December 05, 2010
Bread Making with Amish Friends
Recently my daughter and I were invited to an Amish friends home in order to get a copy of their wonderful bread recipe. Boy were we in for a few lessons! Nothing more humbling as an "Englischer" than to learn how to do things from someone who is completely self sufficient! When I was asked what I cook with, I replied "an electric stove". Response? "Tsk tsk tsk". :o)
When we first arrived, we sat down while she wrote out the recipe. The plainness of the home was overwhelmingly peaceful and extremely clean with fresh white paint. She asked me how I got my yeast, in packets or in a bag. Since I usually get it in a jar and she had never seen
it in a jar, we settled on a two tablespoon amount for the recipe. She said they either use two packets or two tablespoons. Immediately I was confused because I thought there was 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast in the packets and that two tablespoons would not be enough yeast for six loaves of bread. She finished writing out the recipe and I was about to go on my way, but not before she gave me some of their wonderful lard for the bread. Now I have to tell you, her husband baked this bread every week all summer long for the produce auction, and that is how I first discovered this extremely tasty wheat bread and I can tell you, there is nothing like it! Our family loved it and savored every tasty morsel. After much deliberation, our family agreed that there was a very slight taste of bacon in it and that it must be made with lard. Lo and behold, we were right and since we had no lard of our own, I was happy for her to give me, what our family thought was, the "secret" ingredient.
Now mind you, we are not big meat eaters and we stay far away from pork products for all of the obvious health reasons, but to omit the most tasty ingredient of this bread seems like quite a sacrifice. Having said that, I will attempt this recipe without the lard at some point to find a healthier remedy.
Back to the yeast issue, when I was just about to leave, her husband arrived home, driving his wagon led by a beautiful pair of draft horses. These horses were cream in color with white manes and they looked like they had the strength of Samson himself. There is no work on an Amish farm that these two horses cannot handle, I am sure of that! So her husband comes in and welcomes my daughter and I whole heartedly, very happy to see us, speaking in English and Swiss German all at once, very glad that we had the recipe but wanting us to stay so he could show us how to do it. Its not every day that I get to learn how to do something in an Amish home, so I gladly accepted the offer and he proceeded to get everything out for it. He scooped some flour into a large stainless steel bowl, added a few other ingredients and then got out the bag of yeast. I watched as he used a large serving spoon and instructed me to put two tablespoons into the bowl. Inwardly I was laughing at myself because had I gone home and followed the recipe using my two standard measuring spoons, I would have ruined six loaves of bread! He threw in a handful of salt, ladled out some warm water that stood ready in a stainless steel stockpot on the wood cookstove and began adding more flour while he kneaded it. All the while talking about so many things and asking many things. At one point, he stopped and with a look of excitement, asked me if I had ever seen an Amish basement before. Surprised, I answered no and he grabbed a small light and held open the door to show me. It was fully stocked with hundreds of canned jars neatly arranged on wooden shelves. Even the wheat had been preserved by canning it. He then showed me how they wash their clothes, not by washing clothes, but showing me the wash room and the wringer washer that is used. They make their own lye for their own soap, making a years amount at one time each year and they butcher their own cows and hogs too. Not exactly something I'd want to do, but I'm sure it would come in handy to know how if ever we needed to do it.
The bread recipe makes 6 loaves of bread at a time and since I do not own 6 loaf pans, or even 3, I will have to try this recipe after I am able to pick up a few bread pans. I priced some and was shocked to see how much they are in the stores. If anyone knows of a good place to get decent bread pans for a reasonable price, please let me know!
I am looking forward to visiting again soon and anxious to learn how to make soap the Amish way!
Disclaimer....the picture above is not one that I have taken and it is not of my friends horses. I fully honor their beliefs of picture taking, which is that they do not want pictures taken directly of them, however, they really don't mind if you take pictures of their wagons, horses, farms etc., at least not the Amish that I am friends with. Either way, I am extremely hesitant to carry a camera around them. They get enough stares and pictures taken without their neighbors and friends acting like strangers and tourists do.