The fifty percent burn rate does not deter greedy hands from sneaking a bite of Amish Friendship Bread, Oct. 14, 2010.
Several days ago I posed the question: "Amish Friendship Bread: Friend or Foe?" and I can now officially answer: "Foe!"
I'm on Day 10 of the bread-making process and today was the day I added the last round of "food" and divided the starter. Unfortunately, instead of ending up with four cups of the "Mother", as the starter is called, I ended up with almost SIX cups of the smelly stuff. I made three bags of starter, baked two batches of bread, and threw the rest away. And it's a good thing I baked an extra batch because at least half of the bread I baked burnt before I could pull it out of the oven. I'm not the best baker in the world, but I've never had a batch of bread burn before. Burnt to a crisp. Black.
Now, in my defense, this "bread" tastes and behaves nothing like bread. It would more accurately be called "The Coffee Cake that Keeps on Giving, Even When You Want It To Stop." When my friend Amy gave me the starter, she was excited, and several days later she revealed that she hadn't kept any of the starter because she knew I'd have it if she wanted to make more in ten days. I called her today and tried to convince her to take some back. When I told her I'd leave it in her mailbox she actually let out a scream and said, "NO! My mail hasn't come yet today and I don't want the mailman to think we're weird!" Some "friend" she turned out to be.
Once I'd figured out that I had too much dough and no friends to take it off my hands, I resigned myself to making lots of bread. And since I didn't have enough pans for four loaves, I decided to make two pans of muffins and two loaves of bread. The directions called for "greasing" the pans and then coating them in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon before adding the dough. I knew that this had the potential to burn, but I was unprepared for the charcoal shell that the mixture would produce. The recipe called for the bread to bake for an hour and I faithfully checked it at 50 minutes. It was like jelly on top. I set the timer for another five minutes and by the time I got to it, the smoke alarm was already going off. Clearly, this was not a good sign.
Although I'd filled two muffin tins, I hadn't put them into the oven until the loaves of bread were partially baked. So most of the muffins and one loaf of bread were charcoal when I opened the oven to check them the second time. But amazingly enough, a few of the muffins and one loaf of bread were divine. Good enough, in fact, that I am determined to try again. I will not let the Amish Friendship Bread defeat me. I will bake it until I have baked a batch of two perfect loaves. (I must admit I probably won't try the muffins again.) And as soon as I've successfully accomplished this feat, I will throw the rest of the "Mother" down the garbage disposal.
The best part of this process is that I've been having a great time talking to readers and friends about the relationship between the Amish and processed food products. It's a lot more complicated than I realized. I'm also anticipating a great reaction from my friend Daniel when I sneak a bag of the "Mother" onto his desk tomorrow morning along with a set of instructions. When I first told Daniel about this Amish Friendship Bread, he said he thought it was worse than a chain letter. Or zucchini. But he's wrong. This is much more fun.