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Get baking in an Amish home

Amish friendship bread recipes have been around for years, but here's something new: Bread-baking with a side of friendship in an Amish kitchen. Acquaintance with several Amish families turned into friendship and the idea for the cultural...

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The incredible smell of baked bread permeates the kitchen as the brown loaves are set near an open window to cool.
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Amish friendship bread recipes have been around for years, but here's something new: Bread-baking with a side of friendship in an Amish kitchen.

Acquaintance with several Amish families turned into friendship and the idea for the cultural exchange-baking and butter-churning class was born.

Lanesboro resident Mary T. Bell has organized the opportunity through Lanesboro Local, which connects consumers with local garden and farm producers. Collaborating with Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center, classes are offered throughout the summer and fall. "Students" meet at Eagle Bluff and Bell drives them to the farm.

"We had to get special permission from the Amish District Bishop for outsiders to come to private homes for these classes," Bell said.

The idea was enthusiastically received by several Amish households, whose members welcomed the chance to share their bread recipes and demonstrate baking them in a wood stove. The first batch of bread is rising as visitors arrive. It's then divided into loaves and put in the hot oven. While they are baking, the host discusses the work necessary to prep the stove for the cooking and baking that goes on daily in their homes.

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"People are fascinated that an even temperature can be maintained with wood. It takes patience and experience. They make it look easy," Bell said.

Another batch of bread is mixed up while onlookers discuss ingredients and technique. Once the large bowl of dough is ready to rest, it's covered with a dish towel and set aside to rise. Next, fresh cream is poured into a glass butter churn and participants take turns cranking the handle to make fresh, creamy butter. "Surprisingly, it doesn't take as long as I thought," one participant observed, Excess liquid — what we know as buttermilk — is poured off and the sweet butter awaits just-from-the-oven bread.

Meanwhile hot tea has been steeping on the stovetop. About two cups of mint recently picked from the garden makes nearly 12 cups of tea, which will accompany the morning treat of bread, butter, and strawberry preserves, the berries fresh from the berry patch and cooked, now shared by those gathered around the table.

Throughout the morning, questions are asked about the Amish lifestyle, the baking ingredients, the process of making the food, and the history of the Amish home. The dialogue is precious and unique, one culture sharing with another. It's simple fare but seems like a feast. Everyone takes home a loaf of the delicious bread, a recipe and a better understanding of our Amish neighbors.

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If you go

Classes are $45. Check the schedule online, at www.riverrootsschool.org, or give Mary Bell a call at 507-467-2928.

Related Topics: FOOD
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