Thursday, July 23, 2009

Amish Friendship Bread

I was at a party last week, and somebody brought in a loaf of delicious, moist, cinnamony quick bread . . . and “starters,” and copies of the recipe. I’ve heard of this stuff before; it’s like sourdough, where you keep a portion of the yeasty, fermenting glop alive while using some for the baking.

In this case, you begin with a cup of “yuck” in a gallon-size zip bag, and at the end of ten days of massaging and (twice) feeding it, you get about 5 cups of glop: One cup is used to make your own two loaves of quick bread, and the other 4 cups are divvied in one-cup portions into new gallon-size zip bags, to give to your friends.

So they can share in the joy.

This assumes that you have a lot of friends who like to bake. Which I don't have. Uh-oh.

It’s officially called “Amish Friendship Bread,” though I have to say, at least in my circle of friends, maybe it’s not a completely appropriate name.

Maybe a better description would be “Amish Burden Loaf,” “Amish Albatross Bread,” or “Amish Kitten Bread.” It is like adopting a pregnant cat: Soon there will be kittens, so you’d better round up all your friends. . . . You know. . . . All your friends who need cats. Those people.

But as with kittens, maybe not all your friends want to be asked to take on a little mewing bundle of joy. And maybe you’d be better off not even asking some of them to take on the responsibility of feeding, mixing, baking, and copying the recipe for the next round of “friends.” So what does one do?

Unlike kittens, the bag of glop smells boozy—especially when you open the bag a little to burp some air out. This is not exactly something I crave for my kitchen counter, since I stopped drinking. (It’s funny how certain stuff can set me off, push my buttons.)

. . . Here is something else: the recipe calls for “1 large box instant vanilla pudding mix.” Hmmm. Why pudding mix? Is this really an Amish recipe? Hmmm.

I’ve got it! Jell-O invented this crazy recipe in order to perk up sales of their instant vanilla pudding!

“Oh, look, boss, sales are down this quarter in the mid-south sector; should we send out some of the Amish Friendship Bread?”

What a great idea; very little packaging required, and zero advertising. Just some starter in zip bags, some sample loaves, some stealthy, low-tech, photocopied recipe sheets specifying a large box of instant vanilla pudding mix, and some undercover marketing employees who go to parties (where marketing types fit right in!), or meetings, or church suppers, and seed the community with the living, breathing, hungry glop.

As the glop grows exponentially, so do sales of large boxes of instant vanilla pudding mix.

Sneaky, clever little dudes, aren’t they.

But whatever. I did take on my quota of the starter batter, willingly, and it’s been genuinely fun playing with it, mushing it, feeding it, and so on. But today was the end of the line.

So I used up all the starter; I cooked it all up. Yep. The extra loaves are in our freezer.

Why? Because I’m a true friend! I won’t saddle anyone with the care and feeding of the exponentially growing glop.

. . . And also because I hate chain letters!

But honestly? . . . I don’t have anyone to give the starter to. And maybe that is why I find the prospect of “friendship bread” so irritating in the first place.


JaneL said...

And as someone who already has a batch of starter in her freezer (which I've been meaning to throw away), I am very grateful to know that I can visit you without being offered more!

Julie said...

Well, hey, your starter might be a great-uncle or something to my starter. Did you get yours from someone at work? Someone with the initials SK, I believe? I got mine from someone with the initials DG, who might have gotten it from the batch from work. Or maybe not.

. . . Yes, throw it out!! Flush it down the loo!