Over the last 40 days (or so) I’ve been caught up in a baking frenzy that has swept my workplace: Amish Friendship Bread. It all started when a colleague brought a freshly baked loaf of sweet bread and told us all to help ourselves. I am already a nut for Amish baked goods after years of going to an Amish farm market in Indiana, (every year I head to Indy to visit my dad in the summer), so I dug right in! I can’t even begin to say how excited I was to nosh on Amish bread well before my usual August binge. It was so good, I asked if she would be willing to share the recipe so I could make it for myself. Instead of writing it out for me, she handed over a large ziplock bag filled with pale goo and piece of paper with directions on what to do with my “starter.”
For the next six days, that goo sat on my counter and bubbled. In between mushing the goo each day, I have to admit I was pretty fascinated with watching the yeast ferment. On the sixth day, I got to add some ingredients and mush the bag some more until Day 10 or baking day arrived.
Baking day is where the real message of Amish Friendship bread comes through loud and clear. During the process, four cups of batter are pulled out and bagged for new starters. These starters are then distributed to friends, family, neighbors, etc., while one is kept for yourself. This creates an immediate connection with everyone in the circle as the next bake day arrives. As the starter chain grows, the community grows and so does the sense of doing something meaningful. Over the course of four batches, I realized I wasn’t baking alone and that created an instant kinship with every single person who had received a starter, including the people before and after my link in the chain. There is something magical and very warm about doing the same thing at the same time as those in my inner circle and beyond. Every ten days that feeling comes back when I bake the next batch.
Better still, each batch yields two loaves of bread. The sharing doesn’t end with starters! It only continues as one loaf stays at home and the other is shared with others. The office at work has been loaded with yummy loaves and muffins for weeks, while my grandparents always have a fresh loaf on their counter thanks to the baking efforts of me and my sister.
This experience has been very rewarding and tasty, so I thought I’d pass it along to my friends in the blogosphere. The recipe for the starter is usually kept under wraps in order to keep the spirit of sharing alive, but I managed to find a starter recipe that matches up with the baking directions I received for my bread. If you’re interested in starting an Amish Friendship Bread chain, go here for starter and baking recipes.
May we all be inspired to strengthen the bonds of friendship and keep strong the tradition of sharing.
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