So the other day I was listening to this interview on NPR: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2010-06-09/william-alexander-52-loaves , Diane Rehm interviewing William Alexander about his book “52 Loaves,” and he mentioned “Amish Friendship Bread.” It seems like many people have a horror story to go along with their starter, but his takes the cake. He inspired me to give an update on *my* “Amish” starter, “Hermione.” She’s still going strong, in spite of the fact that I neglected her for a while. Luckily I was able to feed her, bake a few days later, and just pick right back up. I’m still using the version of the recipe that makes just enough starter to keep it going, without having the extra that needs to be given away or thrown away (or frozen, as I’ve done in the past & still have several in my freezer!). I made mini loaves for end-of-year teacher gifts and they were a big hit.
Back at the beginning of Lent I had planned to do a photo of a cross each Wednesday for “Wordless Wednesday.” I didn’t do a very good job keeping up with that, but I’ve managed to post a few here & there and will continue to stick with that theme for the time being. The one that I posted this week is from a “Ten Thousand Villages” type store here in town, I have it in my kitchen and just love it.
Since my posts, I have not yet been back to ALDI and Muggle Man and I have not been out for any more nights on the town, though we did attend a charity dinner last week.
Updates on items previously mentioned in the blog or via Twitter:
My Bread Starter
Hermione is doing well! The first baking since her defrosting was last Thursday. I made mini-muffins, I didn’t have time to do them all at once so I refrigerated the batter and did some over a few days until it was all gone. We just finished eating them this morning! They tasted good. I used pudding mix that had mini-chocolate chips in it. The children have been enjoying them for breakfast, as a lunchbox treat, and for snacks. I sprinkled red sugar on top of one batch, and took a basket of them, along with some Valentine napkins, to our play rehearsal on the 13th. They were a big hit! Hard to believe that baking day will be here again tomorrow! I haven’t decided yet if I want to do bread loaves or use the chocolate chip cookie recipe I used before. I’m leaning toward the cookies.
My goal has been to lift weights twice a week and have an aerobic workout at least twice a week – preferable TurboKick, since that’s the most intense, but other classes or home DVDs are acceptable. Last week I just made it to the gym for weight lifting but this week I’ve done one Turbo Kick class, one Hip Hop class (new to me, it was fun & a good workout!), lifted weights once at the gym and once at home with a sculpting DVD. I’ve been avoiding the scale since I still seem to keep going back & forth between the same 2-3 pounds. I’m trying to lose 7 pounds. I’m doing better sticking with my Medifast program, but have been incorporating a few more non-Medifast meals/foods. I was actually planning to start transitioning (I miss eating food!) but I didn’t contact Medifast in time to stop my automatic shipment so I’ll stay on the program a little longer and try to make the most of my last month or so on the full program. I’ll be doing a series of posts soon devoted to my Medifast journey.
I had decided that for the month of January, I would declutter one kitchen drawer or cabinet per day. This should have taken 22 days so that in less than a month I would have a nicely purged & organized kitchen. Unfortunately I lost my mojo the first week and only got through five drawers/cabinets. This project needs to be completed but for now instead of some sort of “program” I’m planning to just try to fit it in here and there. If that doesn’t seem to be working then I’ll recommit.
I got so tired of the pile up of dishes in and around the sink (and me being pretty much the only one who was loading & unloading the dishwasher) that I started a family challenge. The challenge was for each family member to put his or her dirty dishes directly into the dishwasher. If the dishwasher is full, the family member is to add soap and run the dishwasher. If a family member has dirty dishes but the dishwasher is running, the family member is to put the dirty dishes in soapy water in the sink. If we are able to do this for 21 days straight, we will have a pizza & movie night. So far we are 12 days into a successful challenge. I’m really pleased! Muggle Man & I are already coming up with ideas for future challenges.
Many years ago my mother had a sourdough starter that she called “Herman.” (I always thought that was just a name that she made up, but have since discovered on The Internets that this is the actual name of a starter). She kept it in the refrigerator in a corningware blue flower container. I remember enjoying the bread that she made from it, and helping her “feed” it. Sometimes I would “babysit” Herman if she went out of town.
Fast forward to a couple of years ago, when I’m looking at a local message board and see a post asking if anyone wants some “Amish Cinnamon Bread” starter. Intrigued, and flooded with memories of my mother & Herman, I decide to try it out, and post that I’ll take some. I did not personally know the gal who was offering the starter, and we messaged back and forth several times trying to figure out a time we could meet up. Somehow or other, while I was at Ginny’s Upward indoor soccer practice one Saturday morning, I got a call on my cell phone that Starter Gal would be stopping by. I stood outside, a vehicle pulled up with Starter Gal and her (I assume) husband in the front seat, two small children in the back. “Are you Muggle Mom?” they asked. I nodded. They handed me a large freezer bag containing the starter and a mimeographed (is that word still in use?) sheet of instructions. As they drove off, I looked around to see if anyone was watching. This felt like some sort of drug deal.
Then I got to thinking. I didn’t know this gal from Adam. What if there was something wrong or funky with the starter? Odds were everything was fine, but still?? I decided that because I was baking the stuff, anything “bad” would get killed by the heat of the oven. Plus, I was super curious to see how this all worked, and to taste the bread! Of course my Muggle Man thought I was crazy but in his usual “I’m being a tolerant husband when it comes to your Internet stuff” manner he didn’t say much.
The bread turned out superyummy and I was hooked. I had dutifully bagged extra starter to share, so, after printing out a much nicer looking set of instructions, I gave starter away to my dad, my sister-in-law, and some folks at church. I even mailed some to online friends. In a nod to my history with Mom’s starter I had named mine “Hermione.” She was precious and I didn’t want to throw any of her out, but it was getting harder to give her away. I now understood why Starter Gal had made the effort to track me down. I had several bags of starter that needed care and feeding, and I was also baking extra batches of bread (but my freezer was filling up quickly).
And about that recipe. It called for a good deal of sugar, along with a box of pudding mix. I had been using whole wheat flour, or a mixture of regular & whole wheat, and substituting applesauce for oil, but was there anything else I could do to make the bread any healthier? I searched online and found a recipe that did not call for the pudding mix. In my research I also discovered that the starter could be frozen. Bingo! I started freezing those extra “giveaway” bags.
Now I had new issues to deal with. One, I had an increasingly large collection of frozen bags of starter in my freezer. Two, my family seemed to have tired of the bread (or didn’t care for the healthier, less cake-like version as much, or both?) and wasn’t eating it. So, I finally used up my starter on one last loaf and figured if I got a hankerin’ for bread bakin’ again, I’d reach into the freezer and try out that frozen Hermione.
I’ve since used the starter a couple of times, one-shot deals, and it did fine. This past weekend when we were snowed in, my baking fingers got to itchin’. I thawed out a bag but instead of baking loaves made muffins. They were a big hit, especially the mini muffins. I’ll definitely be doing that again. Yesterday I tried a recipe for Applesauce Chocolate Chip cookies that called for the starter. They turned out pretty well. I took two bags from the freezer yesterday. One I used for the recipe, the other, I sat on my counter for Day 1. Hermione is back!
I’ll continue to report on her progress as we move through the 10-day starter cycle. Most of what I’ve read online said that the starter is good for 6 months, frozen. This particular bag was frozen last January and thus is over a year old. Will it still be OK? Stay tuned.
In the meantime, here’s a few links for more information: