Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Loave It or Leave It

Maybe you recall that commercial from the 70's for Faberge's organic shampoo?  A comely blonde chirps that she told two friends, and they told two friends and "so on, and so on" as her image multiplied relentlessly on your screen.  While it started out as a cute and catchy gimmick that rapidly increased the brand recognition of the product, after a while the commercial began to feel a little too Stepford Wives or Westworld.  

It called up fears of cloning and science run amok.  It aired, went viral, then turned in upon itself, destroying it's own cachet by becoming too commonplace.  And what does that have to do with food, or fun?

Perhaps you are blissfully unaware of the baking world equivalent of that commercial?  Amish Friendship Bread is a form of starter dough that is handed over from one "friend" who then gives more to three more "friends" and so on and so on, every 10 days, presumably with a loaf of the finished product and printed instructions to endlessly reproduce the results.

This is not just a warm way to share baked goodies with your friends (and eventually, relatives, neighbors, random strangers in front of the grocery store...).  I think this so-called "sharing recipe" purportedly from the Amish, was really the ground test for somebody wanting to see how far a pyramid scheme would run before collapsing.

You see, you don't just get a loaf of bread here.  You get a loaf of deliciously sweet bread that your family will love and want to have around at all times, plus a bag of starter so you can deliver more of that bread to your now sugar delirious brood every 10 days.  

The catch is, under the guise of "Baking Day!" is also the generation of not one, but FOUR new bags of starter.  So unless you have plans to open your own ultra narrow Niche Bakery (All Amish Bread All the Time!) in a few weeks, you will have to be searching out three new friends every ten days who are willing to join the Amish Friendship Bread Coven, er, CIRCLE (and so on...and so on....).  

Why, you might ask yourself, don't you simply throw the starter out if you don't want to pass it along?  Well, sure, you COULD.  But that is throwing away "perfectly good" food, or the starter equivalent, and for more on that see a couple of previous posts about the karma that unleashes.  

OK then, you offer, just do the math and make only enough starter to bake yourself bread and have one batch left over.  

And that is usually what I do until I can't take the smell of sweet loaves baking without breaking into a cold sweat.  About the time I realize I am only wearing pants or skirts with elastic waists (when I am allowing anything at all to touch my ever expanding middle) I snap, and toss the whole thing out with a shudder.  

But this is called "FRIENDSHIP" bread for heavens, sake.  So not sharing it just seems churlish. Who wouldn't LOVE a loaf of bread and the chance to make more?

And so, a pyramid is born....

There are all sorts of recipes for various types of loaves out there, but the one I prefer is a version I pretend is healthier because it contains nuts and apple bits and I use some applesauce in place of the oil called for.  

Putting nuts into the batter completely undoes that little bit of "fewer calories from fat!" dodge, but shhhhh....  If I don't think about it, it won't matter. Besides, this supposed bread is really a loaf cake, moist and sweet and let's face it - dessert - no matter what you call it. 

I recently got a batch of the starter from one of my favorite people, and she even asked me ahead of time if I would accept the starter along with the loaf.  Her husband told me their youngest daughter had "helped" him bake, so the loaf may ("or may not") have an extra cup of flour - or sugar - in it. "But we tried a loaf and it tastes good!" they assured me. In the face of such a charming tale of familial baking, how could I refuse? I took a [deep] breath and said, "sure!".  

It is fun while it lasts, and because I just visited this treat upon two of my neighbors I will record the recipe here for them to retrieve as needed.  If you wish a bag of the starter, let me know.  If you are in my area just ask (PUHLEEZE!)- and I will happily give you a bag (or three!!!) in 9 days. If you are not in my area, here is the starter recipe and you can be ground zero of the Friendship Bread phenomenon in your own neck of the woods.   

Ladeez and Gentz! Amish Friendship Bread

Day 1 - relax - do nothing - keep the closed bag out at room temperature - do not refrigerate
Day 2 - squish-squash and mash the bag
Day 3 - squish-squash and mash the bag
Day 4 - squish-squash and mash the bag
Day 5 - squish-squash and mash the bag
Day 6 - Add to bag 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, squish-squash, blah blah blah
Day 7 - squish-squash and mash the bag
Day 8 - squish-squash and mash the bag
Day 9 - squish-squash and mash the bag
Day 10 - BAKING DAY! Mix and divide starter as follows:

Pour entire contents of bag into large nonmetal bowl and add 1 1/2 cup flour, 1 1/2 cup sugar,
1 1/2 cup milk. Do not use metal to measure or stir. Measure out 4 separate batches of the starter batter, 1 cup each, into 4 separate one gallon size resealable bags. Keep one for yourself and give the other three to friends along with a copy of the instructions. Mark bag with day 1 date if you don’t give it away that day.

Recipe 1: Apple Nut Friendship Bread Yield: 2 loaves
2 cups all purpose flour 1 cup Friendship Bread starter
1 cup white sugar 3 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder 4 oz container of no sugar added applesauce
1 teaspoon baking soda canola oil added to applesauce in cup to measure 2/3 cup
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (OR 2/3 cup canola oil)
1 teaspoon salt 1 cup chopped nuts
1 tablespoon vanilla 2 apples, peeled, cored, finely chopped

*For pan prep: 1/2 cup sugar with 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease two 9x5 loaf pans (baking pans can be metal). “Flour” with half of sugar/cinnamon mixture from “For pan”. Set aside rest of mixture for topping batter before baking.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt, set aside.

In a large nonmetal mixing bowl, stir together the Amish Friendship starter, eggs, vanilla and applesauce/oil mixture. Gradually stir in sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in chopped nuts and apples. Divide batter evenly between two prepared pans. Sprinkle rest of reserved cinnamon/sugar mixture on top.

Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes then run spatula around edges of pan and release. When room temperature keep in closed container or wrapped.

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