitive end. They do not offer guidance for those who would rather receive a loaf of baked bread, instead of a bag of goop, or for people on low carb diets who cannot bake regularly because they will fall spectacularly off the wagon.

Now, you could just accept the starter graciously, and then throw it away. This is always your prerogative. But if you’re like me, and you have a terrible aversion to wasting food – or something that could potentially become food – you will find this off-putting. Also, my husband and children enjoy the finished bread so much that I decided to figure out, once and for all, how to just bake the bread and stop the cycle. No more starter. The end.

Here’s how I did it:
Follow all instructions as written, for days 1-9. Completely ignore the directions for Day 10. Do this instead:

Pour the entire contents of the starter bag into a large glass or plastic bowl. Add the following ingredients:
2 eggs
1 cup extra-light tasting olive oil (or other healthy oil of your choice)
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 (5.1-ounce) box instant vanilla pudding mix

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Grease 3 small, (or two large) loaf pans. Pour batter evenly into the pans. Mix an additional 1/4 cup sugar and 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. Sprinkle over the top of the batter.

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Bake 50-60 minutes for small loaf pans, and up to 1 hour and 15 minutes for large loaf pans. The bread is done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool until the bread loosens from the sides of the pan.

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A few notes about my changes:
-The original recipe calls for 3 eggs, but I found that the batter was much too soft and liquid, so I omitted one. I also added a bit more flour.
-I have successfully used sugar-free instant pudding.
-I don’t sprinkle the bottoms of the loaf pans with the cinnamon-sugar mixture because it makes it very difficult to remove the finished bread from the pans. Sprinkling it on top of the batter works much better.
-I cut the cinnamon-sugar topping in half. It is still plenty sweet.
-The baking time given in the original recipe is never long enough for me, but ovens vary widely. My advice is to start checking the bread at 45 minutes, just to be safe.
-Don’t try to remove the bread from the pans until it’s completely cool. It will fall apart.

If you’re on a low-carb diet, like me, I would also advise you to give your friends as much of the finished bread as possible, to avoid temptation. If you make 3 loaves, and cut each one into 8 slices, one slice is 230 calories, and 2/3 come from carbs!

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