Monday, November 23, 2009

Amish Bread, you are a harsh mistress

This madness all started with my mother. Like a drug pusher, she foisted onto me what has to be the world's most annoying snack, Amish Friendship Bread, mainly by roping my children in with "a taste". Look, Chelle! The girls like it! Here, take home a starter... And so it began.

It is the chain letter of baked goods, the rabbit of breads, with each batch spawning three additional "starters" that are meant to be given away to friends and neighbors, hence, the "friendship" thing. I find myself concerned that the opposite might end up being true. If I keep trying to pawn this beast off on people, I fear that I might actually start losing friends.

In addition to my issues with it's reproductive habits, I have multiple beefs with this recipe, starting with the Amish bit. Amish, really? Since when do the Amish add a box of Jello instant pudding to anything? Secondly, was this recipe invented by the owner of a grocery store? Good Lord, look at that ingredient list! Yet I grudgingly bake up a batch (or 4) of bread every time the starter comes due to bake, because my girlies love the stuff. Hence my deep-seated contempt.

In the event that you are crazy enough to try and take this on - PLEASE let me know, because I always have a starter going. Additionally, I have made a few minor modifications to the main recipe that I think have improved it. Here is the original recipe (post starter phase), with my modifications -

wet ingredients
1 cup oil 1/2 c. oil & 1/2 c. chunky applesauce
1/2 c. milk 1/2 c. egg nog
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

dry ingredients
2 c. flour (I tried 1/2 white & 1/2 wheat, but I didn't care for the texture.)
1 c. sugar (or 1/2 c. sugar, 1/2 c. maple syrup)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder (I use the aluminum-free stuff from Bob's Red Mill)
2 tsp. cinnamon 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon & 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice mix
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 (5.1 oz) box instant vanilla pudding 1/6 c. cornstarch & 1/6 c. sugar
(seriously, read the ingredients on a box of instant pudding - sugar & cornstarch)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup nuts (optional) - I've added chocolate chips instead on a few occasions.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix and pour into well greased and sugared bread pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour until a toothpick comes out clean. - I also cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil about 3/4 of the way through the baking process to keep the top crust from over-browning while giving the loaf a chance to finish cooking throughout.

That is a pain in the butt, as professed, no? But my monkey-girls love the stuff so much that I just keep on making it. I'm thinking of some more possible modifications/incarnations - maybe adding a little solid-pack pumpkin or grated zucchini? Walnut oil instead of vegetable oil? Hmmm....

At any rate, if you think yourself up to the task of baking every 10 days, like it or not, like clockwork, and want a starter, drop me a line. But, when you find your kitchen counters covered in baggies and tupperware full of bread batter, and friends going out of their way to avoid being "gifted" with a starter - don't say you weren't warned.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Recipe: Vegetable Stock

Remember that to do list that I brazenly posted yesterday? Yeah, I only got 1.2 items checked off of that puppy. 1 - the veggie stock. The .2 goes to the single wheelbarrow full of leaves that I raked up before wimping out and retreating to my warm living room and its comfy couches. Never one to dwell on the negative, I will therefore celebrate the completion of the vegetable stock by posting my "recipe" for it here.

Step one - Remove all vegetable matter from your fridge's crisper drawer.
Step two - Wash & chop (or not) said vegetable manner to the size of your liking.
Step three - Throw all veggies into the biggest stockpot you have, top with fresh or dried herbs and seasonings of your liking.

Step four - Fill stockpot with water enough to just cover the veggies, set heat to medium-low, cover stockpot and forget about it for a few hours.
Step five - (Not recommended) Take an impromptu nap on the couch, only to wake up in a panic, wondering if you've started the house on fire with your neglected stock.
Step six - After insuring that the house is indeed still intact, stir and taste stock for seasoning. If done, take off of heat and allow to cool.
Step seven - Strain cooled stock through a fine sieve (I also set a paper coffee filter in mine, so I don't get the spice sludge at the bottom of my broth.) and ladle or pour into freezer containers or ice cube trays. DONE!
Step eight - Optional - After I strained off my first pot full of stock I refilled the pot with water and fresh spices and set it back to cook for round two. The second batch of broth was slightly less intensely flavored, but still very good.

As you can see by my photo, I used quite a melange of veggies - leek tops, mushroom stems, greenish-red tomatoes, delicata squash, kale, garlic, celery, carrots, fresh herbs (rosemary, lemon thyme & oregano) plus the obligatory sea salt and pepper. I might use a little less kale next time, as its flavor overpowered the others somewhat. I used a few cups of the stock to make potato soup for the fam last night and I am really pleased with how it came out. After dealing with all the broth, I chopped/smooshed the cooked down veggies (minus the onions and garlic) and fed them to my chickens, composting the remainder.

Now the veggie drawer is empty and the freezer is full. Not bad for "throw away" food!