Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Amish Friendship Bread

I'm not sure what would possess someone to make bread if it takes ten days to make. Then again, something must be possessing me because I've made Amish Friendship bread. More than once. I think it was my daughter smiling and asking, “Dad, can we make Amish Friendship bread?”

What can I say? I'm a sucker for a cute girl.

Last time, I showed you how to make the starter. It's time to finish the recipe. This recipe makes two loaves.


1 cup Amish Friendship Bread starter
3 eggs
1/2 cup cooking oil (I use canola oil)
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups white flour
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease two bread pans with butter, or cooking spray. You can dust the pans with additional cinnamon and sugar, if you like, but I think the bread is sweet enough as it is.

In a bowl, combine the starter, eggs, oil, applesauce, milk, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix thoroughly.

Combine the starter mixture with the flour mixture and mix thoroughly, to avoid lumps.

Pour half the batter into one prepared loaf pan, and half in the other. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check by inserting a toothpick and checking to see if it comes out (mostly) clean.

Remove the pans from the oven and cool, in the pan, on cooling racks for ten minutes, or so, until the sides of the bread pull away evening from the pan. Remove from the pans and cool the rest of the way on the cooling racks.

Slice and enjoy!

I can't imagine the Amish doing this, but some recipes I've seen call for adding a large box of vanilla pudding with the other dry ingredients. It's not bad that way, but it gets a bit too sweet for me. Which, of course, means my kids love it all the more. I've even heard of people adding different flavors of pudding, chopped nuts, raisins, and other dried fruit. Have fun and don't be afraid to experiment!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Amish Friendship Bread Starter

Although it's really counts as a sweet dessert bread, Amish Friendship Bread is also a sourdough bread. It's too sweet to have the traditional “sour” bread flavor, but it uses natural fermentation processes to leaven to dough, just like other sourdough breads do.

Amish Friendship Bread is makes a great gift. Only the Amish know how to create a starter, so if you give them all away you’ll have to wait until someone gives you a starter back. Should this batter not be passed on to a friend the first day, be certain to tell the friend which day the batter is at when it is presented to them.

As with all sourdough breads, it begins with a “starter.” This starter takes ten days to make, so be patient, but diligent.


1 package active dry yeast (about two teaspoons)
1/4 cup warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups white sugar
3 cups of milk

You'll only need one cup of flour, one cup of sugar, and one cup of milk on any given day, so there's no point in measuring them before hand.


On the first day, place the warm water in a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let it stand for ten minutes and stir with a wooden or plastic (NOT METAL) spoon to dissolve.

In a 2 quart glass or plastic container (NOT METAL), combine 1 cup of the flour and 1 cup of the sugar. Mix thoroughly. Slowly stir in one cup of milk and the dissolved yeast mixture. Loosely cover and let stand until bubbly. Leave it loosely covered at room temperature.

One the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th days, stir the starter with a wooden or plastic spoon.

On the 5th day stir in one cup of flour, one cup of sugar, and one cup of milk.

On the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th days, stir the starter with a wooden or plastic spoon

On the the 10th day, stir in the last cup of flour, cup of sugar, and cup of milk. You will have about 4 cups of starter. Remove one cup to make your bread with. Give one cup away to two friends, and store the remaining cup in the refrigerator, or start the ten day process again, starting on day 2.

You can free the starter in one cup measures for later use, if you like. Let the frozen starter thaw for at least 3 or 4 hours to bring it up to room temperature before using.

Next time, I'll show you how to make the Amish Friendship Bread.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What is Sourdough?

My friend and fellow food blogger, Mark Hansen, has been making sourdough bread in his dutch oven. He's not shared any of it with me, but what are you gonna do? In the spirit of friendship and food love, I've decided to offer this “blog response” on sourdough bread.

Sourdough refers to the process of capturing wild yeasts to leaven the bread. The process is as old as bread, with some of the earliest known records of sourdough dating back to ancient Egypt. It was probably the first form of leavening.

It turns out that true sourdough isn't just yeast. It's a combined culture of yeast and lactobacilus bacteria. Mark told me that it's the ratios between the two in the culture that determines how strong the “sour” taste is.

Even though it's been around for thousands of years, I credit the prospectors during the California gold rush with raising sourdough techniques beyond mere leavening techniques, and creating an American sourdough tradition. The famous “San Francisco Sourdough” comes comes from the prospectors who carried a mixture of flour and water in a packet strapped to their waists. The heat from their bodies fermented the mixture and created a natural leaven. This also gave them the nickname “sourbellies.”

San Franciscan's claim that their city is the sourdough capital of North America. I prefer to think of it as the sourdough capital of the world.

Photo by Josep Alarriba

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pho Green Papaya - A hidden gem for Vietnamese and Thai Food

Going out for a Valentine's Day dinner with your wife is almost a given if you don't want to be sleeping on the couch. Going out for a Valentine's Day dinner and double-dating with your sixteen-year old son and his eighteen year-old girlfriend is just weird. It's even weirder when your son has no shame and starts telling you about how the two of them have been making out.

Would you have every had this conversation with your parents when you were a teen? Me neither.

Fortunately, there was an immediate ice breaker for this otherwise strange situation. The Girlfriend (TGF) likes to cook. Ahhh ... common ground ... now I'm feeling at ease. Well ... okay. Just less weird.

We chose a place near TGF's home in West Valley City called Pho Green Papaya. It's a small Vietnamese / Thai place in an area of town that's not known for high class establishments. In spite of the surrounding businesses and limited parking, this place is a hidden gem with a broad menu, delicious food, and reasonable prices.

The Pho Green Papaya is in a small building, but the vaulted ceilings and large windows create a comfortable, open feeling. The wood paneled walls are beautifully decorated with original paintings and prints evoking an elegant South Asian atmosphere.

The wait staff was very pleasant and attentive, although our waiter seemed slightly shy over that fact that his English wasn't perfect. His English is certainly better than my Vietnamese so he had no need to be nervous around me. He was an excellent waiter, even boxing up our “left overs” for us to take home, and we tipped him accordingly.

The tables were a little small. Two were pushed together to accommodate the four of us and one of them was a little wobbly. The small tables did make it a little tricky for us to deal with all the food we ordered. The vaulted ceilings also made the restaurant a little louder than I would have liked, making us raise our voices a bit to be heard.

The food was incredible and well worth putting up with the small difficulties of the table. The menu is quite extensive, featuring a wide assortment of Vietnamese and Thai dishes. There were several ways to order: ala carte, lunch and dinner specials, and family style. The Green Papaya also offers several tea blends, both traditional and herbal. I ordered a small pot of African Red Bush Chai, a rich blend of Rooibos tea and spices including cardamom, and spearmint. My wife wanted to add sugar, but I thought it was perfect without.

We started off the meal with an appetizer of pork dumplings, with a soy based dipping sauce. The filling was sweet and tender and the wrapper was nicely caramelized. Unfortunately, the wrappers did come undone as we inexpertly grabbed them with chopsticks, making it more difficult to dip in the sauce. The smooth texture and sweet taste made up for it, though.

For the main course we ordered three Thai dishes, family style: Masaman Beef, Pad Thai Shrimp, and Basil Chicken. The first that came to the table was the Masaman Beef. I've never had such succulent and tender beef in my life. The sauce was amazingly creamy with just the right amount of sweetness and spice. While I was surprised that it didn't have any vegetables, I've never eaten better Masaman Beef in my life. It's one of my wife's favorite dishes and she finished it off early in the meal. I should have listened to her when she said, only half jokingly, that we should take a separate order home.

The Pad Thai Shrimp and the Basil Chicken came next. I like Pad Thai and enjoyed the Green Papaya's version, although it didn't quite match up to their Masaman Beef. The Basil Chicken was delicious, with tender baby asparagus spears and a rich and complex fish sauce. The remnants of both made a great lunch for me the day after. In fact, I may have enjoyed the Pad Thai Shrimp even better then next day.

After the meal we felt quite satisfied, and had to get the kids to a school dance, so we decided against getting any of the desserts offered. Part of me felt this was a shame, giving up on a chance to have mango sticky rice, but our hunger had been nicely sated and we felt content so, why give in to gluttony? When the bill came, I was pleasantly surprised. Dinner for four, with appetizers, drinks and a doggie bag, for less than $60.00, is hard to beat.

Should you try Pho Green Papaya? That depends. If you're not up to trying new cuisines and prefer to stuff yourself silly with steak and potatoes, maybe not. If, on the other hand, you're ready for a culinary adventure in a surprising location at reasonable prices, then Pho Green Papaya may just be the adventure you're looking for.

4 Zucchinis

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Easy Chocolate Mousse

If you want to “gild the lilly” for your Valentine this year, but don't want to do a lot of work, this chocolate mousse recipe may be just right for you. There's no real cooking involved (except to heat the milk) and the only special tool you may want to use is your blender. In spite of the ease of preparation, this makes a rich and elegant dessert. It can be made a day ahead to save more time for smooching.

This recipe makes 4 to 6 small servings. As rich as this is, small servings are enough.


8 ounces of chocolate chips
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
Whipped cream for topping

Put the chocolate chips, sugar, egg, salt and vanilla in a large blender or food processor. Heat the milk in a sauce pan just until boiling. Add the hot milk to the blender and blend for 1 minute, or until all is smooth. (Be careful when blending hot liquids. Always use a towel to hold the blender lid on so it doesn't pop off, spraying hot liquid on you.)

Pour into individual ramekins or or other serving glasses and chill in the refrigerator for a few hours (or overnight). Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Photo by Sanja Gjenero

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Virgin Bloody Mary for your Valentine

Just because the economy is going south doesn't mean your love life has to. With Valentine's day fast approaching, I hope you've not forgotten how romantic dinner at home can be.

As long as you can find a babysitter, that is.

A good romantic diner starts off with a good drink. Why not a virgin Bloody Mary? Listen, guys, these are easy to make and will be a hit with your girl, whether you're married or not. Same oges for the ladies. And hey, it's red. A perfect color for Valentine's Day.

If you're married, does that make it a Bloody Married, instead? Hmmm...


3 cups canned vegetable juice (like V8)
1 teaspoon of prepared horseradish mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Traditionally, a Bloody Mary, virginal or otherwise, uses tomato juice, pure horseradish, and adds the lemon only as garnish. I like this variation, better.

Mix the listed ingredients together and serve over ice in two large tumblers. Garnish with a lemon wedge, or a small stalk of celery (with leaves) if desired.

Picture by Jordi Farres