Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Spiced Pear Friendship bread

So I wasn't planning on making this recipe, but this past weekend, my cousin gave me a starter for Amish Friendship Bread. I've never tasted it before, much less made it. And you know me -- I'm a sucker for trying new things.

Amish Friendship Bread is like a baker's version of a chain letter. You will receive a starter (made out of flour, milk, and sugar) which has leavening properties and will be the base for the batter. (Sort of like a sourdough starter, but sweeter.) You take care of the starter for ten days -- at which point you will have enough starter to share with three friends, and a portion for yourself to make into a loaf of friendship bread.

I hesitate to call this "Amish" because this recipe is not Amish, and I hate inaccurate misnomers like that. I mean, the recipe calls for instant pudding mix for goodness' sake.


This is what my cousin gave me, along with a battered copy of a recipe:

Because of the natural bacteria that gathers in the starter as it ferments, this starter is supposed to be your leavener. Back in the days before instant yeast, this is how you made bread rise (or you could've borrowed yeast from a brewery, but that's another story).

If all is going well, the starter should be a milky color (not pink) and it should bubble if you leave it alone. This is how the starter looks, after leaving it alone for a day. Notice the bag is all poofy? I didn't blow air into it -- that's all due to the starter. You will occasionally need to release the air out of the bag as the starter ferments.

At the end of the dictated ten days, I put my batter together. The other thing? This "bread" seems to be more like a quickbread (like banana bread).

Here you can see the starter, getting things... started:

I modified this recipe a lot. I cut the oil and the sugar in half, and I didn't even bother with the instant vanilla pudding mix. I added in half a cup of applesauce to make up for the reduced oil. I also added in about... a third of a cup of vanilla yogurt to replace the missing pudding mix. For extra moisture, I wanted to toss in an apple because I thought it'd pair nicely with the cinnamon flavor this bread has going. But I didn't have any apples! A diced pear would have to do instead.

The recipe said that the batter is supposed to be split between two loaf pans. But judging from the amount of batter I had, I was skeptical. It seemed like enough for only one loaf. I followed the directions anyway, and I split the batter between a loaf pan and some star-shaped baking cups that Sakisha had given me.

While baking, the bread rose okay, but -- after seeing some pictures of Amish Friendship bread online, I was expecting it to deflate as it cooled. So.... I turned it upside down. What kind of nutcase lets her bread cool upside down? Well, it reduces the bread's chances of falling, right? Plus, just as I guessed, the bread didn't bake that tall anyway, so the loaf pan kept the bread from being smushed by the baking rack. Just don't loosen the bread before you do this:

The star cups were adorable, though.

Ta-da! Spiced pear friendship bread.

To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of this -- if only because you put so much work into prepping the starter, without any noticeable difference. It tastes fine, but it's about the same quality as any banana bread. And despite using a starter, the recipe still called for baking soda, which I believe is the reason for most of the leavening in this bread. I think you could pull the same thing off with a decent quickbread recipe, which doesn't need a starter at all.

Guess this baking chain letter is like any normal chain letter -- a lot of talk, without much to back it up.


Sophie said...

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Sophie said...

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