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Recently I started a "Starter" for Friendship Bread with some active (non wild) yeast. I thought it would be a good way to keep an active culture of yeast around in general and get some nice cake / breads too. However as i've been going though recipes paired with the starter for cakes, cookies, and muffins. I've noticed that all the leavening is coming from other means. So that becomes the crux of my question. If not for leavening, what value does a friendship bread starter provide?

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    Have you not been using it to make bread?
    – dbmag9
    May 3, 2022 at 20:27
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    Cakes, cookies and muffins don't use yeast for leavening, you use friendship bread for making yeast breads.
    – GdD
    May 3, 2022 at 21:04
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    It does seem that the internet is full of recipes for "friendship bread" that add chemical leaveners as well (a top hit for me on Google uses a cup of starter, 2 cups of flour, and 1.5 tsp of baking powder + 0.5tsp baking soda). Recipes without additional leavening seem really hard to track down so the question is more reasonable than it seems at first glance (partly @GdD)
    – Chris H
    May 4, 2022 at 10:30
  • It's so the success of the recipe doesn't depend on whether the starter is actually active, and you don't ruin a friendship by blaming the person who gave you the starter for a failed rise.
    – The Photon
    May 7, 2022 at 15:18

2 Answers 2

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I see Amish Friendship Bread recipes that create a starter with dry active yeast, but also notice that once they are active, they are kept active by feeding with flour, water, and frequently sugar. After the first addition of active yeast at the creation, no further dry active yeast is added, from what I can tell. This is a similar process to creating a sourdough, however, with sourdough, no dry active yeast is used. Anyway, over time, the starter you've created will pick up lactic acid bacteria, and perhaps other strains of yeast. The pH of the starter will become more acidic. So, in addition to leavening, the starter adds flavor to the recipe and adds acidity to your recipe. Baking soda and powder also help leavening, but might be more important here to preserve the correct level of acidity and encourage browning in the final formula. Baking soda helps keep acidity in balance, particularly when used with baking powder (one can use less soda). The proper alkalinity is also important to encourage browning.

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It is there for taste.

The starter you describe is simply a kind of preferment. Since active yeast is added, and maintained overtime, I expect it will have a very strong yeasty-sourdoughy taste, much more so than other preferments made without a culture, or ones that are fermented for short times.

The bread recipes itself (the ones I found online) are for quickbreads, and the leavening comes from the chemical leaveners in them. Even if the starter would have a leavening capability (which I don't know, since I haven't handled it - it could be highly overfermented) it wouldn't be able to develop any of it in a quickbread recipe.

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  • This is of course about the technical side of baking bread. I have no contact to Amish culture, and I have no idea if adding such a starter has some kind of cultural or social significance. If it did, that would be off topic for us anyway.
    – rumtscho
    May 4, 2022 at 11:28
  • Culturally the recipes on the Internet are far from authentic anyway, with the traditional breads being closer to sourdough except for being enriched (especially when feeding the starter).. "Amish" is branding
    – Chris H
    May 4, 2022 at 12:31
  • I looked at maintaining a culture based on commercial yeast early in the pandemic when supplies were lacking, and ended up with a sourdough culture obtained via a friend's doorstep. Based on what I read at the time, a method like this should keep a viable culture of something that will leaven, but it will evolve over longer than the 10 days commonly stated
    – Chris H
    May 4, 2022 at 12:52

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