623: Amish Friendship Bread

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Don’t do it. It’s a trap.

Over the course of my life, I have gotten from several acquaintances a container of Amish Friendship Bread starter. For those of you who have not been so blessed, it is a sourdough (sweetened) fermented dough, used as a leavening agent in a future bread product – in this case, a loaf of Amish Friendship Bread. Whether this has anything to do with the Amish, I haven’t a clue, but it does impose on your friends, hence the Friendship part of the name. See, when you get this container of starter, you have to stir it daily, and feed it in about a week, and stir it daily for another week until it is ready to bake; at which point you feed it again, divide it into three new containers, leaving you with enough starter to bake one recipe loaf of the bread, and one starter for the next loaf (plus three), in another two weeks – after the stir and feed routine. You are supposed to give the three starter containers to three of your friends, who are then obligated to do the same, like a kitchen coffee klatch-style pyramid scheme. I can foresee the stuff taking over the world.

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There is a Facebook post that I have seen several times, and it goes something like this: If you send me a messenger post that tells me to copy and paste, and repost to 10 of my friends (TEN!!!! Like, who has ten friends?): know this, dear post sharer: my inbox is where your messages come to die. I do not repost. I do not share.

I have learned similar lessons about the Amish Friendship Bread. I accept the container of starter, of course – who wants to be labeled a non-friend for refusing? I stir and feed it for the requisite two weeks, and when it is ready for dividing, sharing, and baking, I simply kill all of it by mixing up and baking four loaves of bread at once. Problem solved. No friends involved. I will take the finished loaves of bread to work to share with friends as it does make a tasty coffee cake and such is usually received with delighted gratitude and disappears with alacrity whenever anyone is moved to donate.

Just in case you are intrigued, poor hapless soul who has no IDEA what you are starting: here is the recipe.

To make the starter, in a glass or plastic jar (with a lid) or a gallon zipper plastic bag, mix one cup of milk (any fat level), one cup of sugar and one cup of plain flour. Do not refrigerate it. Stir it (mash the bag) daily for five days. You should see it begin to ferment (bubble) during this process. On day five, feed your starter with one cup each again of milk, sugar, and flour. Stir or mash well.

Day 6-10, stir/mash once daily. On day ten, you are ready to bake your one loaf and abuse/addict your friends. Feed the starter again (1 cup each milk, sugar and flour). By now, you may have to move up up a mixing bowl. Put three cups of the starter into three new containers (1 cup each), and give one container to three of your friends that you don’t care for overly much. They will each think of you repeatedly over the next two weeks, believe me.

You will also have a cup of starter for yourself, to return to your original, cleaned container to start your own feed and stir routine for the next two weeks, on your way to your next loaf (and next three friends, because the first three will delicately avoid you when they see you coming). That will leave you with one measure of starter with which to mix up your long-awaited loaf of Amish Friendship Bread.

To that last measure of starter, add the following:

1 cup oil (vegetable-based, your choice), 1 cup sugar, 3 large eggs, 1/2 cup of milk, 2 cups flour, 5 oz box of instant pudding (any flavor you like), 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Optional: chopped nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, applesauce, craisins, etc. It’s a pretty loose recipe. Mix well.

Grease two loaf pans, and dust them with a sugar/cinnamon mix. It should take a teaspoon of cinnamon to a 1/2 cup of sugar to dust both greased loaf pans. Fill each pan with half of your batter, and bake 45-60 minutes at 325 until done – test with a toothpick in the center. Let them stand 10 minutes in their cooling pans before you loosen and tip them out to completely cool.

Or, forego the three new containers of friendship starter, and mix up four loaves’ worth of bread batter and bake the whole shebang yourself, and spare your friends. It is a pretty tasty coffee loaf, it freezes well, and it’s difficult to screw up the recipe, pretty much regardless of the extra ingredients you add. So, maybe you will want to share the starter for the first few batches – but nobody lasts longer than three months, trust me. Eventually the whole thing will sour on you – and I don’t mean the sourdough starter, either.

If someone ever tries to give you a container of starter – you are now forewarned and forearmed. You are welcome.

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569: Bygones

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Used to be friends,

much beloved kitties,

men I thought were mates – who weren’t,

belongings I lost along the way (that I still randomly include in my dreams)

plans I had for my life,

hope for the future.

That smoking hot body I remember,

the fruit trees I planted everywhere I used to live (that someone else is harvesting now),

the books I read and passed on to other readers.

The children I raised, and set free.

The person I was.

Life.

527: I’m Toast

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I am embarking on a new phase of life. At age fifty-mumble, mumble, I have determined that I will marry. A man I met online. Whom I have yet to meet face-to-face. Stop screaming. Yes, I know. I really, really do know. I do hear what my friends and family have had to say and their concerns are valid. They are valid. I am taking my time, and being careful – as is he.

I have learned in a year and a half of living alone for the first time since I ….for the first time ever, that I do just fine living alone. I have hobbies. I go to the gym, I cook decent meals. I read books and see movies. I chat with friends, and socialize with them, too, on occasion. I have discovered I rather like myself, and we have become such good friends that I like being with just me rather a lot. So, why marry at all?

Toast is the metaphor for me to help explain this choice (to you and to my friends and family). I like toasted bread. I prefer toast that is like my single life: dry whole wheat. Nutritious, healthful, low-calorie, calm, plain. Not boring plain, tasty plain. When it is plain, I can add jam, honey, or syrup, peanut butter or Nutella now and then, if I choose – just like my single life and its occasional, special treats. Otherwise, I prefer the plain, dry whole wheat toast. I like it.  Often, while I am reading, I will toast a slice and consume it without even hardly noticing it, except for the satisfying crunch.

Toast with butter, however, is different. It is rich, complex, full of flavor. Buttered toast is unable to be consumed absently while otherwise engaged in reading my latest fiction selection. It demands my whole attention, that toast, because if you don’t pay close attention to it, it will drip melted butter down your fingers all the way to your elbow, sometimes messily dripping off to stain my tidy slacks or my nice, clean dress. Toast with butter is married life. It can be messy and untidy, but the experience of having it makes dry whole wheat pale in comparison. Yes, it demands your attention and effort in ways that single living does not. But the richness of married life, with an honest, loyal, and committed partner, is what I’d rather have, thanks just the same. And I can still add the occasional toppings when I like to buttered toast – it isn’t just butter only forever and ever. Occasionally, just for fun (for a day) or when necessary, I can even have it plain again. 

The process of creating a secure, stable married relationship begins with communication, and that can and does happen online in many of the identical ways that it happens face-to-face. Yes, there are people who misrepresent themselves online (which admittedly facilitates that deception somewhat), but the same thing happens all too often in the face-to-face situation as well. We have had months of conversation, and will have months more, before we meet. In a public place. 🙂 After all, he does not know 100% if I have represented myself honestly and accurately, either.

I have also given much thought lately to the centuries-old tradition, still extant today, of arranged marriages, where the families decide and often bride and groom meet face-to-face only after the vows are spoken and the papers are signed. Many of those marriages actually do work. There isn’t necessarily a lot of evidence that our modern notions of how things are supposed to be done is the better way. Commitment is commitment.

Either way, I’m toast.

479: Gimme, dammit

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I want some.

I want some care, concern, and affection from a significant other – and a significant other would be nice while you are at it. I want it NOW, today, right this very minute. (stomps foot and pouts)

I have spent years – YEARS, I tell you – being primarily concerned with the well-being of others: students, friends, coworkers, husbands, children, the dadgum PETS, and even the freaking houseplants. I am pathetic. And responsible. And mostly an adult, which is sucking the life right out of me (some days I’m whiney, too).

I wish I could get away with rolling about on the floor, drumming my heels and screaming, but at the advanced age of 5(mumble, mumble), I would look ridiculous, and would certainly throw out my back, as well. WHY is piching a hissey fit something allowable only to toddlers, who don’t have NEARLY the justification for pitching a fit as us mature adults do? Ye gods.

When is it MY TURN?

406: The Good About Islam…sort of

I am compelled to speak up on behalf of all of the Muslims I know, following the post I just made describing the scriptures of the Koran. I don’t know any radical Muslims. Every single one I have met (hundreds upon untold hundreds), so far as I know and have experienced, is a kind, decent, family-oriented person who has basic respect for other humans, regardless of their differing faiths. These are the majority of Muslims world-wide.

I want to share some American history with you. In the mid-to-late 1700’s the vast majority of Americans were content living under the rule of the British king. A small minority of radical terrorists (freedom fighters??) are responsible for the American Revolution that established the United States of America. That is FACT. Therefore, taking that and other examples from history, it is entirely irrelevant that the majority of Muslims are peace-loving, when they will not, themselves, muzzle the rabid dogs amongst themselves, and declare once and for all that Mohammad’s teachings that call for the death of all non-Muslims are outdated and are hereby, once and for all, abolished.

What boggles my own mind is how can someone peaceful belong to a religion whose scriptures so clearly call for war (violent, killing jihad) with the rest of the entire world? Not to CONVERT the world by persuading others that Islam is the superior religion, but by brutal, outright murder. I could respect conversion. That is an individual’s choice. That is NOT how Islam is going to take over the world, by persuasion. That is not how they are doing it this very minute in countless countries they already rule. There, they are systematically exterminating all who are not Muslim, in much the same way that Jews, gypsies, Catholics, homosexuals, and those considered “mentally deficient” were exterminated in the mid 1940’s.

WWII was supposed to be “never again.” What is the truth is that it “never ended.”

184: Friends: More or Less

Some people are genetically programmed to be with, and actually enjoy being with, other people. Others are perfectly content to be less socially engaged. Still fewer are OK avoiding everybody. I am not a hermit, but neither do I actively seek out company, and I tend to decline most invitations to socialize – at least, all those I can safely get out of.

By the same token, some people make friends easily and often. Others claim acquaintances, but few real friends. Still fewer don’t want friends, and don’t look for any. Again, I claim some friends, but relatively few. That does not mean I am a hermit, or that I am basically impolite to drive people off. Neither, however, do I tell all my heartfelt secrets within minutes of meeting someone!

There are a few people I consider real friends, who might be shocked to learn that I value them as highly as I do. Even though at first glance people might think I am gregarious, that is just not the case: I am far more private than I appear. Becoming real friends is a real undertaking, involving effort, inconvenience and occasionally, actual angst. I have enough to do to maintain a reasonable marriage, much less a friendship.