A few weeks ago there was a knock at the door on Saturday afternoon….who could it be? Too late for the postman, no guests expected….I sent lovely husband to find out, just in case it was a salesperson ;o
It was the next door neighbour with a plastic tub and a piece of paper and muttering something about Herman…..husband, I believe, looked bemused so she said ‘give it to Linda she will know what Herman is’ and thrust the box and paper into his hands.
And so it came to pass that we were the recipients of a Herman the German Friendship Cake sourdough starter. The chain letter of baking.
I had seen mention of Herman by a few other bloggers over the last year and not being a cake baker or eater was rather hoping he wouldn’t land in my kitchen. But land he had.
In common with most chain letters the friendship element is somewhat undermined by the way in which you feel compelled to do as the letter asks or feel guilty for breaking the chain. A sort of low grade emotional blackmail that I hope doesn’t exist in real friendships! In the case of Herman the the emotional pull comes from the fact that you might apparently kill him if you don’t look after him:
‘You cannot put me in the fridge or I will die. If I stop bubbling, I’m dead’
Oh good, not so much as a gift more a kind of burden. Apparently you also have to do everything on the exact right day or it won’t work.
That said it does feel quite nice to be given something by the neighbours in a world were we mostly only say hello in passing.
Probably if you have read much of my blog or if you happen to know me then you’ll know I’m not one to follow a recipe without making tweaks. And so it was with Herman.
I decided it would be sort of fun to see if he worked and also fun to see if he would still work if I broke some of the rules. After all I know from my bread baking that you don’t kill sourdough by putting it in the fridge you just slow it down and you don’t kill it if you don’t quite feed it to program and if it looks like its breathing its last you can usually revive it.
So I sort of followed the instructions but as day 10 (the day to bake the cake) was going to fall on a work day when I was with a client I mashed it up a bit and just extending the process so that I could make the cake at the weekend. I also knew that on day 9 I was unlikely to see anyone to share the starter with (plus I wasn’t sure I wanted to oblige a further 3 people to make a cake) so the surfeit of Herman starter is in the fridge and he looks a little listless but he sure isn’t dead.
The cake mix seemed a little dry so I added some extra milk when mixing it, possibly a mistake as the resulting cake although cooked through was so moist and soft it fell apart when you tried to slice it. I baked for the longer time as most people seemed to think this gave a better result. Taste wise it was really good a little on the sweet side for me (look at all that sugar in the instructions). As ever we only got about half way through before we forgot about it only to find it a week later alive and kicking with mould.
– if you like cake and you want to experiment with sourdough this is an easy way to start
– if you like the idea of sharing cake mix with neighbours then you’ll love this
– don’t believe the emotional blackmail of Herman dying – he won’t and you don’t have to pass him on, breaking the chain is never a diaster
You can find more about Herman here should you want to start your own, or receive one and need to find out more.