The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Is Amish Friendship starter good for any other recipes besides the one that came with it?

BarbJ's picture

Is Amish Friendship starter good for any other recipes besides the one that came with it?

I was given a Amish starter with the recipe for Amish Friendship bread, but I don't really like the recipe.  It comes out too heavy and sticky.  I think part of the problem is the pudding it says to add.  I did find a recipe for the bread without the pudding, but I'm interested in making something else with it.  It also says to add baking soda & powder, so I'm guessing the yeast isn't used to rise the bread, maybe just for flavor?  It comes out more like a pound cake than true bread. I also found a recipe for pancakes which I haven't tried yet, but would be glad to find more recipes.

It's a good starter in that it grows happily in my kitchen with minimal attention; add flour, milk, sugar on the first day and on the 5th day, and cook on the 10th day.  And my kitchen is fairly cool at night, maybe 58-60*F. 

But I'm worried about the milk.  The instructions say to leave it out at room temp.  I've had it going for about 40 days and didn't worry about the millk until I found this site, and saw that most starters use water, and no sugar, so now I'm worried that leaving the milk out like that could be bad.  So far no off oders or flavors, in fact it's very "yeasty" smelling, but still now I'm worried.

Can this sweet type starter be used to make bready-type sweet bread that doesn't use baking soda & baking powder in the recipe?  Is it strong enough to raise a loaf with out the added levening?

 I'd also like to say I really like this site.  Very cool!  Next I think I'd like to start some regular sourdough starter.  I live in the San Francisco bay area, and it would be interesting if my bread came out like the famous S.F. bread.  In other words, is that yeast endemic to my reagion, or is it a variety that was pass on over the years and not native to the air here. 

Thanks in advance for any help or insights.



browndog's picture

Hi, Barb. Your 'Amish' starter is probably no different in terms of yeast bugs than other starters, assuming it is a wild yeast starter, only your feeding is different. My starter was given to me with instructions to feed it weekly with milk, flour and sugar. That changed upon discovering this site.

Now my starter gets flour and water daily if I plan to use it, and is only refrigerated when I take a break from sourdough, at least now that my kitchen is about 60 degrees.

My guess (and it is just a guess) is that you could leave off the milk and sugar entirely and have a stronger starter without any concerns. You can use your starter in any recipe that you like. The primary concern is whether or not it is robust enough to do what you want it to. If you are adding other leavening agents it doesn't much matter.

>It also says to add baking soda & powder, so I'm guessing the yeast isn't used to rise the bread, maybe just for flavor?<

That's right.

If you want a straight sourdough product, that's when it matters a lot. If you spend some time on one of the excellent sourdough threads here, you'll learn a lot about how to judge your starter's strength, or start your own if you like.

Your second question is a big one that's been debated here at length before. Darned if I know.

Sean's picture

My experience with starters can be measured in weeks instead of years, but if I were close to San Francisco, I'd make my own starter in the hopes of getting that special SF flavor. Where in the Bay Area are you? I'm in Sacramento, which is so close, yet so far when it comes to SF sourdough flavor from a starter.

My recommend, as stated above, that you peruse the soudough threads here and maybe hit the library. The knowledge and people here are incredible. You're fortunate to live near one of the great sourdough flavors in the world - use it!

BarbJ's picture

Thanks for the comments, Browndog and Sean!

After I switch to just flour & water,do I throw out most of the starter when feeding it, like I've read here on this site?

Right now none is thrown away. At the end of 10 days you make either about 4 cakes/breads and keep one cup of starter aside to start the cycle over, Or make one loaf,keep one cup starter and give 3 to 6 cups away with the recipe.

I'm wondering if the giving away of the starter is the way the Amish deal with the waste of throwing out starter at the end/begining of each cycle? Just thinking out load here...

I live in the south bay area, near San Jose. I'm about 50 miles south of San Francisco, so don't know how far that S.F. influence travels. So I'll make some starter here and see. It's a lot drier in this area, and it is warmer at night. Not nearly as much fog, and more inland heat influence than S.F. Should be interesting.

I'm definitly going to be doing a lot of reading here, looks like there's lots to learn.

Thank so much for listening and replying! Everone here seems so nice already!





browndog's picture

Unless you're using your starter pretty regularly, you may find it easier to keep and feed less and just build up the amount when you're ready to bake. What I've learned here is to feed a mere 5-10 grams, or about a tablespoon of starter until a day before I need it for bread. That makes for a lot less 'discard' which some people toss and some of us save to use as a tenderizer/flavor additive to all sorts of things.

Yes, I never thought of it like that but I bet you're exactly right about the origin of 'friendship' starter. I can't bear to throw any starter away, so a lot ends up in my homemade dog biscuits.

But as Mike Avery pointed out recently, you end up with swimming pools of starter if you keep it all. Or don't have enough friends...

Welcome, and keep us posted, Barb.

Delicio8's picture

What a great idea!  My dogs love to lick the starter from my fingers if I let them so they already like the taste.  I will have to try that. Do you have a recipe posted anywhere?  I also hate to see any part of my little starter going down the drain...

Sean's picture

San Jose... mmm... traffic-flavored starter....

I refresh my starters weekly now as they live in the fridge and I mostly bake on the weekends. I wish I had started earlier with sourdough. The flavor is excellent and there's a certain thrill to getting fermentation from the air as opposed to a small jar of brown stuff.

The weekend I'm going to try my liquid levain for the first time. I may use the excess for pancakes....

alicia_gross's picture

I have found that the Amish friendship bread starter that calls for equal amounts of flour, water AND sugar work very well in any sweet bread type recipe.  What Browndog was saying sounds more like turning the sweet Amish Starter into a sourdough starter which I have experienced can also work well with sweet recipes.  My Amish starter is exclusively for the sweet sweet sweet cinnamon and sugar bread that my family LOVES so much.  My sourdough starters (one for a little more sour flavor and one for a little less to accomidate everyone) are what I use to make my rolls, breads, cinnamon rolls, artisan breads and pretty much everything else.  I love having a variety.  I have actually gained 15 pounds because I've been eating TOO MUCH!!!  My kids love the sourdough breads and the Amish cinnamon and sugar bread (Amish bread is a great dessert and not as unhealthy as a bowl of ice cream and m & m's that they used to have for dessert!!!)

 P.S.  About the milk thing.  I found a website a few days ago (I was worried too) that said that the yeast is the only organism that can survive in that "sour kind of condition".  This person said that milk going bad in the starter really isn't an option for it because the bacteria is all killed by the yeast.  I hope that is true.

mardreygraves's picture

Alicia is right -- so long as the yeasts are healthy and thriving, there's no worry with bacteria forming in the milk and going bad. It's the exact same phenomenon that happens with any fermentation (such as brewing beer), which is why wine and beer are the healthy beverage alternatives when there is no clean drinking water, even though they're made with the very same water. Yeast cultures act as their own cleansing agents.



Wild-Yeast's picture

One thing that you should guard against is becoming too complacent with a sourdough starter. It is a living organism consisting of wild yeasts, acetobacters and lactobacters to name but a few. The fact that the sourdough "colony" is symbiotic culture is very happy coincidence for us all. The colony, in a way, is self protecting in that it tends to overcome infections by outside organisms that are not conducive to colonies benefit. The actual sourdough mechanism is still not well understood outside of that it just happens to produce the most delicious bread products. The addition of refined sugar and milk are products not normally found in combination with wheat berries. I believe this combination is most likely only valid if you're using organic milk and sugar. The Amish recipe predates mechanized food production which is something that Agrono-anthropologists have to deal with when ferreting out the pedigrees of ancient recipes. Organic milk contains natural antibodies and Lactobacteria. Organic sugar provides many of the trace minerals required for fermentation. I would be cautious as improperly handled milk left to the atmosphere is a very hospitable environment for all sorts of biologicals. This lesson was made indelible in Hawaii when I left a small amount of unfinished milk in the bottom of a cup over a weekend. Coming back on Monday I was amazed at the variety and colors of all the fuzzy stuff that had bloomed on the bottom of the glass. I through the glass out. Beer and Wine spoilage made Louis Pasteur famous. Wine is protected by tannins and acid content whereas beer does not have any of these protective mechanisms and must be refrigerated and protected from light (hence brown or green bottles).

I always use my senses to determine the health of the culture. Is it too warm, too cold? Visually, does it look healthy? Any strange discolorations or lack of vigor? Surface texture and fermentation bubbles are also good indicators. How does it smell? Sourdough has its own distinct smell. Anything that smells off may be an indicator that something is not right although starters will go through some of these "off" phases early in their career. If the off smell does not go away it's probably time to start over. Taste is a very reliable method. Do not taste if you have any suspicions that there may be a problem with the culture. Another method is to make three starters and make comparisons between the three. They all should track one another. If one seems to be going bad then you still have the two survivors. Keeping a log on the starters is a good idea as it can be used as a referrence to review progress.

One other thought is that the sourdough organism will become modified over time reflecting the friendly infectious agents that are present in your local vicinity. The effect is to "localize" your starter providing a signature taste to your bread products. The amount of sweetness or sourness can be made by tweaking the starter. Tweaks are small changes in ingredients or conditions that direct the flavor toward a taste target. Need more sour? Add a small amount of rye flour and raise temperature. Need sweeter? Use less hydration and lower temperature.

The wonderful thing about sourdough is the deeper you become involved with it the more amazing it becomes!


annamariabakery's picture

Hi Barb,

  We were given the started by my grandmother.  At first my husband would use the starter mixture and then decided to skip using the starter mix altogether.  He follows the same recipe that came with the starter but he substitutes the starter with yeast that you buy from the grocery store.  He has also tried using Self Rising flour and the bread comes out the same.  He has even played with the Cinnamon recipe and has come up with several different flavors that he makes (Chocolate, Lemon, Apple, etc).  If you want check out our website:


whosinthekitchen's picture

I have used the Amish Friendship to make great muffins and even pancakes.  Both puff beautifully...

I make the pancakes for company.  I offer a variety of toppings:  fruit, toasted pecans, podwered sugar, citrus glaze, various jams.  Always gets great reviews and then a take away gift to boot.


Lindal010101's picture

I have heard of the Friendship Bread, but don't know how to "start" the starter and where to go from there.  HELP!



Emelye's picture

I found this on the internet somewhere, long enough ago that I can't remember frome where but it certainly works - it worked for me, at least:


  • 1 pkg. active dry yeast (1 pkg ~ 2½ tsn.)
  • 1/4 cup warm water (100 ±10°F)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup warm milk (100 ±10°F)


1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water for about 10 minutes. Stir well.  If it isn’t foaming after 10 minutes, you need to buy fresher yeast.

2. In a 2 quart glass or plastic container, combine 1 cup sifted flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or the flour will get lumpy when you add the milk.

3. Slowly stir in warm 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 for Amish Friendship Bread.

     Instant yeast would, of course, work just as well.  Use a little less, maybe 2 tsp.

Using milk instead of water adds a different flavor.  Since all types of fermented milk (buttermilk, cheese, etc) exist and are made with various techniques I an pretty sure that using it in a starter like this poses no danger, assuming all other things are equal.  If you are still worried (I haven't tried this but it should work), scald the milk to about 180ºF (82ºC) and then let it cool to 100ºF (38ºC) to kill off any foreign beasties that have settled in uninvited.

I have also frozen surplus starter when nobody wanted a share with good success.  Have fun!

Emelye's picture

As with most acidic formulations, it's better to mix this up in a nonreactive bowl. I like to use glass.