Have you heard of it? I hadn’t but apparently I haven’t lived. Everyone knows about Amish friendship bread (except the Amish who claim it has nothing to do with them).
I stumbled across Amish friendship bread when searching for a book on a recent trip. I am currently editing a book on self managed super fund investment strategies (written by The Slow Chef) and whilst I admire the text and am impressed by both its complexity and simplicity, I don’t want to read or think about investment strategies during holidays.
Therefore, whilst browsing the shelves of a new bookstore (this is pretty close to heaven for me) I chose a book based on the most important literary factor, the cover. Friendship Bread by Darien Lee was too beautiful to walk past. The title evoked a feeling of warmth, just what I needed for a winters evening snuggled up in bed.
I had no idea how much this book would affect me. When I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about it. I am not a big fan of ‘chick lit’ as I generally find it predictable and uninspiring but the relationships in Friendship Bread felt familiar – not nasty or cruel, just genuine characters with a strong sense of friendship and community. In fact, they remind me of a wonderful group of woman I have recently become friends with in Noosa.
Amish friendship bread is a chain-letter-style recipe; one person gifts a bag of bread starter to a friend who then shares it with their friends. The basic bread, when cooked, is more like a cinnamon cake with the texture of a banana bread. And it is delicious.
The American Amish friendship bread recipe calls for a packet of instant pudding to be added to the cake mixture prior to baking. Having no idea what instant pudding is, I venture into the dessert section of our local IGA and discover that instant pudding is very similar to jelly crystals. Just add water or milk for a milky-jello. Why on earth anyone thought to add a packet of this to what is essentially a cake mix is beyond me. As you may remember I rarely follow a recipe correctly, so I decided to eliminate this ingredient.
As I write this post The Slow Chef is hard at work in our home office (hopefully working on his book, no pressure). I am on a chair in front of the oven watching a loaf of friendship bread bake. The smell of cinnamon permeates the house as subtle as a real estate agent during an open for inspection.
When I remove the cake from the oven I realise it is a bit burnt and cracked (I was too busy writing to notice) but it smells wonderful. Then disaster strikes. The bread is stuck solid to the “non-stick” pan! I run a knife around the edges. Still wont budge. I gently shake each end of the pan and feel the cake pull away from the base. And pull-away it did. Right through the middle! There is almost as much cake stuck in the pan as on the baking rack and there is a hole in the middle filled with uncooked mixture!
I would ask 14-year-old-son to do a taste test but let’s face it, he’s 14 and inhales everything in sight. I doubt the cake would touch his taste buds long enough to get an accurate opinion. Instead I console myself by eating the cake in the pan that has finally decided to stop clinging on for dear life. If I close my eyes to avoid looking at the crumbling mess I can report that it tastes really delicious. Perhaps I’ll let The Slow Chef bake it next time. He would have to do a better job than me.
Now, who’d like a bag of friendship bread starter?