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Anadama Bread…OR, Starting Him Early

September 13, 2011

A year ago we shared a house with five other people.  It was a busy place, and unpredictability was the one thing that could be expected day in and day out.  Baking bread for the house was on the weekly chore rotation, along with taking out garbage and recycling, sweeping and mopping floors, dusting, scrubbing toilets–the usual suspects.  Needless to say, being assigned to bread for the month made for a happy reprieve from the less savory obligations associated with keeping house.  I first starting making Anadama Bread then, and it quickly became a house favorite.  We’re in our own place now, but this recipe is one thing we’ve taken with us from those crowded-house months.  This morning I had a little extra help in the kitchen.  That’s Jacob, 14 months old, on bread duty for the first time.

This recipe is from James Beard’s classic, American Cookery.  As far as I’ve been able to surmise, the recipe is an old American one, I think hailing from the Northeast.  The story goes that “Anna was a damn good baker, and her husband, when praising her bread, often referred to her as ‘Anna, damn her.'”  This is the version Beard gives.  I’ve also read that one day Anna the damn good baker up and left her husband, when he was out doing whatever her husband did, leaving him only a little flour, cornmeal, yeast and molasses in the house, and was never seen again.  The bread her husband made out of those ingredients (not with praise on his lips in this version of the story), is the antecedent of this recipe.  I think I’ll take Beard’s version, but wherever the truth of the story lies, one thing is for sure: This is a damn good bread.  (One that Beard notes is “exceedingly good and excellent for toast”).

This is Beard’s recipe, with my notes in italics.  The method for making this dough is like no other bread recipe I’ve used…maybe lending a little credence to the possibility that Anna’s husband first made this bread??  At any rate, it works!

3 cups all-purpose flour (in the end, I used about 6 cups: 4 cups all-purpose, 1 cup whole wheat and 1 cup rye…what I had on hand)

1 cup cornmeal

1 1/2 TBL instant yeast

1 TBL salt

2 cups hot water

5 TBL butter (I used a combination of vegetable, olive and flaxseed oils)

1/2 cup molasses

Combine the (3 cups) flour, cornmeal, yeast and salt.  Combine the hot water, butter and molasses, and add to the dry mixture.  Beat by hand for about 150 strokes.  Add flour to make a rather stiff dough (here’s where the extra 3 cups came in).  Turn out on a floured board and knead until no longer sticky, about 10 minutes (lightly flour your hands and the board as need be).  Place in a buttered bowl (or oiled bowl), turning to coat the surface.  (I cover my bowl o’ dough with plastic).  Let rise until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 hours or so.

Punch down the dough, divide and shape into two balls.  (Here I let the pre-shaped balls rest for about 10 minutes).  To bake as rounds (Beard’s recipe): Place each ball in a buttered 8-inch cake tin.  Or, as I did, shape each ball into a loaf and place in an oiled loaf pan.  Cover and let rise again for about an hour (or until the loaves have risen just above the lip of the loaf pans)

Sift flour over the loaves, and score as desired.  Bake at 375F for about 55 minutes, or until deep brown and hollow-sounding when rapped with the knuckles.  I heated my baking stone to 400F and placed the bread pans on top of that.  I also used a steam tray on the rack beneath the stone–an old baking sheet with a couple of cups of water poured in when the bread is put in the oven, to make for a nice, steamy oven which allows the loaves to expand to their full capacity before the crust forms.  I removed the loaves from the pans for the last 15 minutes and let them finish directly on the stone.  When the loaves were the deep brown I wanted, I tuned off the oven, but left the loaves in on the stone with the oven door ajar for about 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool on racks.

Slice, slather with butter, say to yourself: “Well, that is some damn good bread.  Bless Anna, whoever she was, wherever she is.  And bless her husband, too, for that matter.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 13, 2011 9:48 pm

    Wonderful! Maybe we can make this bread at Christmas time??? I love you, dear sister…I love you and all your baking and kitchen adventures. Was also wondering—when you’re down—if you’ll help me with a sourdough starter. I miss you and can’t wait to spend some time with you, Joshua and Jacob. Oh, my little Jacobean! Your Auntie loves you so much. Good job helping your Mommy in the kitchen! xoxo

  2. Audrey permalink
    September 16, 2011 4:21 am

    Yummy! I think I may need to do a little baking this weekend…

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