Friendship Cake/Bread History
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Recipe Link: http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/greenline/98v3/gl9807.12.html
List of Ingredients
In the Kitchen: Friendship Cake
Friendship cakes have been called the "edible chain letter." Various friendship cake starters have been passed from person to person for more than a hundred years. The original concoction, a.k.a. Amish Friendship Cake or Herman Cake, started as a mixture of flour, sugar and water. Airborne yeast fermented the mixture which was a staple to early pioneers in bread making. Of course, this was before you could buy active dry yeast at the grocery store.
The starter, which was the leavening agent, was used to make pancakes, breads and cakes. Sourdough packing pioneers relied on the starter as a leavening agent. Todayís friendship bread recipes are more of a luxury or a novelty than a necessary staple.
When the starter is passed on, a recipe and instructions are given with it. The mixture sits on the counter for seventy-two hours, until it becomes a fermented starter. Then, according to a carefully prescribed ritual, the starter is fed and stirred daily. The stirring must be done with a wooden spoon, for 10 more days. If it is not carefully natured, the starter will die.
But then if it lives, the resulting mass must be divided. One portion goes into a quick bread batter, another is kept and the two remaining portions are given to friends, thus the name - friendship bread. Folks too greedy to share have found that the starter spreads to gigantic proportions, soon over-running the kitchen. After experiencing this disaster, most people are compelled to pass it on.
Anthropologists say people like to share things they have invested their time in. It is the notion of giving something of yourself. Although this friendship bread starter is a frugal gift, it is homemade and it produces a mouth-watering bread with a distinctive taste that can only be achieved with the starter.
What give friendship bread that distinctive flavor? The acids produced as a by-product of the growing yeast create wonderful flavor. The acids are the vital part of the flavor compound that gives each loaf itís slightly different tang. The acids also help preserve the starter by inhibiting the growth of certain harmful bacteria.
Avoid starter recipes that call for the addition of milk, cream or eggs. These mixtures may change colors, start to smell putrid and look slimy. This is a definite indication that something other than yeast is living in your starter. Animal products were not a part of the original starter recipe. Rather, they were added only when the cake was mixed for baking.
Recipes that call for milk, cream or eggs in the starter will support the growth of some modern day bacteria. Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens and staphylococcus areus like to grow in dairy products left at room temperature for hours. The modern day version is also refrigerated after 72 hours as an added safety feature.
Why all the safety precautions? Because times have changed and so have conditions on this planet. Letís face it. The pioneers did not have to contend with a hole in the ozone layer, acid rain, polluted waterways or a disappearing rain forest. They also led different lifestyles. They exercised much more, worked harder and were exposed to fewer chemicals. Some even walked from St. Louis to California or there about.