Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bread Baker's Apprentice—Anadama Bread

Anadama BreadAnadama bread is a traditional New England sweet bread characterized by flour, molasses and cornmeal. It has an unusual name whose origins are explained by local folklore. The story has several variations but most of them go something like this: a fisherman, angry at his wife for serving him little more than cornmeal and molasses porridge, decides to take matters into his own hands, adds flour and yeast, then bakes it. As he eats the resulting bread, he mutters “Anna, damn her!” and the name stuck. Or at least the kinder, gentler version, Anadama, stuck!
"A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou."
‑ Omar Khayyam
The recipe demands your attention because it requires several more steps than traditional versions that tend to be of the direct bake variety. The first two steps draw out the flavor from the corn as well as soften it to improve its digestibility. In these steps, you first create a cornmeal soaker and leave it overnight, and then you mix that into a sponge, leaving it for another hour. Next you mix the dough and allow it to rise for about 90 minutes, followed by shaping and proofing for 90 more minutes. Finally, the cooking time is around 40-50 minutes. So, in all (if we don't include the soak overnight), it takes about 5½ hours from start to finish.

Makes 2 loaves of bread

Yeast and Flour
For the Soaker:
1 cup cornmeal, preferably coarse grind (also known as polenta)
1 cup water at room temperature

For the Regular Sponge:
2 cups unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup lukewarm water

For the Final Dough:
2½ cups unbleached bread flour
1½ teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons molasses (lighter is better)
2 tablespoons shortening or unsalted butter at room temperature

You can find the recipe for Anadama Bread in the book The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread.Anadama Bread To see how the rest of the BBA (Bread Baker's Apprentice) Challenge group fared with this week's recipe, click here and then click on each blogger! I'm not listed there since the group grew to 200 (the cutoff point) too fast. I may join in now and then, though.

Tasting Notes
I enjoyed this bread. It's tender and sweet but not overpowering. I was surprised to find that the gritty cornmeal texture wasn't apparent as I was eating it. Thinking back, softening the cornmeal was part of the purpose of the soaker and sponge stages, and it really worked. Anadama bread's somewhat dense structure pays off in the crust. The slightly chewy texture is easily the best part of a slice and lightly toasting it really brings that chewiness to the rest of the slice.

This is the first time I've made Anadama bread, and next time I try it I'd like to see how a more traditional, less involved, recipe compares. Also, I would like to try it again with a lighter molasses (as recommended by the recipe). I used a dark molasses this time and I think a lighter molasses would allow the corn flavors to be more prominent. All in all though, I highly recommend this bread.

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    Maria said...

    Your first time? It looks perfect!!

    Anonymous said...

    What a wonderful loaf. Fun times.

    Monica H said...

    I'm not damning Anna, this looks great.

    Your loaf is so perfect- I can almost smell it...ah!

    Elyse said...

    Mmm, look at the rise on that bread, Shari! Amazing! What a fabulous job you did. There's honestly nothing like homemade bread with some nice butter slathered over it. You're really inspiring me to get my yeast out :)

    grace said...

    oh shari. what a debut! that's a stout and hearty loaf o' bread if ever i've seen one. bravo!

    katie said...

    Oooh. I just woke up and you tempt with this. For some reason I am dying to make bread this morn. Was planning on making white steamed buns.

    But then I also just went through my mind to see if I could pull it off this bread on the fly, but the nightlong soak is bringin' me down.

    I will save it for this weekend then. Bookmarked!

    Anonymous said...

    Your loaf looks fantastic!

    lisa is cooking said...

    It sounds so good with the cornmeal and molasses, and your loaf looks fantastic!

    Audrey said...

    I think yuo're me, the molasses flavor was overpowering. But I was so impressed with how this well this came together, since I consider myself at best an advanced beginner, breadwise.
    (It will be nice to have you baking with us here too.)

    pigpigscorner said...

    Your bread looks wonderful! I wanted to join the BBA challenge as well, looks like fun! I'm currently addicted to baking bread =P

    Kayte said...

    Your bread looks spectacular!

    Engineer Baker said...

    Gorgeous! So glad to see you'll be baking with us :) I must admit, I liked the stronger molasses flavor from dark molasses.

    Deeba PAB said...

    Beautiful beautiful loaf. I love the character it exudes's amazing!

    Jenny said...

    That 200 number did come very quickly, didn't it?
    Love the looks of your bread, hope mine turns out as well.

    Di said...

    I love the first picture--what a gorgeous loaf. I was surprised how much I liked this bread. I agree, I didn't really notice the cornmeal in my bread, but I also used fine cornmeal rather than polenta.

    Unknown said...

    I made the anadama bread recently too and I really enjoyed it. Your loaf looks gorgeous!

    Anonymous said...

    hey Shari, This bread is awesome, you're really a great baker. And I like your honesty about the molasses. Have you tried sweetened aguave syrup? It's expensive but pairs well with corn meal/heavy grains.

    Rock on

    p.s. sorry i forgot my google account #