When a friend gave me a bag of Amish Friendship Bread starter earlier this year, I had no choice but to experiment.
To me, that's really what these bags of goo are all about. If you have kids (especially boys!) they will love squeezing and 'burping' the bags of starter as the yeast ferments with the milk, flour and sugar. And you can teach them a little science along the way. In fact, I've caught Sam several times sneaking into the dining room to squeeze the starter bags.
My sour dough starter is still going strong since I received it in March. And I've learned quite a bit, as Erin did when she received some starter a few years back.
If you haven't been gifted a bag, I encourage you to make your own. The recipe is here. When you (and your friends) get tired of using the starter, I'm happy to report that the freezing method does work. I made this coffee cake with a bag of starter slush that I thawed and re-started after it spent about two months in cold storage. Those little yeast molecules picked up fermenting right where they left off.
Once you make the traditional Amish Friendship Bread, it's easy to use starter for other things, including cakes, brownies, cookies, pancakes, biscuits and pie crust. If you need ideas be sure to visit the online bible of friendship bread recipes at the Friendship Bread Kitchen.
I'm not a huge fan of the instant pudding mix and loads of sugar that many starter recipes use. Luckily for me, when Robin T. delivered my first starter bag, she included pudding-free recipes developed by her co-worker Claudia T. This coffee cake recipe is a spin off. And it is the best coffee cake. Ever. The day after my recipe tinkering I had to give away batches of cake to my neighbors because we could not stop eating it.
Sour Dough Coffee Cake
For the cake batter
2 cups of sour dough starter
1 1/2 cups of flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the topping
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or ginger, or 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (experiment!)
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with cooking spray or grease with butter or shortening.
Using a plastic or wooden bowl and spoon, mix together all ingredients for the cake batter. (Do not use metal. It reacts with the yeast in the starter and gives it a funny taste.) Pour mixture into pan and spread out evenly.
Place all topping ingredients in a second bowl. Using two knives or a pastry cutter, incorporate butter into other ingredients until crumbs begin to form. Sprinkle topping generously over cake batter. You might have some left over. (You can freeze the extra topping and use it when you make this coffee cake again — because there will be a next time.)
Place pan in oven and bake for 30 minutes to 40 minutes, until the top is browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let the cake cool. Then cut yourself a piece and indulge. And keep your starter going so that you can make this again.
Here's Max holding one of our starter bags.