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Amish Friendship Bread Starter

What is Amish Friendship Bread? And where does the starter come from? This guide will teach you how to make your own sweet Amish sourdough starter!

I love sourdough bread - the tangy flavor and chewy texture are so delicious. I love the process, the methodical way of caring for a starter and then using it to make beautiful loaves of bread.

I'm always experimenting with new recipes and ways of baking with sourdough, most recently, I've stored my sourdough starter and have been branching out into different naturally fermented breads!

This Amish sourdough starter recipe is a great way to get started with this sweet sourdough starter that is used in yummy treats like quick bread, cinnamon rolls, and the classic Amish bread recipes!

Unfortunately for me, I don't have many friends who like to share their living space with fermenting foods, so I had to create my own Amish sourdough starter recipe, but that's ok because now you can too!

This Amish friendship bread starter recipe is dedicated to befriending ferments.

Amish sourdough starter in a jar.

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What is Amish Friendship Bread?

Metaphorically, it's the chain letter of the baking world, an easy way of sharing love from your kitchen to another.

In reality, an Amish friendship starter is basically a sweet version of a regular sourdough starter! The starter is made with flour, sugar, milk, water, and active dry yeast - so a couple more ingredients than my 24-hour sourdough starter, but not many!

The added milk and sugar in the starter results in a sweet and tangy sourdough starter with a lactobacillus culture in it.

Amish starter is generally when baking sweet bread, cakes, muffins, and other recipes that don't require leavening, BUT, this starter is no one-trick pony! It can be used to naturally leaven bread much like a sourdough starter!

Friendship bread gets its name from the tradition of sharing a portion of the starter with friends, rather than discarding like with sourdough, so they can make their own batch of Amish Friendship Bread!

So if you're looking for an excuse to share some love instead of loaves, you should certainly give this recipe a whirl!

Why Bake With Amish Friendship Bread Starter?

Baking with a sourdough starter can be a little daunting for the uninitiated, but I think the results are worth it! Once you get comfortable with the process, it's really quite simple. Here are some benefits to baking with an Amish sourdough starter:

Flavor! Hello! We are all about flavor here, and sourdough starters have a delicious tangy flavor that you just can't get without the fermented goodness.

Texture! Flavor is an important consideration for sourdough baking, but it isn't the only one. Using an Amish starter in baking adds a level of tenderness that is difficult to achieve without the addition of a fermented slurry.

Overhead view of amish starter in a jar and bowl.

Tips + Tricks

No. 1 --> As with most fermented recipes, we want to stay away from metal bowls and containers. Non-reactive two-quart glass, plastic, and ceramic containers work the best.

No. 2 --> But don't be too skittish about metal spoons and whisks - I have been baking with sourdough for a really long time, and I always use metal tools. For the amount of time that whisk or spoon is in the starter, nothing bad is going to happen, so if you don't have a rubber whisk or wooden spoon, use a metal one. Don't stress!

No. 3 --> Many people recommend storing their starter in a gallon-sized ziploc bag, that's a great option if it works for you, but I personally like to store mine in a glass bowl. I find it easier to stir and evenly distribute the yeast around in a bowl than to squish around in a plastic bag. I just cover my bowl with a dedicated kitchen shower cap and leave it on the counter! That said if you wanna rock a starter bag, do whatever works best for you!

No. 4 --> This recipe requires a bit more planning than a sourdough starter. With sourdough, you feed it daily and with an Amish bread starter, you stir it daily but only feed it on certain days of the 10 day cycle.

No. 5 -->You're likely here because you don't have a friend to gift you some Amish starter, so we're gonna make our own - kick-starting it all with commercial yeast.

The 10 Day Cycle Explained

Amish Friendship Bread Starter lives on a 10 day cycle. The basis of the cycle is feeding the starter every five days and dividing the starter every 10 days.

On day one, you'll mix up the ingredients and set it aside. Then, for the next three days, you'll stir it once a day. On day five, you'll feed it again and then let it sit, stirring daily until day 10.

On day ten, you'll feed your starter then divide the starter into cup-sized portions. You'll keep one cup for your starter, one for baking delicious bread, and gift the remainder to friends.

Day 1 becomes day 10 and the cycle repeats!

Now that you know how it works, you can start your own Amish friendship bread Starter! Just remember to keep it fed and stirring every day, and you'll have success with both your starter and homemade bread!

Key Ingredients

Warm water: The active dry yeast needs to be proofed, or activated, in the water before combining all the ingredients. Aim for a temperature around 100f for proofing yeast, if you don't have a thermometer, test it on the inside of your wrist like you'd test a baby bottle!

Flour: The sweet bread or treats made with this starter generally don't require gluten development for leavening so all-purpose flour is an excellent choice. Save your expensive bread flour for bread!

Sugar: Use granulated white sugar for this recipe, it does not require anything fancy, just an easy-to-process sugar for the yeast to eat!

Active Dry Yeast: You'll need one packet or about two and a quarter teaspoons of active dry yeast for this recipe.

Milk: Whole milk is ideal, but any percentage will work!

Ingredients required for amish friendship starter.

How To Make Amish Friendship Sourdough Starter

Day 1:

  1. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup warm water with 2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast. Set the bowl aside for 5-10 minutes to allow the yeast to bloom.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of sugar in a large bowl with at least 2-quart capacity. When the flour and sugar are completely combined, mix in 1 cup of milk.
  3. Once the yeast has been fully activated and is bubbly, pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture.
  4. Cover it with a clean kitchen cloth, a kitchen dedicated shower cap, or plastic wrap and store it at room temperature.
  5. It may help to write yourself a post-it note with the dates of each day of the 10 day cycle.

Days 2 - 4:

  1. Each day, uncover the bowl and stir the mixture thoroughly, scraping the sides as required. Recover and set aside.

Day 5:

  1. Feed the starter. Start with 1 cup milk, and stir until completely combined, then add in 1 cup sugar, and stir until combined before adding the flour. If there are a few flour lumps remaining, this is ok, but mix until mostly smooth.
  2. Recover and set aside.

Days 6 - 9:

  1. Each day uncover the bowl and stir the mixture thoroughly, scraping the sides as required. Recover and set aside.

Day 10:

  1. Feed the starter. 1 1/2 cup milk, 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 cup flour, stir until completely combined.
  2. Divide the starter! Separate the starter into 1 cup portions! Reserve 1 cup for your starter, 1 cup for baking, and gift the rest to friends who love baking!

Batch + Storage

Batch:

One batch of Amish sourdough starter will result in 4-6 cups of starter. This amount will vary based on how active your starter is. Variations in starter activity are totally normal, the starter can be more or less active depending on a few factors, like ambient temperature, age, and even the type of flour used.

Either way, at the end of the 10 days, you'll have enough of your own starter to restart the cycle, bake some sweet breads or share the love!

Storage:

During the active fermentation of the new starter, there is no time for storage! This starter cannot be left or forgotten at room temperature. If you're looking to store some starter for future use, use the fridge or freezer to preserve it.

While storing your starter in the fridge will slow down the yeast activity, the fermentation doesn't completely cease, so it's important to not toss your starter in the fridge and forget about it.

If you plan on storing the starter for longer than two weeks, it should be frozen.

How To Store In The Fridge:

  1. After feeding and dividing, place 1 cup of the active starter into a clean plastic or glass container with a lid, but avoid air-tight containers - the fermentation hasn't stopped, and the last thing we want is a fermenty bomb in your fridge!
  2. Date your container - This helps to remind you quickly and easily when the last time you fed your starter to avoid having to revive your starter (like my long-forgotten sourdough starter last summer!)
  3. Feed your starter every 10 days. At least. Avoid going too long between feeds because you can easily damage or kill your starter, I find these ones are a little bit less resilient than sourdough starters.
  4. Ensure that you remove your starter 24-48 hours before baking with it! This allows the yeast and bacteria to reactivate, as they are sluggish in the fridge.
  5. Immediately before baking, feed your starter (1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk), portion it out, and return the fed starter to the fridge.

How To Freeze Amish Sourdough Starter:

  1. After feeding and dividing, measure a generous cup of starter and pour into a ziploc style freezer bag, removing all the excess air. I actually like vacuum packing my starter if I'm going to be storing it in the freezer because the vacuum bags are much thicker and can withstand the abuse of being banged around in the freezer without being punctured.
  2. Label the bag with the contents and the date. Ex. Amish Friendship Bread Starter March 1, 2022.
  3. Lay the bag flat on a baking sheet and place it in the freezer until completely frozen. Tuck the flat-packed starter in a safe place.
  4. Remove the bag of starter from the freezer 24-48 hours before baking, and allow to thaw at room temperature - keeping an eye on the bag, it will likely start to puff up as the yeasts reactivate. Or once thawed enough, transfer it to a bowl.
  5. Immediately before baking, feed your starter (1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk), portion, and bake away!

Is My Starter Healthy?

Most likely. There aren't many things that can go wrong with this Amish starter, as long as they are fed appropriately they are pretty resilient!

To determine the health of your starter, first, start by spending some time with it! Use your senses:

Smell:

Your starter will have a scent. This is normal! We are growing a community of yeast and bacteria, here. It's gonna smell, and the smell isn't necessarily indicative of the health of your starter as much as the types of yeasts growing in it.

These scents are normal:

Fed:

  • yeasty or beer like
  • mildly sweet

Hungry starter:

  • tangy
  • sharp

Appearance:

A happy starter will look different at different times of its feeding cycle.

Fed starter:

  • the starter will be thick and dense
  • creamy and off white in color

Active starter:

  • dotted with large and small bubbles throughout
  • creamy and off white in color

Hungry starter:

  • deflated and flat
  • thinner consistency than a freshly fed starter
  • may have a darkish liquid (hooch) on top

When To Toss:

Sometimes, the bad bacteria overwhelm the good bacteria and yeasts and create a hostile environment for the good stuff!

You'll know this has happened to your starter when you see a faint orange or pink streak on the surface. Or actual fuzzy mold forms on top. Or it smells so foul you don't think you could handle cooking with it. My motto is "when in doubt - throw it out!"

Don't play around with food safety. If it's nasty, it's gotta go. The few dollars in flour, sugar, and milk are NOT worth food poisoning!

Amish sourdough starter in a bowl.

Thoughts From The Crave Kitchen

The Amish Friendship Bread Starter is a great way to start making your own Amish sourdough bread. The ingredients are simple and easy to find, and the starter can be stored in the fridge or freezer for later use. The starter should be fed every 5 days and can be baked into delicious quick bread with just a little bit of preparation.

If this is your first time hearing of Amish Friendship Bread or sourdough in general, I hope this article has been helpful in getting you started on your sourdough journey! Do you have any questions about the Amish Friendship Bread Starter? Leave them in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer them! And if you've already got a starter going, let me know how it's going for you.

Happy baking, friends!

📖 Printable Recipe

Amish sourdough starter in a jar.
Yield: 1

Amish Friendship Bread Starter (Amish Sourdough Starter Recipe)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Fermenting Time: 10 days
Total Time: 10 days 10 minutes

This Amish friendship bread starter recipe is the perfect way to get started. It’s simple, easy, and a lot of fun. You can make this sweet sourdough starter to share with your friends and family. Once you have the starter, the possibilities are endless. You can make all sorts of different kinds of bread with it – sweet or savory, it’s up to you.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast, or 1 packet
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, divided
  • 3 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 1/2 cups whole milk, divided

Instructions

day 1:

  1. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup warm water with 2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast. Set the bowl aside for 5-10 minutes to allow the yeast to bloom.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of sugar in a large bowl, then mix in 1 cup of milk.
  3. Once the yeast has been fully activated and is bubbly, pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture.
  4. Cover it with a clean kitchen cloth, a kitchen dedicated shower cap, or plastic wrap and store it at room temperature.

days 2 - 4:

  1. Uncover the bowl and stir the mixture thoroughly. Recover and set aside.

day 5:

  1. Feed the starter. Start with 1 cup milk, and stir until completely combined, then add in 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Stir until combined.
  2. Recover and set aside.

days 6 - 9:

  1. Uncover the bowl and stir the mixture thoroughly, scraping the sides as required. Recover and set aside.

day 10:

  1. Feed the starter. 1 1/2 cup milk, 1 1/2 cup flour, 1 1/2 cup sugar, stir until completely combined.
  2. Divide the starter. Separate the starter into 1 cup portions. Reserve 1 cup for your starter, 1 cup for baking, and gift the rest to friends who love baking!

    Notes

    Batch:

    One batch of Amish sourdough starter will result in 4-6 cups of starter. This amount will vary based on how active your starter is. Variations in starter activity are totally normal, the starter can be more or less active depending on a few factors, like ambient temperature, age, and even the type of flour used.

    Either way, at the end of the 10 days, you'll have enough of your own starter to restart the cycle, bake some sweet breads or share the love!

    Storage:

    During the active fermentation of the new starter, there is no time for storage! This starter cannot be left or forgotten at room temperature. If you're looking to store some starter for future use, use the fridge or freezer to preserve it.

    While storing your starter in the fridge will slow down the yeast activity, the fermentation doesn't completely cease, so it's important to not toss your starter in the fridge and forget about it.

    If you plan on storing the starter for longer than two weeks, it should be frozen.

    how to store in the fridge:

    1. After feeding and dividing, place 1 cup of the active starter into a clean plastic or glass container with a lid, but avoid air-tight containers - the fermentation hasn't stopped, and the last thing we want is a fermenty bomb in your fridge!
    2. Date your container - This helps to remind you quickly and easily when the last time you fed your starter to avoid having to revive your starter (like my long-forgotten sourdough starter last summer!)
    3. Feed your starter every 10 days. At least. Avoid going too long between feeds because you can easily damage or kill your starter, I find these ones are a little bit less resilient than sourdough starters.
    4. Ensure that you remove your starter 24-48 hours before baking with it! This allows the yeast and bacteria to reactivate, as they are sluggish in the fridge.
    5. Immediately before baking, feed your starter (1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk), portion it out, and return the fed starter to the fridge.

    how to freeze amish sourdough starter:

    1. After feeding and dividing, measure a generous cup of starter and pour into a ziploc style freezer bag, removing all the excess air. I actually like vacuum packing my starter if I'm going to be storing it in the freezer because the vacuum bags are much thicker and can withstand the abuse of being banged around in the freezer without being punctured.
    2. Label the bag with the contents, the volume, and the date. Ex. 1 cup Amish Friendship Bread Starter March 1, 2022.
    3. Lay the bag flat on a baking sheet and place it in the freezer until completely frozen. Tuck the flat-packed starter in a safe place.
    4. Remove the bag of starter from the freezer 24-48 hours before baking, and allow to thaw at room temperature - keeping an eye on the bag, it will likely start to puff up as the yeasts reactivate. Or once thawed enough, transfer it to a bowl.
    5. Immediately before baking, feed your starter (1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk), portion, and bake away!

    Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    10

    Serving Size:

    1

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 485Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 39mgCarbohydrates: 108gFiber: 1gSugar: 74gProtein: 8g

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    Share Your Thoughts

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    Mark C

    Wednesday 20th of April 2022

    I love that you have this “start up” recipe for the Amish Friendship Bread Starter. I had one years ago and I finally baked it off when my parents health was so bad I had to deceive all of my time to them. The only one thing I would like to suggest to you is the sponsor/advertisement. I printed your recipe but I think I will hold off sharing the link. I just don’t want my friends to turn against the recipe before I can share it with them.

    Ally

    Thursday 21st of April 2022

    Hey Mark, sorry to hear about the ad! I will certainly look into that.

    Thanks for your kind words, and glad to hear you are enjoying the starter.

    Beth

    Thursday 31st of March 2022

    I am excited to try this- I have loved your other sourdough recipes so I am looking forward to adding this to my repertoire. Would I be able to use whole wheat flour?

    Ally

    Tuesday 5th of April 2022

    You should be to, BUT, I would start with the base recipe and sub half the whole wheat for all-purpose for the starter and the Amish Friendship Bread itself. Then if you find that it's suitable to your tastes, you could try to do 3/4 whole wheat 1/4 AP flour for the next batch. Sometimes, whole wheat doesn't sub well if you do it 1:1!

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