Amish Friendship Bread is the gift that keeps giving this holiday season.
One starter bag morphs into four more in 10 days.
Hence the word “friendship” in the title, as you will be giving away the mix to friends and family for weeks.
Roberta Bodnar decided to share this recipe since it makes a nice gift: she gives a loaf of the bread and the starter together so people can see what it is.
“I’ve made, probably no lie, over 50 loaves since I’ve gotten this starter bread,” Bodnar said.
She said she got the starter from a student on Oct. 19. It since has been shared with people at school and church, as well as doctors. She shared it here on Nov. 24.
“It’s just kind of going around,” Bodnar said.
The secret with friendship bread is it takes no refrigeration and needs mushed every day. It starts with flour, sugar and milk, which are mushed for five days. More flour, sugar and milk are added on the sixth day, then it gets a daily squishing and mushing for three more days until the baking on day 10. That’s when the one starter is divided into four and what remains is made into the bread.
“It’s so simple,” Bodnar said. “You really don’t have to do too much to it.”
Bodnar has shared 17 starter bags with her students at Elmwood Elementary, where she is an intervention specialist teaching fourth-grade special needs students.
This is her seventh year at Elmwood, after having spent 17 years with Lakota Schools.
Bodnar advised against using almond or another flavored milk, but said her son uses Fairlife, which is lactose-free.
“It’s a very forgiving recipe. You really can’t go wrong with it.”
Bodnar also has a Facebook cooking show, which started as a way for her to teach math.
She used to do videos for the kids during math lessons and show them how to cook, such as different ways to do recipes if they double or halve the batch.
Her mom did that with her when she struggled with math, Bodnar said. She tells her students she learned how to do fractions because she bakes.
Once she shared her cooking lessons on a public Facebook page, she started getting comments from friends, parents, teachers and other students.
Over the summer, she stopped doing videos every day and people noticed.
“People would say, ‘hey, when are you going to do videos?’”
She now tries to do two a week, which some including giveaways for people watching the video.
Bodnar started doing the Facebook page after the shutdowns in March due to the coronavirus.
“Because of COVID, I was so sad and cried every day, leaving those kids on the 13th of March.”
She has done shows on cooking roast and baked chicken as well as air frying and Instant Pot cooking. She did a “pancakes in pajamas” show. In another Bodnar took extra soup and made a roux, then added crescent rolls on top and baked it.
“I want to show people, if you do make a lot of something, you can make it into a different dinner.”
On her Facebook page, she has posted a video shot of a VHS tape from when she was 16 years old. The show, titled “Cooking with Roberta and Ask Roberta,” had Madonna singing the background music.
Earlier this week, Bodnar made hot chocolate bombs.
She has given no thought of giving up teaching and making money with a cooking blog.
“I love teaching, I love the kids. I get my happiness from them.”
And Bodnar has become adept at recording her cooking lessons and teaching. She will do a couple on the weekend and show them throughout the week.
She said she’s not only doing this for her students and people who need cooking skills or advice, but also for her own children.
“That’s what these videos are for. These videos are for my own children and my grandchild because we’re not going to live forever. I want something of me to be shared with my children and they remember me cooking and baking and then their children can watch it.”
She and husband James have four children, ages 10 to 20.
Her youngest, Jamie and Taylor, don’t cook much.
Friends of Jonathon, her 17-year-old son, watch her videos, as do the firefighters who work with James and her 20-year-old son, Thomas, at Central Joint in Portage.
“I’m just shocked at who watches the videos – more guys than girls.”
When COVID first hit in March, Bodnar went to the store and stocked up on bananas and baked 50-60 loaves of banana bread and delivered it to random neighbors.
“It brought them some happiness and it brought me happiness because I love to bake and give it away,” she said. “I love being able to give to people.”
That is part of the fun with the friendship bread.
“This is the best type of bread to give out to other people because it is friendship bread, and when you give it out you are usually giving it to a friend or someone who needs a friend,” Bodnar said. “You give them that smile, they’re so excited they didn’t expect it. I love the message behind it. It just starts with one person then it generates a whole bunch of people.”