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Friday 12 August 2011

Wacky baking adventures... today "Amish friendship" pudding cakes, tomorrow, the world!

I had the folly (or luck depending on how you look at things) to ask one of my girlfriends last week: "What is an Amish bread?" From the speed that her face lit up and her willingness to share her experience with this Amish bread... I should have clued in there was a catch or something was up and she didn't tell me.
So it goes like this - the (un)lucky friend is given a starter bag with a bit of innocent looking dough slurry. This is the natural yeast you'll need in a few days when you make this "bread". A lot like sourdough starter, you feed this yeast mixture every now and then with milk, sugar and flour, and mush the bag everyday to mix things around and "burp" the bag when the yeast gets happy and farts all the nice carbon dioxide bubbles you'll need to make your bread nice and fluffy. Good things take time, so after 9 days of burping, feeding and massaging the bag (yes, its like you're caring for a baby), I started assembling all the things I need to transform this now tripled in volume dough into a sticky pudding cake - its only called bread because you bake it in a loaf pan.

As I start doing the math, I realize I have not only have one starter bag, but my girlfriend gave me two starter bags I've been feeding, burping and mushing the last several days. Each starter bag yields 2 loaves + 4 starters. I'm faced with now not baking just 2 simple loaves, but potentially up to 10 loaves (with no starters saved). Wait, TEN loaves?! I'm so having a pudding cake giveaway tomorrow... to friends and neighbours alike.
So I start by pouring out the batter into a large bowl... Baking tip - a large chip bowl works just fine when you're baking at a guy's place. You'll never find a mixing bowl, but you'll sure as heck will find a chip bowl!  I swear, its laughing at me as I'm tossing out the yeasty smelling ziplock bags and washing the sticky goop off my hands and counter.
I then "feed" the starter today and portion it out into many many many ziplock bags... Anniekins, why did you give me two starters?! *scoop scoop gloop!*

I'm left with about 1.5cups of starter batter per batch, so I figured, sure, lets make a double batch. I pour it all into a large non-metal bowl.  I abandon the wooden mixing spoon after about 30 seconds, and get a arm burning workout using a whisk tot beat out any flour lumps in the batter. This whisking alone is testing our friendship Anniekins! lol! ;)
I follow the recipe and add things they tell me in order... in goes the eggs, pure vanilla (looooove real vanilla!), cinnamon, milk, oil, sugar...
more flour, some baking powder and soda, and a box of pudding mix. I go with caramel butterscotch cuz I figured it would go nicely with the cinnamon. The next batch, I'm separating dry and wet ingredients, and adding things in one at a time rather than just dumping them in and whisking, because my muttered mantra for my very much aching arms is "I should have brought a blender, *whisk whisk* I should have brought a blender *mix mix mix* I should have brought a blender *whisk whisk*" .
The pudding mix makes my entire kitchen smell like caramel butterscotch heaven.. mmm! Or maybe I'm just whisking too enthusiastically now, and getting the caramel butterscotch pudding powder all over the place... same thing :) *whiskwhiskwhisk break for pic whiskwhiskwhisk!*
The recipe says to lightly grease loaf pans - I cheat by lightly spraying my pans and then lining with parchment paper so I have easy cleanup post baking. After a messy scooping, with many a drips, goops and blobs of directionally challenged batter, they're all ready to go into the oven!
Note to self - ALWAYS check before preheating oven if ALL your pans will fit. After a few hot and frantic moments, got them all in! 2 pyrex glass loaf pans, a non-stick loaf pan, and an 20yr+ old cast iron seasoned loaf pan are all snuggled in. I'm curious to see if the difference in material for the pan will make - I know for banana bread, the pyrex pans tends to give me a drier, firmer crust and edges, while the non-stick and cast iron one tends to have better heat distribution.

While the first batch bakes, I quickly do the dishes, and start on a second vanilla pudding batch.
I bake the first batch for an extra ten minutes, as my high tech baking thermometer (a toothpick) comes out a bit damp... and 10min later, the cakes practically slide out of the pans as if they're greased with hot butter... thank you parchment paper!! I noticed the brown sugar topping makes ugly dimples on the top of the cake, so I only add it to one of the vanilla pudding cakes instead of both before I toss those in the oven as well.

And after nearly 4hours of mixing, whisking, measuring, scooping and baking... and being driven mad by the tantalizing baking scents of caramel, sugar, butterscotch and vanilla for those 4hours... I have me four rich and sticky caramel butterscotch pudding cakes!

along with two very rich and sticky cinnamon vanilla pudding cakes!
For the bakers out there, the pyrex pans were the most consistent for these pudding cakes, while the cast iron made for a lighter, moister cake, and the non-stick pan resulted in a flatter, golden brown product.  Now to sic, I mean give these cakes along with the starters to unsuspecting friends *evil laughter*...
And finally, the worst part of any baking or kitchen adventure... any volunteers to help me clean up? Anyone?

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