So, imagine my surprise when suddenly I found myself in my own home with a whole bunch of something both pretty unhealthy-ish and also ridiculously yummy. I kind of get how it happened, but I wasn't paying attention because I was all caught up in the idea.
See, a friend of mine offered to give some Amish Friendship Bread starter, and I agreed, thinking the Amish are interesting, and I like friends. And I like bread. So the next day, she presents me with a bag of goo and a page of detailed instructions that seem easy at first (lots of "mush the bag" and nothing else most days) but then involves adding milk, flour and sugar and eventually doing all kinds of math in the form of dividing up for other friends until you realize it's like a chain letter of sorts but involving bread starter (a portion of the starter is used to bake bread, while some additional is kept for future loaves and yet more is given to friends), and the brain starts to break down realizing that I either need a bucketload more friends or a really large appetite and bigger pants. (Turns out there are other solutions, and I'll get to that. Stick with me.)
Amish Friendship Bread may be a (lotta) bit of a misnomer. Clearly the mention of adding instant pudding when it's time to bake sort of indicates that this may not have jack squat to do with the Amish, and I can see how some friends might not welcome a gift that you have to kind of care for and then pass along to others. Also, while the end result is, indeed, bread, it's not a go-make-yourself-a-sandwich-on-this-Amish-bread kind of bread but is more like a dessert bread. Think more like banana bread and less like Wonder bread.
And this bread is crazy, crazy delicious, and following the instructions it produces two loaves (plus enough remaining starter to give some away and keep some for yourself to do this all again in 10 days). Two whole entire irresistible loaves that I have to sit around trying not to eat. I froze one loaf, cut the other immediately into 12 equal slices so I'll know how much damage I'm doing (which I've read are about 215 calories each) and tried to pretend like it wasn't sitting on the kitchen counter daring me to have yet another 215 calorie nibble.
See, the sneaky thing about this stuff is that it doesn't all come into the house at once the way that a bag of chips would. No, it presents itself as some cute and fun little project and as just a harmless and unattractive bag of goo with instructions, but then it totally becomes even better than a bag of chips, and it practically mocks you, proving that it is smarter than your good intentions when you suddenly are confronted with two loaves of heaven right there in your kitchen that got there without fully considering that it would happen. Foolishness, but still, there they are.
If you are interested, I've been reading a bit on the subject the past 10 days, so I'll share with you some of the best of what I have found:
- Starter recipe and instructions (very close to the information I received, though mine started with receiving the starter in a bag on Day One under the bread instructions, not starter instructions)
- Chocolate Banana recipe variation
- More recipe variations
- How to keep a starter healthy (slowing down the process when you don't want to bake it every 10 days)
- Lots of great discussion, including another way to really scale down how much is made - see comment #92 by peanut
[Update 8:10AM Monday, July 28: Also, please be aware that 10 days after a person gives you a starter, the same kind person, the "friend" in the word "friendship" may then add to your bread collection by giving you a loaf because they also have too much bread. At this point the recipe my be called Amish Ruined and Former Friendship Bread.]