The Chain Letter of Recipes

Remember way back when chain letters were a thing? When I would receive a chain letter, my spidey-sense would immediately start tingling. Certain trials and tribulations would ensue if I did not copy the letter and pass it on to seven of my closest compadres. If you’ve ever been “gifted” with an Amish Friendship Bread sour-dough starter mix, it is tantamount to an edible chain letter.

A bag of gelatinous yellowish goop is handed to you with a smile and often a tall tale of its origins. For the next 10 days of your life, you must squeeze, mash, burp, feed and divide said bag of gelatinous goop. On the tenth day, you are directed to “measure out 1 cup portions into 4 separate 1 gallon plastic bags.”  Three friends are the lucky recipients and caregivers of an Amish Friendship Bread starter mix.  That’s the process…dumbed down considerably.

This generous gift, from the heart and from another’s kitchen came via my huband. While I appreciate the kindness of his co-worker, it was simply too hard for my husband to decline the incredibly needy gift of starter mix. So, much like the chain letter of days gone by, he accepted it with a tentative smile and hoped karma would understand two key factors,  First, we are leaving for vacation in mere days and don’t have time to properly care for the bag of gelatinous goop. More importantly, neither my husband or I bake. We can burn, but we certainly don’t bake! I almost feel sorry for the ill-fated bag Amish Friendship Bread.

I’m intrigued a bit by the directions (poorly copied and off centre, perhaps to imply age?) included with the bag. It claims, “Only the Amish know how to create the ‘starter’ so, if you give them all away, you will have to wait until someone give you one back.” Seriously? Thank goodness for the internet and the mind-numbing multitude of links to starter bread recipes.

Furthermore, I’m a bit puzzled, but would the Amish traditions allow for the ingredient of “1 large or 2 small boxes of instant vanilla pudding?” If this were truly an Amish recipe, I would think everything would be from scratch? My ignorance might be showing, but instant vanilla pudding seems very contemporary.

Horse and buggy on the road in Amish Country, Lancaster County, PA

Carol M. Highsmith, photographer – Library of Congress Image

What reason is this recipe attributed to the Amish culture?  According to Wikipedia, “Elizabeth Coblentz, a member of the Old Order Amish and author of the syndicated column, “The Amish Cook,” true Amish friendship bread is just sour-dough bread that is passed around to the sick and needy.”  Additionally, the article cites similarities to a Herman Cake (German) and Biga starters (Italian).

I’ll wrap up this post (written mostly in jest), by saying one thing.  The primary word of focus in this recipe is “friendship.” It was a hands-on, do-it-yourself, edible kind of gift that came from one friend to another. It was born in a friend’s kitchen where he lovingly invested time and ingredients. To Gary, Clark and I say, “thank you!”

Dear readers, consider yourself “gifted” with the recipe, as I pass it along, Cinnamon Friendship Bread from Gary Hussong.

  • Day 1 – Do nothing. This is the day you receive the batter.
  • Day 2 – Mush the bag. The bag will expand with air overnight. Just release the air each day. Be sure to seal it tight.
  • Day 3 – Repeat Day 2
  • Day 4 – Repeat Day 2
  • Day 5 – Repeat Day 2
  • Day 6 – Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup of milk. Mush the bag.
  • Day 7 – Mush the bag.
  • Day 8 – Repeat Day 7
  • Day 9 – Repeat Day 7
  • Day 10 – Add 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 cups milk. Mix the entire contents into a non-metal bowl. Mix well and then measure out 1 cup portion into 4 separate 1 gallon Ziploc bags. Should the bread not be passed on to a friend on the day it is divided, be certain to tell the person which day the bag is on when you give it to them.
  • Preheat oven to 325-degrees. To the remaining batter in the bowl, add:  3 eggs, 1 cup oil, 1/2 cup milk, 1 cup sugar 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 large or 2 small boxes of vanilla instant pudding, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 cups flour.
  • Grease 2 large loaf pans ( or 2 8″x8″ pans). In small bowl mix 1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Use a portion to coat the 2 pans with a dusting of this mixture. Then evenly distribute the batter into your pans and sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture on top of the batter. Bake 1 hour.
  • Cool until the bread loosens from the pan (about 15 minutes). Turn into a serving dish. Serve warm or cold. Keep uneaten bread in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

For the basic sour-dough starter mix, visit the Friendship Bread Kitchen (an Amish Friendship Bread Recipe, Tips and Community site).


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