This week’s recipe is inspired by these cast iron Amish figurines from a local estate sale.  I call them Jacob and Sarah, and they are brother and sister.  You can’t really tell by looking at them, but Jacob is humming — it’s barely audible — and Sarah is threatening to tell their mom that Jacob won’t stop humming.  They struck me as a quirky collectible — I’ve heard of people collecting cast iron soldiers, but never cast iron Amish people.  Anyway, it looks like some kid had a lot of fun playing with these well-worn toys.

Inspired by these siblings, I set out to find an Amish recipe.  The recipe that came up in every search was — you guessed it — Friendship Bread, the dreaded chain letter of the world of baked goods.  It’s a quickbread, that ironically, takes 10 days to make.  It begins with sourdough starter in a baggie.  Most of the days simply involve squishing the contents of the bag.  On day 6 you feed your starter with sugar, flour, and milk, and on the 10th day you are ready to bake.  This process creates 5 cups of starter — 1 to bake with, 1 to keep for future squishing, and 3 to share with friends.  I think you’re supposed to leave the baggie full of starter on the doorstep, ring the bell, and then run and hide in the bushes.

Fans of the bread think of it as a way to bond friends by sharing infinite loaves of bread baked in different kitchens that all began from the same starter.  I’m pretty sure my friends are not anxious to be connected to me by a baggie full of starter and bacteria that I bred in my kitchen.  And vice versa.

Friendship Bread should not be confused with the recipe for friendship.  There are lots of variations out there, but they tend to go something like this:


4 cups love

2 cups loyalty

3 cups forgiveness

5 spoons hope

2 spoons tenderness

4 quarts faith

1 barrel laughter

Liberal amounts of understanding

Mix all ingredients together.  Bake with sunshine.  Serve daily.

Now I understand why I have so few friends.  The recipe my friends and I have been using ever since we had kids is more like (1) call once or twice a year to ask a favor, (2) hope you run into each other at the grocery store, (3) “friend” on Facebook, (4) add to contacts list, and (5) exchange Christmas cards.

Anyway, the likelihood that I would spend 10 days baking a loaf of bread for anyone is equal to the likelihood of my kids voluntarily loading the dishwasher.  But I will gladly spend 30 minutes or so baking a batch of Blueberry Muffins.   These are hands down my favorite muffins.  They are almost always a part of what I call a “compassion meal” — the meal I prepare to bring to a friend with a newborn, or who is battling an illness, or who has suffered the loss of a loved one.  I like to include them because they’re great to grab when you’re on the run or don’t have the time or energy to sit and eat a meal.  The recipe was given to me by a friend, and they are, to me, Friendship Muffins in every sense.

Recipe type: Muffin
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 ounces vanilla yogurt*
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen (not thawed) blueberries
  • Coarse sugar (optional, for sprinkling on top)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place paper liners in 12-cup muffin tin.
  2. Mix together butter, eggs, sugar, and yogurt in a medium bowl. Fold in dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Gently fold in blueberries. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups, filling each approximately ⅔ full. Sprinkle with coarse sugar, if using. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden and tester comes out clean. Cool on racks. Share with friends.
*Dannon All Natural Vanilla is my favorite. Avoid using yogurt that contains gelatin, such as Yoplait Light--the texture of the finished product will not be as nice.