Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Amish Friendship Bread

It's the recipe that started it all. Someone gives you a gallon bag filled with sourdough starter and a sheet of paper with a recipe and instructions on how to keep the starter going. I made it, my family fell in love with it, and, with no one who really wanted a bag of starter to give the extra to, the rest is history. It's a versatile recipe too. I've made it with chocolate pudding instead of vanilla, with chocolate chips, with nuts, with raisins, topped with coconut and sanding sugar. I've also made it as mini loaves and mini muffins.

All things considered, though, it's not my favorite recipe to make. Don't get me wrong – it's delicious. I dislike it for two reasons. For starters (no pun intended) it makes a lot. Two full size loaves, six mini-loaves, or about 3-1/2 dozen mini muffins. For another, with very little liquid and a whole lot of thickeners, it's an awfully thick batter. No, I don't have a stand mixer. I'm poor.

I hadn't made it since last Christmas, though, and my mother was going to her sister's for the weekend. So, what better way to solve problem #1 than to have her take a loaf?

I've seen dozens of different versions of the recipe (on top of the endless variations). I find that the original one that came with the first batch of starter better of the two I've tried. There's a few things that I began to change about the recipe as I made it. For one thing, I now have a premixed container of cinnamon sugar, and use about a tablespoon in each loaf tin (or a teaspoon with mini's). For another, I round up to a whole tablespoon of cinnamon. It's good for you and tastes good, so why not? And I always use the 1/2 oil, 1/2 applesauce option.

For the first time in this recipe, I decided to try Splenda Granulated. I have used it once before, in my somewhat infamous Twix Cheesecake Pie (the one where my mother had eaten over half the cake overnight). In cheesecake, it works. However, I am only using it in tried-and-true recipes. I don't want to be able to blame the recipe's failure on the Splenda.

The recipe:
Amish Friendship Bread
1 Cup Fresh Sourdough Starter
3 eggs
1 cup oil (you can use 1/2 oil, 1/2 applesauce)
1 cup sugar (Splenda in this case)
1 tblsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 large (6-serving size) box of vanilla instant pudding

Mix in a large bowl. In a separate container, mix sugar and cinnamon in a ratio of 3 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon. Sprinkle about a tablespoon in each of two loaf pans that have been greased or sprayed with baker's spray. Divide batter between two pans. Bake for 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees (Note that baking with Splenda takes less time).

One thing I noticed right off the bat mixing on this batch was that it seemed much, much thicker than normal. As in it was not only difficult to stir, but didn't spread in the pan without assistance. It also didn't rise or anything when baked:

Still, I can't say it was inedible. It was denser than normal, but otherwise tasted the same. I still liked it, and my mother and aunt ate their whole loaf in a weekend. Perhaps the starter needs the added sugar to feed off of?

I'm not sure how I feel about the Splenda now. I'll probably start by making things 1/2 sugar and 1/2 Splenda for starters. However, one thing I noticed with the cheesecake is that sugar doesn't equate into calories.

But, with a few more old friends to revisit, I think the Friendship bread recipe is going back in the cabinet for now.

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