A recurring phenomenon has been spotted in Somerset and has no doubt made its way into the next county by now, quietly growing as we speak. It’s the living organism called Amish Friendship Bread and it’s coming to a doorstep near you!
On a visit to the coffee counter at the Barker Mall a few weeks ago, I spied a familiar looking ZipLoc bag on the counter. Oh, I knew all about “the bag.” I knew it was just an innocent blob of goo with a list of instructions that subliminally begged you to take it home. It evokes memories of a dense, vanilla cinnamon dessert bread that smacks of grandma’s kitchen. You know you haven’t had any in a while and it is really very good…and you give in. With trepidation, you take the bag home to sit on the counter, checking it’s “birth date” and following instructions daily.
Day 1: Squish the contents of the bag to mix completely. Leave it alone.
Day 2: Squish the contents of the bag to mix completely. Leave it alone.
So it goes until Day 5 when Goody, we do something! Add a cup of flour, cup of sugar a cup of milk. Squish and mix, then back off!
Days 6 through 9 are squish and run days, but you’re allowed to gently unzip the bag to burp out the air caused by the fermentation of whatever is living in there, lest the bag EXPLODE in the night (believe me, you don’t want to go there).
On Day 10 you’re really cooking! First you add milk, flour and sugar again after putting it in a huge bowl. After mixing it, you carefully scoop a cup of the the little bubbly guys into each of four ZipLoc bags.
Now you take the rest of the goo and begin adding the stuff of life; sugar, flour, eggs, milk, oil, vanilla pudding mix, salt, soda, powder and LOTS of cinnamon. Mixing with wooden spoons takes some muscle (no metal bowls or utensils allowed) but eventually you fill two loaf pans with the thick goo and pop them in the oven. The heavenly aroma alone is worth the mess you just made out of the kitchen and an hour later you have two loaves of dense, sweet bread ready for a glass of milk or cup of coffee. It’s perfect to serve to friends, hence the name I guess, but you soon realize there is a reason you must share this sinful pleasure!
Over on your counter are four, gallon bags of goo brewing in silence. They are waiting for you to rope your friends in with a delicious bite, so you can foist a bag, with directions, on them when they least expect it. You save one bag for yourself, of course, and in ten days you have two more loaves of the yummy bread/cake….and three MORE bags of goo to find homes for! Your friends, charmed by the novelty of the starter-in-a-bag and the sample bite you gave them, adopt a bag with all good intentions and expectations. Oh, the poor, unsuspecting innocents!!
The first time I birthed the bags and baked ten days ago was wonderful. It is still the same, marvelous taste I remember. I had help from a couple of 5 year-olds and gave a loaf and instructions to the Mom- my niece. She raved over the bread the next day and said the men-folk in her house loved it. When little niecette was over a few days later and I was squishing my bag, I mentioned she could help her mom add the day 5 food. She just rolled her eyes at my naivete and said “Oh, Mom threw it out in the garbage.” Horrors! That poor defenseless little bag of friendship goo never had a chance, but I should have known. Everyone loves to eat it, but nobody wants to make it!
Well, I kept two bags for myself so I could bake four loaves to share the wealth, but those two bags today begat 8 more bags and they are bubbling away on the kitchen table like primordial sludge, waiting to be taken in and squished daily. A wiser woman would have just baked the loaves, dumped the remaining goo and savored the last of the bread for a long while. Alas, not given to wisdom when I need it most, I could not bear to throw out the starter, the link in the chain that has been going around since who knows when? Besides, I already invested all that flour, sugar and milk. Oh, the guilt of waste! There it sits. I just want to warn you.
Worse than an unwanted litter of kittens to give away, the goo bags must somehow find homes. The trick is to give them to others who will not give one back to you when theirs multiply. I’m sure there have been some pretty devious goo-passings over time. If you leave it in a basket on the doorstep, for heaven’s sake keep it out of the sun! Those little bubbly guys in there will expand and blow up the bag! Next comes an explosion of yeasty, sticky goo! Do it in the dark!
You know, maybe a Chinese auction basket with kitchen supplies could hide a bag! What about the next holiday? Not right for Father’s day unless you can guilt their womenfolk into baking it for them. Can’t donate it to the food pantry without the 50 pounds of flour and sugar it takes to keep the little buggers ancestry going. Rats! Surely there are young innocent cooks who have never heard of Amish Friendship Bread, who can still be enticed by the prospect of yummy bread… as long as they don’t know they’re in for a never-ending cycle of squish and bake. This is not for the commitment-phobic; it’s a real responsibility.
I’m going to find homes for these freshly-filled bags of goo…I owe them a fighting chance at life in the oven…but I give you fair warning. Watch where you sit, park your car or leave your purse. Be careful when you stick your hand in the mailbox. If you find a bag of goo, you’ll find instructions. Take it home, squish it, feed it, bake it. Then leave those extra bags with unsuspecting friends (or strangers, or the mailman) and run like hell!!