about five years back i came into contact with some people who were members of what, in my mind, has always been "the bread cult." it seems to be a sort of sub-church consisting of women who feel that ingesting the said baked goods will make you closer to God. one sunny sunday i stood (quite reluctantly) in a circle of these grain groupies and listened to them pontificate upon the virtues of buying bulk grains and grinding it yourself.
now, before i offend people, let me just say this: i love to bake. i love to bake things that taste good, and hopefully aren't poisonous to my or others' systems. i buy organic when i can because i'm not oblivious to the lack of resemblance to food most modern groceries display.
but this wasn't even about how it's just plain healthier to make your own bread out of milled grains. there were bible verses bandied about with the implied interpretations being that one could not experience the meaning of the Bread of Life until one had eaten said bread. i held my tongue. various other silly things were said. i held my tongue. then one lady who was also a fan of atkins stated that this bread didn't even turn to carbs when you ate it! amazing, no?
i could no longer hold my tongue.
what brought this to mind (other than the fact that i recently made fun of the bread cult to someone who is part of it--doh!) was another strange baking brotherhood (or sisterhood since it seems the female sex are sadly more susceptible to silliness of varying kinds). what i'm talking about now is the chain-letter-like amish friendship bread thing.
the gist of it is, you get the starter from a friend. you take it home, and mush the baggie it's in for six days. on the sixth day you add some stuff to it, and then mush it for another four days. on day ten you add more stuff, creating four batches of starter that you can pass along to friends. you then bake two loves of said bread, sharing one with friends and keeping the other for yourself.
seems like an interesting idea, doesn't it?
but there is some inherent silliness that i just can't not make fun of. first of all, the name. this bread has nothing to do with amish people. the recipe itself calls for a box of jello pudding, which sort of belies the whole "this is a historical traditional recipe" idea. at the bottom of the instructions it says "if you give away your starter, you'll have to wait until someone else gives you some because remember: only the amish know how to make starter!"
excuse me? so...i guess all those OTHER bread bakers who ferment their own starters are just faking it, right? or maybe they too are subject to the amish monopoly on sour milk, sugar, and flour and are forced to wait until a friend gives them some.
my skepticism aside, i admit i was interested in what delightful thing could be produced by such a time consuming project. so today, after over ten days of ziploc mushing, i baked my amish friendship bread. it smelled amazing while it was in the oven; it was better when it came out. i popped it out of the pan and cut a slice...mmmmm. a nice, cinnamon flavor, lightly sweet, with a moist (my favorite word! yuck!) crumbly texture. very tasty.
however, as tasty as it is, it tastes pretty much exactly like the coffee cake i've been baking for years. and THAT recipe, while not as historical or amish, takes 10 days and 40 minutes less time to make. call me american, but sometimes brevity is better.