Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A is for Amish [friendship bread]

Throughout the last 10-12 years I have been many times the recipient of Amish friendship bread starters. Maybe you've seen them? Gallon-sized ziploc bags of gooey, whitish stuff, each accompanied by a sheet of paper (plain or fancy) with directions on what to do with this, uh, glop. Ten days of directions before you can even bake the glop and eat it. What friend, first off, would make you wait ten days for anything?

Ten or so years ago I didn't know much about sourdough starters and breads and such so when I received my first bag of Amish friendship bread starter I was quite skeptical about why I'd want to eat something that had been fermenting for several days. I had even more reason to be skeptical because I received that first bag from my sister-in-law. I have to admit, I questioned her motives. (That bag ended up in the garbage; thankfully my relationship with my sister-in-law did not).

I have to say that I do love the directions that accompany the bag, most days you're just supposed to mush the bag. What a fun word, "mush." I guess "mash" or "smoosh" or "squish" just sounded too violent and in order to keep us friends from pounding the poor bag to death, we are instructed to "mush" the bag.

On day 5 you add flour, sugar, and milk. Then, you get to mush some more. Well, when you get to day 10 is when you discover that you have to have friends in order to keep the starter going. After adding more flour, sugar, and milk, then you have to divide up the mixture into four parts: 1 to bake your bread, and 3 to give away (you can save one of those for yourself if you feel like keeping up on the mushing). I think I've received the Amish friendship bread starter six or seven times and that means I should have passed it on to anywhere from 12-21 friends (depending on if I kept some for myself); I think I've given it to two friends total. I actually do have more than two friends, I just seemed to have kept forgetting to bring a bag of glop to someone and the bags ended up sitting on the countertop going unmushed for days. Into the garbage they went.

The few times that I've actually taken the time to bake my remaining portion have been tastily rewarded. To the glop you end up adding: vegetable oil, sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, eggs, milk, a small box of vanilla pudding mix, cinnamon, and salt. The bread is soft with a flaky, chewy cinnamony crust.

The puzzler is, what kind of Amish did this starter come from that they would include a box of vanilla pudding mix in the recipe? What Amish people have boxes of vanilla pudding mix? Maybe that's the equivalent of a junkie in jail, paying off a guard to get him some drugs. [Amish person to tourist] "Psst, you brother. Come hither. Whilst thou hastily run up yonder road to the nearest grocer and fetch me a box of vanilla pudding mix?"

With the three extra bags that you must pass off to people to keep the starters (and the friendships?) alive, I can't help but compare this to the other fun things we pass off to friends, like colds and other illnesses. You know, I catch a cold, "Great, now I'm stuck with this!" I get a bag of glop, "Great, now I'm stuck with this!" Hey, that's what friends are for!

Well, if you ever have the privelege of receiving an Amish friendship bread starter I hope you have a fun time mushing it, possibly baking it, and possibly sharing it. Spread the love (and the mushing!)


ldsjaneite said...

:-) "Mush" Maybe that's why Mom wanted to drive the sled dogs.

Alanna said...

Yah! I'm so glad you started a blog! You have made me feel so much better about the one bag of "glop" I received that ended up in the garbage. It's hard to think about it everyday...especially since the days that you are supposed to finally start actually doing something significant begin about the time the bag has blended in with the countertop in your mind's eye! I am sooo with you--though I would like to actually try eating a finished product one day!