I came home from work a couple of weeks ago to a warm, yeasty smell and a large mound of yellow-brown dough resting heavily in my big stainless steel bowl. I looked at my mom, who had picked up the kids and was hanging out at our house with them until I arrived. Clearly, it was some kind of bread dough, but neither the color nor the texture was familiar. "Oh," she said with a little shrug, "I just felt like making some anadama bread."
To have someone schlep around your kids is favor enough. To then come to your house, tidy up the disaster of a kitchen that you left behind in the haste to get out the door on time in the morning and make bread? That is something only a mom would do! I didn’t know exactly why she decided upon anadama bread until I saw that she had found my latest copy of Cook’s Country, a gift subscription given to me by my Aunt Mary that was always full of interesting, well-tested and delicious recipes. They claimed to have perfected anadama bread and my mom was working on proving that.
Anadama is yeast bread made from wheat flour, cornmeal and molasses. I first really came to love it as toast served alongside the hearty breakfasts at the Two Sisters restaurant in Gloucester, Mass. In doing a bit of research, I find that this shouldn’t surprise me. It is a traditional New England bread that seems to have its roots in Rockport, Mass., the next town north on the Cape Anne coast to Gloucester. Slightly sweet and with a toothsome-ness that only cornmeal can impart, I love it well toasted with a good smear of salted butter. To think that it might now be able to be a part of my daily breakfast ritual is delightful, and a bit dangerous.
Mom left me a clean kitchen and clear instructions for the care of the bread. Now covered with plastic wrap and a damp cloth, it sat rising slowly in our (barely) warm kitchen. Once the dough had doubled in size and begun to ‘blister’ a bit, I was to cut it in half and roll each half out flat with a rolling pin, then roll them up jelly-roll style into the final loaf shape to be baked in a hot oven. We had a slight disagreement over the size of the pans that should be used -- Mom wanted me to use the medium size ones to be sure that the dough would rise up nice and tall while I, for some contrary reason, wanted to use my large pans.
In the end not only did I use the large pans but I also cheated and didn’t roll the dough into their final loaf shapes, but used the ‘stretch and tuck’ method to shape the loaves, pulling the dough gently in all directions to form a smooth top while tucking the "ends" underneath. On top of that, I went to bed before they were out of the oven and left my nervous husband with instructions for taking the loaves out. He got it perfectly and lucky for me, they turned out beautifully in the end; tall, well-shaped, yellow-brown loaves that smelled absolutely divine.
This bread was delicious. A bit crunchy from the cornmeal, it had a great, medium crumb texture that is perfect for toast or sandwiches. The next morning, knowing that if I didn’t set it aside immediately I would eat it all, I cut half a loaf and put it aside to bring to my mom. She was as pleased with it as I was. So pleased enough that the next week she made another batch -- lucky us! If you are looking for a bread recipe, here is the one to try -- simple and delicious and apparently fool-proof as it even survives my cutting corners with loaf shaping and baking.
(recipe adapted from Rebeccah Marsters, Cook’s Country, April/May 2014)
1 cup cornmeal
2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
1Ž2 cup molasses
5 tablespoons butter, melted
5 1Ž2 cups all-purposed flour (mom used King Arthur)
1 tablespoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
2 1Ž2 teaspoons salt Whisk water, molasses and butter in a large measuring cup until combined.
In a stand mixer using a dough hook mix flour, yeast salt and cornmeal until combined. Slowly add the molasses mixture and knead on low speed until a mass begins to form, about 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-low and knead 6-8 minutes or until smooth and elastic, pulling cleanly away from sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured counter and knead by hand 1 minute. Transfer dough to a large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1Ž2 hours.
Deflate dough by pressing down on center. Again, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Form each half into a loaf, either by rolling and shaping or using the stretching and tucking method, and place into greased bread pans (8 1Ž2" x 4 1Ž2" size). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise until almost double in size (tops of loaves should be about 1" above the top edge of the pans).
Preheat oven to 425 degrees with the rack in the lower middle position. Place loaves in oven and immediately reduce temperature to 350 degrees. Bake until top crust is golden brown, about 40 minutes, and turn out onto wire rack to cool. Double-check doneness by thumping on bottoms of loaves with your knuckles -- they should sound hollow.
This bread is versatile, slicing well and making especially great peanut butter and honey (or fluff) sandwiches. But my favorite way to enjoy it is still as toast with a cup of tea, spread with butter and maybe even a little honey or the maple cream from Robb Family Farm, which has the extra bonus of having been made with the help of my 14-year-old daughter. But that is another story!
Julie Potter is a wife, mother of two, avid gardener and passionate cook who believes good food doesn’t have to be complicated. Share your thoughts with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.