Quick Recipes and Easy

Friendship Bread

Aunt Nita believed in showing your gratitude. There was only one issue I was trying to work through with this gratitude showing business. Why did we have to show how grateful we were to the entire block, plus the next one over? When I question her this question I got the “look.” You know the one that you get when a grown up can’t find the words to clarify your question. When the “look” came from Aunt Nita what could follow was involuntary gyrations of the arms and hands that landed them straight across your back side. She always said that it was a reflex reaction to stupidity. I figured that this here was one of those times that I should not allow my tongue to be so stupid as to question any more questions. So I didn’t. Right, Aunt Nita may have eyes in the back of her head. She could not read my thoughts. I allowed myself to wonder about being grateful to an entire community by making enough batches of Friendship Bread to turn out 40 loaves. No wonder she had all those starter jars sitting in every window of this here house. We were going to use them all!!

Aunt Nita had enlisted the help of three of my siblings, myself, Aunt Nelly, and grandmother. We were told to be in the kitchen at five-o’clock in the morning so’s the bread would be done and delivered by five-o’clock of the afternoon. Aunt Nita said that neighbors could delight in it with their evening meal.

My brother Gilbert (Gilly) is not the most pleasant company at any time of the day as he is a right serious individual. Add this personality trait to getting up at five of the morning and helping a bunch of women making bread in the kitchen, you don’t get Mr. Congeniality. No matter how pleasing he was to the eyes of any woman. Grandma was right, gorgeous starts on the inside first, and that goes double huge for handsome in my book! I was just about to tell him how hideous his insides was making him. He had been bragging all morning about how his muscles were bulging since he had been working on the ranch with the cattle and lifting large bales of hay. He even took time to stop and flex them. Then I saw his face when Aunt Nita told him that since he had been blessed with such fantastic muscles he could personally knead the last twelve loaves of bread. I couldn’t help but smile huge since my arms were starting to ache from all the kneading I’d done. You should have seen the “look” Gilly shot me. I knew I wouldn’t be sick for a year, cause even the germs were feared of that look and had took leave of my body. Grandpa always said that Gilly was never ill cause the germs were feared to go near him. Then he would laugh out loud and wink at us all.

Gilly was certainly being picked on today. Aunt Nelly told him that it would be his duty to escort me to each door, if the people weren’t home we were to leave a loaf of bread, a jar of starter, and the Friendship Bread recipe on their front door step. Gilly started to protest by saying “Awe, come on Aunt Nelly, I can’t be seen setting that stinking stuff in them there jars on folks’ front door steps. You are kidding, aren’t you?” No one laughed. Gilly sure didn’t, he just let out a long slow breath with his hands propped on each side of his hips and his head going slowly from side to side. Finally he said, “ok Aunt Nelly, only for you, and only this one and only time!”

I was glad to have been given the duty of taking the bread around the neighborhood. The kitchen looked like someone had dusted it with flour. Looking out the window I could see it was a gorgeous, bright, warm, sunny spring day. Elizabeth and Grace would stay and help the Aunts clean up from the days work. It was past Grandma’s nap time so she was on her way to the cozy silent solitude of her and Grandpa’s room. As we past her in the hallway on the way out to start the deliveries, in her soft sweet voice, of which I can still hear echoing in my ear, she said “Ree, one day you’ll look back on this as a memory making day.” She was right, she always was.

(the stinky stuff)

A WIDE MOUTH GLASS JAR must be used or a small crock. DO NOT USE ANY METAL UTENSILS OR CONTAINERS this will ruin your starter. A wide-mouthed mayonnaise or pickle jar will also work. Wash your jar in a hot soapy solution, then scald the jar by running very hot water over it for about 2 minutes. Place jar on counter top upside down to drain and air dry. It is best not to place a towel inside to dry as it could introduce unwanted bacteria. There is nothing complicated about making starter, it must be a very clean process. Here’s how you do it:

1 C of warm water
1 C of flour
A pinch of sugar

Blend together and pour into jar. YES, THAT IS ALL THERE IS TO IT!
Keep the starter in a warm place 70 to 80 degrees but not hotter, 100 degrees will kill your starter. I keep mine on the counter in front of a window so the sun can heat it up. Feed the starter every 24 hours by taking half of it out of the jar and adding ½ C flour and ½ C water. (This is why it is called Friendship bread, you can give the half you take out to a friend to get them started.) Stir the mixture with a wooden or plastic utensil, DO NOT USE METAL UTENSILS. Place the lid on the jar loosely. In a few days you should start seeing bubbles appear throughout the starter. This is a GOOD sign. When the starter has a real bubbly top, is raised a small, smells like beer, or has a sour smell, it is done. You have done it! Now refrigerate your starter and feed it only ONCE A WEEK. Keep the lid loose. If you get a dark liquid forming on top don’t worry just stir it with a wooden spoon back into the starter. If there is a lot of it pour some off first and then stir it. It is alright don’t panic this is normal.

Friendship Bread

2 C. of starter
3 ½ C. of ALL PURPOSE flour
2 ½ T. vegetable oil
3 ½ tsp. of sugar
2 ¼ tsp. of salt

In a large glass mixing bowl add starter, sugar, salt, and oil. Start adding flour ½ C. at a time and stirring after each addition with a heavy spoon. When mixture gets to heavy to stir, grease your hands with oil and start using your hands to mix the dough with. When mixed place a slightly wet paper towel over the top of bowl and let the dough rise. Starter bread rises slower than yeast bread it may take up to 1 ½ hrs. (depends on your climate) Let it double in bulk. With your finger poke the top lightly if it does NOT spring back your dough is raised enough. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface knead for about 5 minutes. Shape a round loaf using your hands. Place dough on a lightly greased baking sheet and let rise again until doubled use a wet paper towel to place on top. Make sure to set dough in warm place to rise. When dough is doubled place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. When the crust is brown tap the top with a wooden spoon if it sounds hollow it’s done. Let the bread cool for one full hour before slicing. THIS BREAD IS WORTH THE EFFORT.

Experiences of a small girl growing up in a southern kitchen, thrown in with a pinch of fiction, dashes of laughter, and sprinkles of like.

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