Thursday, October 14, 2010

Amish Friendship Bread: A Foe... and a Worthy Opponent

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.

Heirloom Foods: More Pale Ale on the Way

Jared's ten gallon pot full of Pale Ale.

I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that Jared started a ten gallon batch of his amazing Pale Ale over the weekend.  The bad news is that it won't be ready for another month.

I went over to Jared's house this past Saturday to watch him make this beer for the second time.  I knew he was making a double-batch, but I was still impressed by the size of the pot required to brew ten gallons of what I hear is an amazing West Coast-style Pale Ale.

Those of you who regularly read this site know that I was extremely disappointed to miss getting a taste of Jared's last batch of Pale Ale, the first beer I watched him make.  He said it went fast, but that it was so popular he would make it again.  And he finally has.  But I still have to wait a month to try it.

In the meantime, Jared offered me two more delicious beers I'd never had before.  The first was made in the style of Rogue Ale's "Shakespeare Stout".  Jared named his version "Andrew" in honor of his brother-in-law, who's a Shakespearian scholar.  Delicious.

"Andrew" and "Hoppapils", Oct. 9, 2010.
The second beer on tap was a Pilsner that Jared has been contemplating naming "Hoppapils" because it's a very hoppy Pilsner.  He says this one is "going to get better", but it tasted pretty good to me already.  I guess that's the fun of beer brewing.  You can make something pretty good and enjoy sharing it with friends, but the true beer master is always thinking of creative ways to make the next batch even better.

Being around Jared and the world of beer brewing has been quite an education and I'm looking forward to continuing to try new beers with someone who has the words to describe what we're drinking.  It's giving me an amazing insight into the world of beer, which has a richer history than I ever realized.  It's also giving me a good excuse to make richer friendships with people who've lived around the corner for years.  And this is even better.  

I've been learning new things about Jared as well.  Like the fact that he's also an artist.  The proof is in the beer and the drawing.
Jared's drawing of his garden with "Bounty Basket" on table, Summer 2010.