Well, hello dere!
I am officially back from hiatus. I am a bit over four months pregnant now, and mercifully over my nausea. I can look at food, and eat food (and now I can post about food). It is wonderful. For the last two weeks I have felt blessed every day.
I have a lot of photos to catch up on. I'm going back to Christmas, here! The organization is probably going to take me most of the day today. But we've moved to another town, and first I have to find the USB cord to my camera...
Well, here's one that was already in the hopper. Are you familiar with Amish Friendship Bread? Someone makes you a live yeast starter. They give you a bag with the dough starter and the live yeast in it, plus a set of instructions. Most days, the instruction is, "Mush up." Then you add some flour and sugar: once during the proliferation phase, and once again right before you bake.
The batter will bubble up in the bag, showing you that the yeast is growing. It just sits on the counter and does its thing. At the point of baking, you are to split the starter off into several new bags. Then you have some new starters to give to other people, and one to bake with yourself (that's why it's called friendship bread.) Who knows where these things actually got started, or how many times these little yeasties have gone around the country?
My friend Kira first made me the Amish friendship starter when I lived in Peoria... And I was too broke to buy a new bag of flour and sugar to actually make the bread, so sadly my little yeasties died unfufilled. I didn't see another starter for several years. You don't have to wait for someone to hand you a starter, however. Here are directions for creating your own starter. You can do this with packaged yeast. Just remember the cardinal rule of Amish bread (which as it turns out, is probably as Amish as I am): no metal spoons! No metal bowls! And no wire hangers! EVER!
Just be ready when you get into this. I last made this when my boss and his wife went out of town, and she trusted me to perpetuate her starters. They were gone long enough that I had to turn the starters over twice. That means shucking myself of six total starters, and making four loaves for myself. Finding "homes" for the starters is not always easy. I don't have a lot of friends who are into baking. I tried to give the first set to family members, and they were all like, "Ucchhhh..." The responsibility! You don't want to let the little microbes die, and then YOU have to find three people to give the starters away to. And a lot of people, it turns out, are not into having living things on their countertops. Several people I asked in my playgroup were convinced that bacteria was growing in there. My arguments that a proliferation of yeast suppressed any blooms of bacteria fell on dead ears. Folks don't realize that there is yeast in most any bread they are eating, either. You have to eat things that were once alive, people. Rocks are not an option.
Anyway, if you are successful in giving the starters away, I think it is worth it. The bread is very good! Here is the recipe I used:
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 large eggs
1 c. oil (I used 1 cup applesauce instead)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 large package instant pudding (any kind)
1/2 c. milk
optional: 1 c. raisins, nuts, or chocolate chips
I went for the chocolate pudding, and added chocolate chips and walnuts. I also used whole wheat flour (just at this last add: I didn't want to mess with the chemistry the other times in case there was less gluten in the wheat flour.)
You generously grease two loaf pans, combine 3 T. sugar and 1 T. of cinnamon, and dust the sides and bottom of the pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour, and you are done!
The bread was great toasted in the morning with a little light butter. I froze the second loaf until I was ready for it, and it worked very well.
My second time around, I used butterscotch pudding, and butterscotch chips instead of the chocolate version. It didn't have a butterscotch flavor, just very sweet. This one was good with pumpkin butter.
That one was tasty, but I think I preferred the chocolate. Good luck with your bread, and if you start a starter, you can always give one to me! Next time I get one of these, I may make all eight loaves, freeze them, and just share THOSE with my friends ("Or eat them myself," said the Little Red Hen...)