You're looking at the little baggie of beige glop I've just handed you and you are (a little) terrified. Because this is the song that never ends. This is a project, heavy-laden with guilt if you choose not to participate or "mess it up" despite your good intentions. (Plus, it smells funny. Let's not mince words.)
I mean it when I say, "DON'T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT!"
In the past, you may have received aforementioned baggie along with a strict schedule of feedings and stirrings. This probably made you want to throw in the towel right away. And I don't blame you. If you wanted a pet, you would buy a goldfish.
Then there's the matter of the never-ending cycle of feeding your little pet and finding unsuspecting new victims upon whom to foist its offspring. Because at the end of the alloted feeding/stirring schedule, your pretty little pet will give birth, as it were, to 4 little clone-babies. One to bake/keep for yourself, and 3 to give away (hence the unsuspecting victims).
Maybe your starter came with some song and dance about how the world as we know it will end and children in Ethiopia will die if you break the cycle and don't pass starters on to your friends and neighbors. It probably also included hooha about not refrigerating or freezing your starter.
What if I told you that it doesn't have to be like that? (Would you stop looking at me like that?)
To debunk this myth, let's talk about what "Amish" Friendship Bread really is. Which is delicious. And addictive. And basically just cinnamon-y bread made with a sweet sourdough starter (aka glop in a baggie).
This is not a big deal. There is no commitment here. This goop has no magical powers, and you will not go to hell if you simply throw it out. But if you take my advice, there's really no reason this can't work with your schedule.
For the past month or two I have cultivated my own Friendship Bread starter. For the first ten days, I kept to the proscribed schedule: Stir days one through four, add 1 c. each of milk, sugar, and flour on day five, stir days six through nine, add 1 c. each of milk, sugar, and flour day 10. Then I divided my starter, gave one to my mom, stuck one in my freezer, and baked some
I had one cup of started left to work with, so I just kept it going. This time I stirred whenever I felt like it (usually every day, but I missed some), and fed the mixture 1/2 c. each milk, flour, and sugar once a week or so until I had done it four times.
So what I'm really saying is, you can neglect your starter and it will be just fine. According to the information I read, as long as it doesn't turn pink/orange, it should be just fine. You can stick it in the fridge if you don't want to deal with it for a couple of days (or even a week, probably). If you don't want to deal with it for a month or so, stick it in the freezer. It will be fine. And if you don't want to deal with your starter at all and you just want to make bread, guess what?! You can just go ahead and use the 1 c. of starter you have been given to make bread that very day.
And if you are still not convinced that this little bag of goop will not take over your life, just throw it out. All it is is yeast, milk, flour, and sugar.
Now, isn't that better?
(Recipe courtesy Moms Who Think)
Day 1 - receive the starter (the recipe for the starter is below)
Days 2 - 4 - stir
Day 5 - Add 1 cup each flour, sugar and milk.
Days 6 - 9 - stir
Day 10 - Add 1 cup each flour, sugar, and milk. Put 1 cup each of starter in 4 containers of your choice: 1 cup each for three of your friends and 1 cup for you to keep if you want a start for yourself. Give friends the instructions for days one through ten. (Be sure to also include the recipe for baking the bread.)
After removing the four cups of starter, combine the remaining cup with the following ingredients in a large bowl:
2/3 cup oil (or applesauce or plain yogurt)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Combine ingredients in order listed. Beat by hand until well blended.
Grease two loaf pans (cooking spray works just fine), sprinkle with sugar (or cinnamon sugar) instead of flour.
Bake at 325 degrees F for 45 minutes to 1 hour). Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans. Makes two loaves of Amish Friendship Bread.
Friendship Bread Starter
1 tsp. active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup milk
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water for about 10 minutes. Stir well.
In a 2 quart glass or plastic container (or even a gallon ziplock bag), combine 1 cup sifted flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or the flour will get lumpy when you add the milk.
Stir in milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Loosely cover the mixture with a lid or plastic wrap. The mixture will get bubbly. Consider this Day 1 of the cycle, or the day you receive the starter.
For the next 10 days handle starter according to the instructions above for Friendship Bread.