It all started one day at work when my Office Administrator asked me if I would like to have some Friendship Bread starter to take home to bake a cinnamon loaf. Ah, yes, I thought. Friendship Bread…a name out of the past.
I flashed back immediately to the early days of my marriage, 40-plus years ago, and to memories of similar bread ‘starters’ and the fruit starter known as “Rumtopf.” I used to watch the starters ‘grow,’ prepare the items, and pass the starters on to as many friends as I could find. A bit of nostalgia could be fun!
Others in the office who were also offered starter turned it down after proclaiming how delicious the bread was, but how they were on diets and did not want to have more starter. I should have been suspicious. I was the only one who agreed to accept the offer.
A couple of days later, I found the bag of starter and the recipe on my desk. I had forgotten about agreeing to take it; I had also forgotten what a mushy mess the stuff was. I knew there would be laughter at home when I arrived with the mixture, especially as memories flooded my husband’s mind about all the various starters we had had to try to distribute over the years. I was not put off by these thoughts.
Sure enough, the sight of the starter in the bag made my husband laugh as soon as I got home.
Then the preparation process began: Day 1, mush the bag; Day 2, mush the bag…all the way to Day 6, when the directions said to add 1 cup each of flour, sugar, and milk before mushing the bag again. There was also a line that said "let out as much air as possible." Over the remaining four days, that last instruction became critically important. As the mixture began to ferment and rise, air had to be released from the bag daily to prevent an explosion.
Then the big Day 10 came…the day to add all the ingredients and bake the bread. I came home early, determined to tackle the task. Now, I neither read game directions nor all of whatever recipe I'm about to make before I begin; this modus operandi presented the usual problemI was guaranteed to run into an unexpected obstacle in the process.
I freed some fruit that was in the required ‘non-metal’ bowl in which the mixture was to be poured. Then I added more flour, sugar, and milk.
At this point, the directions stated, “Measure 1 cup of batter into each of (4) 1-gallon zip lock bags and give to friends along with a copy of the recipe.” I did what it said, peered at my bags in the sink, and wondered if I even had any friends.
In desperation, I texted my daughter:
Me: My kitchen and my life are being taken over by what should be called Amish Enemy Bread.
My daughter: THAT STUFF IS EVIL.
Me: I put cardamom in by mistake instead of cinnamon. Can't imagine what this will taste like!
My daughter: Actually, it'll probably taste *better*.
Me: There is so much sugar in it that it can't be bad. I was laughing so hard I was crying. Wait 'til Dad gets home with the instant pudding powder that goes in last. Didn't notice that ingredient ahead of time, of course.
My daughter: Oh my God.
Once the instant pudding powder arrived and was added to the mixture, the bread went into the oven for an hour and came out looking beautiful.
We tasted it when it cooled, and it was delicious. Must have been the cardamom! But why wouldn’t it taste delicious with all that sugar? And the four bags of starter? They went in the trash, which means I will go either to heaven for saving four ‘friends’ from eating something that can’t be good for them or I will have 20 years of bad luck from breaking the chain. Now on to Rumtopf…with cardamom of course!
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