Amish Love Bread?

Posted on 11 June 2009

Over a month ago, I received an Amish Friendship Bread starter from one of my kind cousins.  At least, I thought she was kind–we’re good friends, after all!  And what better way to prove it than to exchange some friendship bread starter?  How wrong I was…

But perhaps it’s unfair to blame it entirely on my cousin.  I admit: it is partially my fault.  But she started it!  Hehe.

The rule with Amish Friendship Bread, you see, is that after “caring” (i.e. mushing it and putting up with its yeasty smell) for the starter for a few days, you divide it into four parts.  One of these parts you keep for yourself to make the bread, but the other three new starters are supposed to be given out to your friends.  And so the chain bread continues (the myth is that only the Amish know how to make the starter, hence the magic of this particular chain letter–I mean, bread).

The resulting bread is a wonderful creation–sweet, moist and full of flavor–and even more exciting, the recipe itself is fairly easy to play around with.  In fact, too exciting for my own good.  After making my first batch of bread strictly using the original recipe, I decided to be selfish and keep one of the three starters I was supposed to give away (sorry, friends–but don’t worry!  Your time will come, believe me!) so that I could do a little exploring.  The heavy use of cinnamon, I thought, could be altered a little to incorporate some of my other favorite “warm” spices, such as nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.  Several different batches of bread followed, each with their own little twist, until I was coating the loaves in cocoa powder and sprinkling them with candied ginger.  But gradually, as I baked, mushed and mixed over the past week or two, I have begun to wonder: Where does it end??  Should I call it off now, when I’m still sure I have enough friends willing to accept the three remaining starters?  Or do I have another batch (or two!) still in me?

Of course, the other problem–in addition to the allure of controlled and continuous kitchen experimentation–is how very tasty the bread is.  It’s just been too tempting not to sign myself up, time and again, for another week of desserts featuring the fresh, soft bread whose folds burst delightfully with chocolate chips and other delectable tidbits.  As time goes on, I can’t help but begin thinking that my cousin’s well-meaning friendship is going to make me blow up like a balloon!  That, and my own apparently abismal will power.  Yup; somehow, these two elements have become a painfully smug tag-team: cloyingly inseparable and determined to doom me, like sugar and softened butter.

With that in mind, I’m beginning to believe there is only one thing that can make me stop the chain, finally, after bestowing this lovely gift on siblings, friends, coworkers and cousins: the realization that their own experiences with this bread starter (which poses so slyly as a symbol of friendship) just might be as agonizingly delicious as mine! 

In the meantime, I have come up with a name that is far more apt for this torturous dessert that calls upon personal resources with much greater intensity and associated risk than the average friendship: “Love Bread.”

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