Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Amish Friendship Bread

There is a disgusting bag of goop in the work kitchen this morning. It’s runny and leaking out of its plastic bag onto the microwave upon which it has been placed by an anonymous co-worker. A post-it attached to the bag reads: “For the taking,” accompanied by a sheet of the following typewritten instructions:

Amish Friendship Bread Starter Mix
Do not use any type of metal bowl or spoon.
Do not refrigerate; will slow yeast reaction.
If air gets into bag, let it out; also, vent gas produced occasionally. It is normal for batter to rise, bubble and ferment.

Day 1 (Jan 25)-Do nothing; this is the day you receive the batter.
Day 2-Mush the bag.
Day 3-Mush the bag.
Day 4-Mush the bag.
Day 5-Mush the bag.
Day 6-Add to the bag: 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk. Mix well.
Day 7-Mush the bag.
Day 8-Mush the bag.
Day 9-Mush the bag.
Day 10-

  1. Pour the entire contents of the bag into a bowl.
  2. Add 1-1/2 cups flour, 1-1/2 cups sugar, 1-1/3 cups milk. Mix well.
  3. Measure out four separate batters of 1 cup each into 4 one-gallon freezer bags. Keep one starter bag for yourself (if you want) and give the other 3 away, along with this recipe. Date the bags with Day 1 date so they can keep track.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  5. To the remaining batter in the bowl, add:
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 large (5-6 oz.) or 2 small instant vanilla pudding mix (or whatever flavor you like, i.e. banana, etc.)
  • Any nuts, raisins, chips, etc. that you like, or leave plain.

Grease 2 loaf pans; pour batter evenly into pans. Sprinkle with sugar, if you like. Bake for 1 hour or until done with toothpick test.

There is a handwritten note at the bottom: “This is very yummy bread. Dessert-like!”

Since Day 1 was January 25, the dough must have been up for grabs since Sunday. No one else was going to take it, so in the interest of this blog, I swooped in. I wrapped the bag in paper towels—both to quell the leak and to hide the fact that I was taking it—and hid it in my desk drawer.

When I get my Amish Friendship Bread home this evening, I will mush it, as directed. For the next week, I will document this scary sack of goo and see what comes out of the oven at the end. I’m hoping for some yummy, dessert-like bread.

Today’s discovery is just part of a fascinating ongoing phenomenon called Work Kitchen Leftovers. A whole cultural study could be centered around the foodstuffs people bring from home to pawn off (usually anonymously) on their co-workers. There are the obvious holiday leftovers: Halloween candy, Christmas cookies and Thanksgiving pies donated by the Weight Watchers crowd. There are the leftovers from department lunch meetings: soggy sandwiches, wilting lettuce, slimy pasta salad and, less often, cookies (usually broken but no less desirable).

The most common kitchen offerings are failed baking experiments. I will admit that I have, on occasion, snuck doughy pumpkin bread and dry brownies, artfully arranged in a basket, into the kitchen and watched to see how quickly they were eaten. No matter how bad they are, cookies and brownies go very quickly. Pizza, even cold with congealing cheese, is gone in a flash. But I have found that bread is never popular.

There was a lumpy loaf of “Sweet Bread” last week that most definitely was not sweet. It sat around the kitchen for most of the day, but was gone by 3 when lunch was long over and people were bored and peckish for something—anything—to snack on. One Monday morning was brightened by a vast display of homemade cookies and muffins. All of the cookies disappeared by the end of the morning, but one container of muffins sat on the counter all day until someone took pity on them and threw them away. The honesty of their labeling probably had something to do with this; a note on the container read, “Healthy muffins. Sorry—they taste healthy.” I tried these, and they were truly terrible. It’s unfortunate that for this person, “healthy” meant hard, grainy, and strangely metallic. I think they were supposed to be bran muffins, but I couldn’t be sure.

I just hope the person who baked those muffins is not the originator of my Amish Friendship Bread, because when this recipe is finally over, I know exactly where I will be leaving my three extra starter bags of goo. I wonder who will be brave—or foolish—enough to take them home.

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