Amish Friendship Bread plays role in new novel

  • "Friendship Bread" by Darien Gee

    "Friendship Bread" by Darien Gee

Updated 4/5/2011 1:29 PM

I remember the first time some 13 years ago a new neighbor stopped by with a bag of Amish Friendship Bread starter.

Friendship Bread was a new concept to me and I eagerly welcomed the opportunity to try a new recipe. For the uninitiated, Friendship Bread is like a chain letter: you receive a bag of starter dough, care for it for 10 days, divide the starter into five portions, bake one into a wonderful (hopefully) loaf of bread and pass the four portions to friends.


Little did I realize at the time what I was getting into, especially the difficulty of passing along these innocent bags of starter dough. Neighbors closed their doors to me with claims of not having the time; co-workers looked the other way when I approached. I began to think it should be called Unfriendship Bread.

So I was cautious when a book that takes its name from the dubious bread showed up on my desk.

And then I opened the cover and got reeled in by five simple words: "I hope you enjoy it."

At this point I haven't finished Darien Gee's novel; I'm savoring the story of Julia Evarts and the characters who weave into her life in the fictional town of Avalon, Ill. in tiny bites.

I can tell you this is not one of those books with recipes peppering the pages (I find that technique, especially in mysteries, quite distracting), but yes, there are recipes tucked at the back.

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First, you'll learn how to make the starter, if you've been (un)lucky enough to have never received a bag. Then there are variations on the traditional cinnamon-infused loaf, including recipes for lemon-poppy seed bread, brownies and pancakes.

Gee will be around town next week reading from the book (Ballentine Books, $25) and signing copies. You can catch up with her at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, April 14, at the Fremont Public Library, 1170 N. Midlothian Road, Mundelein, or at 7 p.m. that evening at the Waukegan Public Library, 128 N. County St., Waukegan. Books will be for sale at both events courtesy of the Lake Forest Bookstore.

If all this has whetted your appetite for more Amish Friendship Bread, join Gee's Facebook community ( and get access to more than 100 recipes and share your own stories of how AFB has connected you with others in your community.

Super-sized sale: While I have baking on the brain, I want to tell you about the Great American Bake Sale to benefit Share Our Strength, an initiative to end child hunger.


Great America Bake Sale organizers are challenging groups across the country to hold bake sales, of course, on May 14 and 15 to raise money for the effort.

You've got some time to plan, so gather a group of like-minded bakers, find a location (your driveway or school parking lot would work just fine) and register your event at

On the site you'll find loads of helpful information -- from picking a location to wrapping and pricing treats -- that will help you run a successful sale.

You can also order a copy of Food Network star Sandra Lee's "Bake Sale Cookbook" (it's $19.95 and a portion of the sales go to Share Our Strength).

Market outreach: If you manage a suburban farmers market I want to hear from you. I'm putting together a list of area farmers markets for inclusion in an upcoming Food section.

Please send the market's times and dates, location and highlights to by April 21.

-- Deborah Pankey

• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at or (847) 427-4524. Friend her on; Deb Pankey Daily Herald.