From Aunt Sharon’s Kitchen: Friendship Bread (aka Cinnamon Bread)

In 2006, my son took a job as a chef at a summer day camp in Pennsylvania. He asked if I would handle desserts as his assistant, and, because I love baking, I thought, why not!  It gave me the opportunity to see him and my grands every day.  Knowing how much I liked cinnamon, my son offered me this wonderful cinnamon bread, made by a friend of his. I sampled it, and it was very good. I asked her for the recipe.

That is where this story begins.

A few days later, I was handed a bag with a starter in it, and a handwritten sheet with explicit instructions. 

“No metal should ever touch the batter, only use plastic bowls.”

“Stir, don’t whisk.”

“Don’t forget to leave it on your counter and not put it in the fridge.”

She also recommended that on the day I bake my 2 breads, I should find 4 friends to give a starter to and put another one away for myself. 

I had no idea what was in the bag, but I followed the directions, and on day 10, I was very excited to make my first bread. (I could find only 3 friends that were interested, so I thought I would make extra breads for the freezer.) 

As soon as I began mixing my first bowl, I realized that I wasn’t going to be happy with all the lumps in the batter. I took out my metal whisk. Although I was breaking one of the rules, I was convinced it really wouldn’t matter. 

It turned out better than I expected, and even tasted better than the original bread! On the other hand, my friends never got as far as day 10 with their starters, and that was the end of sharing. So, rather than ‘friendship bread’, I call it ‘cinnamon bread’ now.

Now here I am, 14 years later, still making this bread with the very first starter I was given. Every 10 days, I make between 6-8 breads; they all go in my freezer, usually to be given out to friends or family. I have quite a following, and this bread has traveled to Florida, New York, Ohio, and different parts of Pennsylvania.

My local friends love it too. Everyone that works, volunteers or stays at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House looks forward to my Tuesday volunteer day, because they know they are getting cinnamon bread. I even did a curbside drop off to 2 friends during our quarantine. 

So, although I have never officially made the starter, I found one to share. And the recipe for the bread is the one I have been baking for almost 15 years. Now we become friends with the passing of my beloved cinnamon bread. 

Starter for Friendship Bread 

Ingredients

1 pkg active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)

1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)

Instructions

  • Pour water into a glass or plastic bowl, sprinkle yeast over the water and let it dissolve for 5-8 minutes.
  • Mix 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk into a bowl.
  • Mix with a wooden spoon and add the yeast mixture.
  • Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let stand until it forms bubbles.
  • Pour this into a gallon Ziploc bag and seal. This is Day 1.

Day 1: Do nothing else. 

Days 2-5: Leave the bag closed and squish the liquid 2x.

Day 6: Add 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of milk and squish all that together in the bag.

Days 7-9: Open the bag twice each day to let the air out and squish the liquid.

Day 10: It’s time to bake. 

  • Pour the liquid from the bag into a bowl and add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk.
  • Mix with a wooden spoon and then whisk until almost all the lumps are out of the liquid.
  • Measure 1 cup into a bag if you want to do this again in 10 days.

(Mark this bag with Day 1 date, Day 6 date and Day 10 date.) 

Each cup makes 2 breads, so I use the next 4 cups to make 8 breads, being careful to use a separate bowl for each cup. Oh, I also use skimmed milk, but that’s up to you.

Baking the Bread

To each cup of starter, add the following wet ingredients and whisk:

3 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup canola oil

In a separate bowl mix your dry ingredients:

1 kg box of instant vanilla pudding

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

After whisking the dry ingredients, add them to your wet ingredients. Use a wooden spoon to mix well, though I find it easier to use a hand mixer. 

Repeat this with each cup.

Note: This is where the friendship part comes in. If you can find the friends, label each bag and give each friend 1 cup as their starter. Mark bag with next day as Day 1, Day 6 and Day 10, and give them a copy of the recipe. You can also put 1 cup in the freezer in a large unmarked bag, and when you take it out, mark that as Day 1, etc.

Back to baking –

  • Spray your loaf pans with baking spray and sprinkle the bottom with a sugar/cinnamon mix.
  • Divide the batter from the first bowl between these 2 pans and top with a sprinkle of the cinnamon/sugar mix.
  • Bake at 325 degrees (preheated oven) for about 45-50 minutes.

The tester should come out clean. Let it cool, and then wrap it securely.

These loaves can be frozen indefinitely, and they stay as fresh as they were on the day you made them.

You can cut your cooled loaf into squares and keep those in a freezer Ziploc bag too. You can even make muffins from this batter!

I hope you enjoy this recipe, stir up new conversations with friends that you share it with, and find humor in the fact that, to date, I’ve baked (and mostly given away) more than 3000 loaves of bread since that day at camp in 2006.

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