Anadama Bread

IMG_1408I’ve mentioned, how kneading dough and baking bread go a long way in relieving stress and taking your mind off the troubles of modern life. There’s certainly a lot going on in our hurried world to trouble you – even when you do your best to not pay attention! So, sprinkling some yeast over some warm water, letting it come to life in a matter of minutes, and then combining it with grains from fields of amber strands blowing in the wind… before you know it, you’ve been transported.

Recently, I was in desperate need of being transported. If you follow this blog with any frequency, you might’ve noticed the disappearance of several photos from more than half of the posts. Proof that our tech-heavy, hurried world produces strife just as quickly and efficiently as joy, these photos were inadvertently eliminated from cyberspace in a matter of seconds! I’m still in the process of getting them back into their respective places. I’ve had to come to grips with the magnitude of this newfound project in order to make any progress (goodness knows storming around the apartment, waving my hands, gnashing my teeth, and speaking in “foreign tongues” wasn’t getting a whole lot accomplished). Reaching that point of acceptance was a struggle.

Which brings me to today’s recipe! Legend has it Anadama Bread was born out of frustration and exasperation. Imagine, a cold, hungry fisherman returning to his cabin on some isolated strand of the rugged New England coast in late autumn, somewhere in the mid 1800s. All day long he’d toiled with the sea, trying to wrest from it a living while hanging on to his very life. He returns to his cabin to find his wife, Anna, has abandoned him; leaving nothing for his supper but a bowl of cold corn mush and saddening porridge. Enraged, he storms about the cabin, waving his hands, gnashing his teeth, and speaking in “foreign tongues”. Finally, in exasperation, he sets to work making his own hot meal, cursing her as he goes… “Anna… damn her!”

Legend has it this desperately hungry and lonely man created the New England treasure of Anadama Bread. While historians aren’t able to discredit it or prove it, I’d personally like to believe that it’s true!

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Anadama Bread is a unique blend of grains, lightly sweetened with rich, dark molasses all coming together to make a bread that will add complexity and depth to any sandwich or even just plain toast with jam. And – instead of grabbing your computer and hurling it to its sure death three stories below – you can use that energy to knead bread!

It really is a simple bread to put together, though you may have to seek out some ingredients that aren’t necessarily found in a typical bread recipe:

IMG_1411Oat bran — This is the hard, outer layer from oats – usually removed – which contains high amounts of dietary fiber. You can usually find it in the bulk grains section or somewhere amidst the baking aisle. Bob’s Red Mill, a widely-distributed brand, is usually easy to come by. If you aren’t able to find oat bran, however, you can easily substitute quick oats (also known as quick-cooking oats) and get nearly the same effect, though with less fiber.

IMG_1412Polenta — Growing up in the south, I would’ve bet money there was a difference between polenta and grits. Over time, I’ve discovered they’re the same product, just usually with a different presentation. For this recipe, you’ll want to find coarse, yellow grits or polenta. If you aren’t able to find them under that heading, you may find them labeled “coarse cornmeal”. Again, Bob’s Red Mill is a good brand for this.

Bread Flour — Whether white or whole wheat, bread flour is becoming easier to find in local supermarkets. Essentially, the only difference between bread flour and regular flour is that bread flour IMG_1415has a higher gluten content (gluten is the protein that gives bread structure and traps the yeast bubbles so that it rises). If you aren’t able to find bread flour, you can use all-purpose flour, however I’d recommend that you either add gluten to the flour mixture or substitute one cup of all-purpose flour in place of one cup of the whole wheat flour this recipe calls for, as well.

Surprisingly, most of these ingredients can be found in your supermarket’s baking aisle, they’re just usually placed somewhere you’re not used to glancing as you pick up your usual baking supplies.

There are lots of recipes out there for Anadama Bread — each incorporating various amounts of these unique ingredients, though some use only regular flour and cornmeal. I developed today’s recipe to incorporate all the ingredients mentioned in the bread’s origin legend and to suit our own personal tastes.

Anadama Bread
A Tales of Thyme & Place Original
Yields 1 large loaf (18 slices)


    2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
    1 1/2 cups warm water (105-110 degrees)
    2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
    1 cup bread flour
    1/2 cup polenta
    1/2 cup oat bran
    2 teaspoons salt
    1/3 cup molasses
    1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
    2 teaspoons lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
    1/2 cup bread flour (for dusting and kneading)

    Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a medium bowl; stir to dissolve. Place in a warm, draft-free location for 7-10 minutes or until mixture is foamy.

    Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, 1 cup bread flour, polenta, oat bran, and salt. Add the proofed yeast to the flour mixture, stirring in the molasses, melted butter, and lemon juice. Stir vigorously in one direction until a soft dough ball forms and begins to come cleanly away from the sides of the bowl (if necessary, you may need to add more flour or warm water).

    Lightly flour the work surface with bread flour; turn dough out onto the surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Add just enough remaining bread flour to keep dough from sticking to hands and work surface. Place dough in a large, oiled bowl, turning dough to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free location to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size (this could take up to 1.25 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen).

    Punch down the risen dough and allow to rest for five minutes. Shape into a dough log that is about 12 inches in length. Place the loaf into an oiled loaf pan or onto a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Cover lightly with a slightly damp kitchen towel; let rise for another 40 minutes to an hour.

    Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375-degrees. Bake the risen loaf 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from loaf pan to cool completely on wire rack.

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My personal favorite way to serve Anadama Bread is lightly toasted with the smallest spread of butter and then loads of homemade apple butter or homemade sour cherry preserves. The depth of the molasses flavor enlivens the flavors of almost any toast topping – sweet or savory. The bread makes excellent grilled cheese (especially if you throw a little bit of lean ham between the slices).

And somewhere in the process of making the bread – whether it’s the rhythmic and predictable strokes of kneading, smelling the earthy essences of molasses and yeast coming together in the oven, or that first taste of buttered toast steaming from the toaster – you may find that life really isn’t all that complicated. Troubles and joys (technological or otherwise) are just as necessary and temporary as daily bread.

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~ by Jason on October 12, 2010.

2 Responses to “Anadama Bread”

  1. Upon first glance I swore that the title of this entry said “Amanda Bread,” which I am choosing to interpret as a sign that I must introduce her to my cozy oven on this chilly autumn afternoon. (That, and she looks simply scrumptious.)

    I expect we’ll get along famously.

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