Here's a word problem for all you math whizzes out there:
If Katie accepts one Amish friendship bread starter on December 10, 2010 that will be ready to bake on December 15, 2010 and doesn't manage to give any new starters away, how many starters will she have by Christmas? Bonus question: How many loaves of Amish Cinnamon Bread will Katie have to bake to keep up with all this madness? Read on for the answers.
I am a sucker for Amish friendship bread but there is a part of me that dreads the weighty responsibility that comes along with accepting an Amish friendship bread starter (which is essentially a bag of a squishy batter-like substance containing live active yeast that must be fed milk, flour, and sugar every five days). Somehow this simple gesture of baking kindness always manages to spiral way out of control until I am up to my ears in fermenting bread dough. The blessing/curse of an Amish friendship bread starter is that after ten days, it turns into two loaves of bread and four new starters (well, it doesn't do this on its own, you have to bake it into bread and separate the new starters from the original one). The idea is to pass those new starters on to other people so they can do the work next time. In ten days, each of those people ends up with two loaves of bread and four new starters and, ideally, passes them on to new people. It's kind of like a chain letter that includes baking- a pyramid scheme of bread, if you will. I think it might actually be a conspiracy implemented by the Amish to drive people like me crazy.
You would think that I'd know better by now but I still jump at the chance to begin a new cycle of friendship bread insanity even though I can almost never get rid of the new starters after I bake. Then they multiply so fast that it's all down hill from there. To answer the above questions, my December baking frenzy has resulted in a total of eighteen* new starters and six* loaves of cinnamon bread. I was able to unload two starters and one loaf on the unsuspecting family for whom my in-laws were house sitting over the holidays. That still leaves me with plenty of bread to bake, which will result in even more bread starters that will exponentially increase for infinity into an Amish friendship bread avalanche of epic proportions (if anyone knows how to express that in mathematical terms please share it in the comments). Thankfully, the starters can be frozen. This slows down the explosion of live active yeast and helps create a more reasonable time frame in which to experience the joy of baking Amish Cinnamon Bread. Nevertheless, my freezer can only hold so many frozen time bombs.
So, here's another word problem:
If Katie approaches you with a zip-lock baggie full of bread goo and tries to convince you that accepting it will make you a better person, how fast and how far will you run in order to avoid being sucked into the vortex of Amish friendship bread?
*If you're a big enough math genius to realize that there actually should have been sixteen starters and eight loaves after two baking cycles- wow, you're a geek, I'm both amazed and disturbed by you. The discrepancy occurred when I ran out of time to do any more baking (it was 2:00 in the morning) and just turned two of the four starters I had from the first baking cycle into five new starters each instead of two loaves and four new starters each. If you're confused, don't worry, you're probably normal. If you understood everything I just said, you should probably go seek professional help.