Captain's Table

Mark Austen

2019.08.10 - Amish Friendship Cake [Updated]

For some reason a while before we went on our Broads cruise at the end of June, Tina mentioned that it would be nice to bake an Amish Friendship Cake to take with us. Now this involves making a starter and it requires ten days before you bake with it, as I found out when I looked into what was required for such a cake. The best website I found is the aptly named Friendship Bread Kitchen which has all you need to know about baking Amish Friendship Cake (or bread as the Americans call it) as well as a lot of different recipes to try with the starter once made.

So, I duly started the starter going and cared for it for the required ten days and baked two loaves from a cup of the starter the day before we went on holiday, and very nice they were too. However, this left me with about 4 cups of starter, one of which is supposed to be used to continue the starter going. However, since we were going on a holiday for a week I could not stir it daily as required so I froze the lot in single cups amounts. On our return I took one portion out, defrosted it and continued on. This is recommended practise and I have the starter still going today. I also have a lot of frozen portions since you end up each week with about four or five cups of starter to either give away or freeze.

Now, in Germany, Amish Friendship Cake is known as Hermann Tieg, or Hermann Cake, and a friend, who took one portion of starter in order to have her own, combined Hermann and Amish to get Hamish with which she named her starter.

I liked this idea but didn't want to use the same name for fear of confusion, so I named my starter McHamish!

Despite baking quite a lot of Friendship Cakes since I started I still have about eleven cups of starter in the freezer which would be enough for twenty-two cakes and needless to say, the number of frozen starter grows each week. This isn't too bad in recent weeks since I can take two cakes to our events and offer them around. Likewise, the next three weekends, including this one, will give me an opportunity to bake more cakes to give away but not enough to reduce the amount of frozen starter, although it helps.

I decided that I would try using a starter when baking bread. The Amish Friendship Starter is a bit like a sourdough starter except that it contains milk instead of water and has additional sugar. This generally means that when you bake with the starter it has just has been fed with more milk, flour and sugar and as a result it is quite sweet. However, if you remove a cup of starter from your live batch just before you feed it, then most, if not all, the sugar will have been consumed by the yeast and it will be a lot less sweet if not sour as a result. So it is not so far out as one might have thought. The Friendship Bread Kitchen website does have a couple of recipes for bread but these are for kneaded bread and I wanted to try the no-knead, turbo bread that I've been baking.

Today was the day. I baked the required two Friendship cakes this morning, one for Tina to take to her Working Equitation session tomorrow and one for use to freeze and after that I started a no-knead bread but reduced the amount of yeast, water and flour in the recipe and added the cup of starter instead. The resulting dough seemed to be about the correct consistency but did take about twice as long to rise the first time than before. Nevertheless, it did rise and I put the dough into a cane Banneton to rise the second time. This time the dough rose in the time I expected and it was transferred to the hot Cloche in the Rayburn.


Here's the loaf fresh out of the oven and not yet removed form the cloche, just the cover taken off. Looks amazing.


The loaf on a cooling rack with my tea mug just for the sake of size comparison so that you can see just how well risen this loaf has become.

On cutting the loaf after it had cooled the crumb was fine and the bread had a soft texture as well as a very slightly sweet taste, not surprising as the starter was ripe (just been fed) and the consensus was that this bread would do very well with both sweet and savoury toppings but especially jams and marmalades.

We will see how it is tomorrow after it has had a chance to dry out a little and I'll toast a slice to see how that tastes as well.

A successful experiment. The next loaf to be tried will be the same in quantities but with a starter that is take from the live batch just before it is fed. Then it will be on to a white-wholemeal blend which is the type of bread I'll want to be baking once the diet is done.


2019.08.11

The bread makes very nice toast, possibly too nice considering that I'm still on a diet. The loaf has now been wrapped in cling film and put in the freezer otherwise it will get eaten very quickly.