Anadama is a traditional New England bread made with flour, corn meal, and molasses. It’s a curious name with a funny story attached to it, but the bread itself is no laughing matter.

“A fisherman, angry with his wife, Anna, for serving him nothing but cornmeal and molasses, one day adds flour and yeast to his porridge and eats the resultant bread, while cursing, “Anna, damn her.” The neighbors baked it because it was so delicious and coined it Anadama or Anadamy.

This is a seriously good loaf of bread!

Terms like soaker and sponge might be unfamiliar to some of you, but the concepts are simple.  For this particular bread, the soaker was simply a mixture of coarse ground corn meal (polenta or corn grits) and water.  So on the first day I spent a couple minutes mixing that up, left it on the counter and I was done!

Day two is when the real work began! I mixed my corn meal soaker with part of the flour, all of the yeast, and water.  This was my sponge. It’s aliiiiiive!  As you can see, the sponge started bubbling away nicely in the hour that I left it sitting on my kitchen counter. I always find this quite interesting…

Then I mixed everything up, let it ferment, split it into two balls, shaped the loaves, popped them in their tins and let them proof. Don’t fret if they look a little funny like the picture below. They’ll rise into beautiful loaves.

All baked and lovely. The crumb is amazing…

Now, I’ve been doing all my bread baking on our new Big Green Egg. It’s AMAZING. For some mysterious reason this fine little piece of cooking gear creates the perfect hearth oven. Hands down.

However, according to Peter Reinhart, you can do the baking in your oven. If you do, let me know how it turns out – and any tweaks that you can suggest and I will post here for others.

One of the cardinal rules of bread baking is that you must give it enough time (usually around 1 hour) to cool after coming out of the oven before it is sliced. It needs time to rest.

Erik detests this rule.

It just seems contrary to the common sense that screams from most people’s taste buds. After all, isn’t warm bread fresh from the oven one of the most satisfying and comforting tastes? As much as he hates this rule, it’s one that I usually try to follow. Occasionally I will break down and pull off a few slices just to get his sad face happy again.

Anadama Bread

(from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart)

Yield: Two 9×5 loaves or three 8½x4½ loaves.

Soaker

  • 1 cup (6 ounces) cornmeal
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) water, at room temperature

Dough

  • 4½ cups (20.25 ounces) unbleached bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) water, lukewarm (90° to 100° F)
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 6 tablespoons (4 ounces) molasses
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Cornmeal for dusting (optional)

1. The day before making the bread, make the soaker by mixing the cornmeal and water in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight at room temperature.

2. The next day, to make the dough, stir together 2 cups of the flour, the yeast, soaker, and water in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and ferment for 1 hour, or until the sponge begins to bubble.

3. Add the remaining 2½ cups of flour, the salt, molasses, and butter and stir (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients form a ball. Add water if necessary to make a soft, slightly sticky mass.

4. Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfrer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook), sprinkling in more flour as needed to make a tacky, but not sticky, dough. The dough should be firm but supple and pliable and definitely not sticky. It will take about 10 minutes of kneading to accomplish this (or 6 to 8 minutes in the electric mixer). The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77° to 81° F.

5. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment the dough at room temperature for about 90 minutes, or until it doubles in size.

6. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 2 equal pieces of 24 ounces, or 3 pieces of about 16 ounces. Shape the dough into loaves, and place them into bread pans that have been lightly oiled or misted with spray oil. Mist the tops of the loaves with spray oil and loosely cover the tops with plastic wrap.

7. Proof at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the loaves crest fully above the tops of the pans.

8. Preheat the oven to 350°F with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Place the pans on a sheet pan and remove the plastic wrap. Mist hte tops with a spray of water and dust with cornmeal.

9. Place the sheet pan in the oven (Or Green Egg) and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the sheet pan for even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown, including along the sides and bottom, and register at least 185° to 190°F in the center. They should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.

10. When the loaves are done, remove them immediately from the pans and cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.