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not sure who this Anna is, but she’s my new best friend

March 21, 2010

Anadama bread is delicious.  And it definitely originates in New England. Pretty much everyone agrees on these two things.  What isn’t as clear, however, is the exact source of the name.  Depending on who you talk to/what you read, it was either a farmer or a fisherman, exasperated with the constant diet of cornmeal and molasses his wife, Anna, was feeding him.  Apparently, the farmer just cursed his wife.  The fisherman craved bread, so he threw some yeast and flour into his daily mush, left it near the fire, and ate the resulting loaf.  Whichever is true (if either is), it’s an amusing story that reflects on how these two ingredients were a staple in the early New Englander’s daily diet.  I’ve been looking forward to making a loaf of anadama for several months, and finally got around to it today.

Holy cow, this is GOOD bread.  Possibly the best loaf so far this year.

The loaf itself feels substantial in the hand, but the bread is not overly heavy.  Does that make sense?  It’s like the tip on how to pick ripe fruit – find one that feels heavy for its size.  Anyway.  The cornmeal added a delicious flavor and texture, and was a nice departure from all-wheat breads.  I was worried that the molasses would be overwhelming, but it just lent a nice undertone.  This bread has great depth of flavor.  The crust is dark and chewy, with a sprinkling of cornmeal on top for added contrast.  The crumb is moist, dense, and amazingly flavorful.  It would lend itself well to toast or sandwiches.  Our first taste was with just a smear of butter.  For dessert, we spread a little jam.  I’m sure I’ll be making this again and again and again.  And again.  Damn you, Anna.

ANADAMA BREAD

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup stone-ground cornmeal

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

1/3 cup lukewarm (110 degrees) water

5 tablespoons dark molasses

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast (1 envelope if not using bulk yeast)

  • Combine butter and milk in a small saucepan, and bring to *almost* a simmer.  Whisk in cornmeal and stir for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and let cool until lukewarm.
  • While cornmeal mush is cooling, heat oven to 200F.  Once it reaches temp, let it stay there for 10 minutes, then turn off the oven.
  • In a small bowl (I used a 2-cup measuring cup), combine water and molasses, then add yeast.  Let sit for 5 minutes.
  • In mixer bowl, stir together flour and salt.  Add cornmeal mush, and mix until evenly blended.  I actually found this easiest to do with my hand.
  • Add the molasses/yeast mixture, mix until dough comes together, and then knead until satiny and smooth.  Depending on time of year and temperature in your house, you may need to add a teaspoon or two more water, or up to a quarter cup more flour in order to bring the dough together.
  • Shape dough into a ball, and place in lightly oiled bowl, turning dough so that all sides are oiled.  Cover with wet tea towel or plastic wrap, and place into the still-warm oven.  Let double in size, about 90 minutes.
  • Gently press dough out into a rectangle, about 1 inch thick, about 9 inches wide.  Bring dough towards you into a tight roll, pressing with your fingers to make sure seams are sealed.
  • Spray a 9×5 standard loaf pan, and place dough in, seam-side down.  Gently press dough so that it touches all sides of the pan.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place (I put it back into the oven) until doubles in size, maybe another 90 minutes.  Remove from oven.
  • Turn oven on to 350F.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons of butter.  Remove plastic wrap and brush the top with butter, then sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of cornmeal.  When oven reaches 350F, place pan on middle rack, spritz with several sprays of water, and let bake about 40-45 minutes (internal temp 195F).
  • Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.  Once it’s fully cooled, slice, serve, and be amazed.
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