My friend Robin gave me a starter bag to make Amish Friendship Bread; sweet bread that tastes like a moist cake. For the first five days I opened the gallon sized bag to release the air and then seal it and smash the contents in the bag. On the sixth day, I added a cup each of flour, sugar and milk. Then I sealed the bag again and squished all the ingredients until they were mixed together. I continued to squish the ingredients in the bag and release the air once a day.

On the tenth day, I again added another cup each of flour, sugar and milk. This time I mixed it all together. I scooped out three separate cups of the mix and poured one cup into three one-gallon sized bags. I kept the last cup of the batch and added the remaining ingredients and baked a loaf of bread for my friend.

1 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
In a separate bowl combine the following dry ingredients and mix well:
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 – (5.1 oz) box instant vanilla pudding
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup nuts

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix and pour into two well greased and sugared bread pans. While the bread baked a wonderful vanilla cinnamon smell permeated the kitchen. It baked for one hour in a 325 degree oven. I knew I would have to wrap it up quickly, once it cooled, to assure I would have it for my friend and not eat it myself.

I learned my friend wasn’t much into baking and is a diabetic so this is bread she will eat sparingly. I knew the starter bag would need to find another home so I decided to keep it for myself and give the other two bags to two friends. This time I substituted chocolate instant pudding for vanilla and it was spectacular!

On my next visit to Jill’s house, I brought her a loaf of my fresh baked Amish Friendship bread. When I returned again I discovered Jill had found a book released: Friendship Bread by Darien Gee (Ballantine Books, 2011).

Jill has a gift for putting the right book into the hands of readers and she seemed to know I’d be able to write this review of a new title in Women’s Fiction. Its part of the friendship story about this incredible bread.

A few days later, I finally had a chance to sit down and read the book. Once I started, I couldn’t put the book down; not until I’d finished the entire thing.

The book offers several stories that all come together because of this friendship bread. Each has their own struggles and heartaches they try to get through alone. Julia and her husband Mark have suffered a great loss, which for years dissolves the relationship Julia has with her sister, Lyvia. Hannah experiences betrayal from her husband Philippe and learns how to stand on her own. Madeline is new in town and has opened a business out of her home; she too carries a heavy burden on her heart. She finally understands her step-son Ben, but is it too late?

As the friendship bread starter makes its rounds, the people discovered the value of personal connections. The friendships that developed from this bread eventually grow into connected communities that are in need. A sense of giving and determination floods those that have come in contact with the friendship bread starter bag. This bag eventually finds its way to almost every door step in town and the stories that unravel will keep you turning pages to learn what will become of them and what happens next.

I have learned, not everyone wants to accept the starter bag and for those that do accept this ten-day commitment, they are rewarded with this unique sweet bread. I now find myself trying all the new variations that are included in the back pages of the book. You will be pleased to learn the recipe to start your own Amish Friendship Bread Starter bag is also included. Start your own starter bag, watch your friends pass on each bag and see if any come back to you. Possibly you’d want to start it in the same manner that unfolds in the story and you could become the mystery starter!

Guest blogger, Angel Lawrence

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