Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Amish Adoption Program

A couple of months ago, I was the recipient of a starter for Amish Friendship Bread. For those who don't know what this is, in the cooking world a bread starter is the equivalent of a chain letter. A "friend" gives you a small amount of dough kept in a Ziploc bag that you tend for 10 days. This involves "mushing" it every day, letting excess air out, and adding ingredients when instructed. Just as you have gotten it to sleep through the night, it is time to make the bread. You are then left with four starts of your own (intended to pass onto four of your own unsuspecting friends). You could repeat this cycle the rest of your life if you keep a starter for yourself. If you don't participate, you will be cursed.
When my mom offered me this starter, I declined. Tending bread dough did not seem like something I could manage along with a new baby. When my husband sampled some of the bread, he eagerly accepted a starter, promising he would feed it, walk it, and bake it on the designated day. I don't have to tell you who ended up caring for and baking the bread.
The bread was quite tasty, and I actually repeated the cycle several times. Here are the take-away lessons I learned from my time tending the little starts: 1.) The only thing Amish about this bread, is that you have to mix it by hand with a wooden spoon, as you are instructed quite clearly, that under no circumstances shall this dough be mixed in a metal bowl or with a metal spoon. (Otherwise, it will explode).  I highly doubt the Amish use instant pudding mix or Ziploc bags, as called for in the recipe. 2.) Usually food left on the counter for 10 days spoils to the point of being poisonous to ingest. This is not true for the Amish. It must be how you preserve food if you can't use a refrigerator. 3.)  Baker be warned: Amish Friendship bread does not increase your popularity, as the name suggests. In fact, it does quite the opposite. When most friends find out you have a start, they want nothing to do with you. They might even skip town to avoid the commitment that a starter demands. Why? Because, for some strange reason, starters can not be thrown away without producing large amounts of guilt in the recipient. The minute it makes a home on your counter and looks up lovingly into your eyes, you feel committed to it. You must do everything- including starting a college fund- to allow it to achieve its fullest potential. When you run out of friends to burden, you might even consider dropping starts on neighbor's doors in the dead of the night...
I am now starter free, and my counter has never felt emptier. But, I know up in a little community in Pennsylvania, little starts are being produced every day by the Amish to dispense into the world (the recipe states that only the Amish know how to make the starts). One day, I am bound to cross paths with a friend looking for a good home to raise one of her starters. When that happens, I'm pretty sure I'll be out-of-town.


  1. I NEVER give away my starts and the accompanying guilt nearly does me in every time. Luckily, the past couple of times legitimate things have happened that have spoiled the starts including Brooke mashing the bags so hard they exploded everywhere. Though I had a horrendous mess to clean up, I think I preferred that to trying to pawn my starts off on poor, unsuspecting friends and neighbors!

  2. As a side business I am an Amish Bread Start Assassin. I sneak in when you least expect it, kidnap the start and then record videos of me torturing it. I then send these videos to the Amish. In the end the starts are thrown away. It's cold blooded but something had to be done.