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As usual, I’m late. By nearly a month – which may, or may not, be a new record.

I read Friendship Bread by Darien Gee, and as you may have guessed friendship bread has been through my test kitchen. It’s quite a process, and it’s a little bit of a misnomer, as the first recipe you use makes a loaf style cake – like banana loaf, but not.

You may be sitting there, reading this, and wondering what in all that is tasty is ‘Friendship Bread’? In the book, it’s like a chain letter with no consequences for not sharing… and community encompassing consequences if you do – and that’s as much of a spoiler as you are getting out of me; you’ll have to read it if you want to know more.
As for what it really is… It’s a starter that you feed, and grow, and share, and – of course – bake with. It’s a little like a sourdough starter, except that it’s very sweet, not sour at all. It’s basic contents are flour, sugar, and milk; these are the things that you will need to have in large supply if you are going to take on the task of keeping an AFB starter.

I’m told that the best way to get started with making Amish Friendship Bread is to receive your starter from someone else, because then it carries a little bit of love from someone else’s kitchen to yours.
We all know that I live at the end of the world, (aka New Zealand) so I had to make my starter from scratch, and then nurse it through it’s 10 day cycle.

The instructions that you share with the eager recipients of starter are:

Day 1: Do nothing.

Day 2: Mash the bag.

Day 3: Mash the bag.

Day 4: Mash the bag.

Day 5: Mash the bag.

Day 6: Add 1 cup each of flour, sugar, and milk.

Day 7: Mash the bag.

Day 8: Mash the bag.

Day 9: Mash the bag.

Day 10: Add 1 cup each of flour, sugar, and milk. Divide into 1 cup portions to bake with, share, and cultivate.

It’s fairly low maintenance, and Bug (age 8) made the starter from scratch himself, with only supervision. And he has taken an active roll in looking after our little monster since then. Each cup of starter bakes two loaves, and they are really tasty.

I haven’t had much luck in giving away starters, but I have no trouble giving away baking. Bug has muffins in his lunch, so instead of making two loaves I make one loaf and one tray of muffins. We either eat the loaf or give it away, but the muffins go in the freezer and he can just lift one out and tuck it in his lunch box. My sister-in-law is also happy to take bags of muffins to tuck in her freezer to pack in her lunch box too.

The other thing to know is that there is a website which has endless recipes, and variations on the basic cinnamon cake. There are biscuits (American and British), cakes, breads, donuts, pancakes and waffles, and many more. Chances are if you can think of something that needs any leavening there is a recipe for it on the webpage.

Today I made the first variation, banana loaf. But we have also made biscuits, of both American and British. In so far as Snickadoodles are British (which they aren’t as far as I’m aware, but they are biscuits in the British fashion).

I have got to say, that the Snickadoodles were a total fail. But some of the problem was the limitation of my kitchen. I only have one oven tray, and the recipe makes 60 (yes, that many). But some of it was to do with not making American cookie/biscuit recipes. When I make a standard choc chip biscuit, I use the Edmonds recipe, which requires pressing on the tray. They don’t melt down from balls into biscuits, like the Snickadoodles. One tray full burned, because they set out of the oven and I didn’t know that at the time. And the second tray stuck to the baking paper, at which point we called it a fail.

If you’re wondering why it’s called Amish Friendship Bread, the answer is simply that Amish communities share a great deal. And the spirit of sharing is what it’s really all about. Especially as one of the key ingredients is instant pudding mix – for which there is a recipe on the website.

I had intended to use pictures, but the baking keeps getting eaten… So, for the most part it has been an ongoing win.

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