Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Amish Friendship Bread: Friend or Foe?

Amish Friendship Bread, Day 3

It all started innocently enough.  My friend Amy described the crunchy goodness of the Amish Friendship Bread she was making and I volunteered to take some off her hands when the time came.  Several days later, I got a call.  And a new neighbor.  

Amy was ready to divide the dough and make the bread, but she wanted to know if she could borrow a cup of sugar.  I couldn't believe it.  I had a REAL neighbor who wanted to borrow a cup of sugar!  That was almost more exciting than the idea of starting my own friendship bread.  

Amy's house is a little less than a mile away, but it's on the slope of a steep hill, and she called just before dinner-time, so I must admit that I hopped in my pickup truck and drove to my neighbor's house with a cup of sugar and an empty ziplock bag.

I giddily handed over the cup of sugar and the ziplock bag and watched Amy scoop out a gooey blob of starter dough into my plastic bag.  Then she handed me a list of instructions.  What had I gotten myself into?

For those of you unfamiliar with Amish Friendship Bread, you should know that it's actually a sweet bread, more like a coffee cake, that uses a sourdough starter to get it going.  You keep the festering blob, also known as the "Mother", in a plastic bag, and the instructions say to "mush the bag" every day for five days.  On the sixth day you give the "Mother" a fresh supply of food-- sugar, flour, and milk.  And then you continue to "mush the bag" for another five days.  On Day Ten you feed her again-- more flour, sugar, milk, and a bunch of other standard cake ingredients.  But the real kicker is that you also add a box of instant vanilla pudding.  Nothing says "Amish" more than Vanilla Instant Pudding.  Whatever.  I'm hooked.  And it's too late to stop now.  

Amish Friendship Bread, Day 12
I'm on Day Eight and my "Mother" is about to explode.  I think I need to let the air out of her.  The instructions don't say anything about how to clean up the mess your Mother makes when she decides to redecorate your kitchen while you're at work.

The recipe says that after ten days, you end up with two loaves of freshly baked Amish Friendship Bread and three new "Mothers".  You're supposed to keep one of them so you can make another two loaves of bread and give two "Mothers" away to friends.  When my friend Daniel heard about the process, he said, "It's worse than a chain letter!  Or zucchini!"  And I'm beginning to think that he's right.  

In the meantime, does anyone out there want a "Mother"?  I'll have two to spare on Thursday.