I was recently given two bags of Amish Friendship Bread starter. The fact I was given two bags should have been the big tip-off. Along with the two bags of starter was a page of instructions. Ten days worth of instructions. This should have been a further tip-off.
I am a bread maker. Bread making is my avocation. Several days a week I make bread – all kinds of bread – breads made with sour dough starter; breads made by using a poolish; breads made by using a biga. I was game to try this Friendship starter which was new to me. The idea is to make the bread and give it to your friends, together with a bag of starter.
Days 1 through 5
I was required only to “mush” the bags.
The bags of starter have been taking up space on my counter top as the first line of the instructions reads, “Do not refrigerate.” Today I am instructed to add to each bag:
1 cup of flour
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of milk.
I think, “1 cup of sugar? This recipe must make several loaves. ” Further down the instructions I read that each bag will make two loaves. Okay. Still seems like a lot of sugar.
Days 6 through 9
Occasionally glance at the bags and wonder what’s going on in there.
Finally. I can now make the bread. But not before I am instructed to add:
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 cups of sugar (more sugar!)
1 1/2 cups of milk
Next… I label four large Ziploc bags with “Day One” and the date. I put one cup of starter in each of the four bags. These are the bags I am to give to my nearest and dearest friends.
But I am not finished yet. I add to the remaining starter: 3 eggs, 1 cup of oil, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 1/2 cups of flour. I grease the loaf pans as instructed and dust the inside of the pans with, you guessed it – MORE SUGAR – 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon saving the sugar that does not cling for dusting the tops. I pour the batter into the pans and sprinkle on the sugar. Bake for one hour at 325.
Exhausted from ten days of minding the starter, I gather my husband and our guest from Germany to enjoy this Friendship Bread – this bread that has taken a full ten days to make. I will bet that it is pretty fabulous after all, it has taken ten days!. My first impression on observing the bread is that it looks not like a yeasted or sourdough bread but, rather, it looks like a “loaf.” A simple loaf like, say, zucchini loaf. The 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon has fallen off the cake and is lying on the stove top. Ah, but the proof will be in the eating. I cut three slices, serve them and eagerly look for expressions of pure joy on the faces of my companions. Expressions that say, “This is the best bread I have ever eaten.” or “I can now die peacefully for I have tasted of the best bread in the whole, wide world.” My husband slowly opens his mouth and states, “Well, this is disappointing.” I am indignant. How can this be? I take a taste and look for words to express what I am, at that moment, feeling. The words “really ordinary” and “borders on boring” spring to my quivering cake crumbed lips. Ten days! And this is what you get. I think I fainted from the sheer exhaustion brought on by ten days of Friendship bread.
When I regained consciousness, I was reminded that I had been given not one but TWO bags of starter. Not wanting to throw it out, I thought surely there must be something else to make with all this starter. Well…there is but take it from me – don’t bother. Even our dog, who has an iron stomach and iron will, turned up her not very refined nose.
There is really nothing more I can say. Except, that if you really value me as a friend, you will never, ever give me the Friendship Bread starter again. I just don’t have ten days to waste. And to show you that I value your friendship very much, I have thrown the four Ziplock bags full of starter labeled “Day One” in the garbage.