Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Time for an Anadama Bread Update

Anadama Bread: heard of it? I had heard of it long, long ago, and even tried making it once, when recently back in the US after living in Guatemala. The problem is that I really don't care for molasses. I use it, don't misunderstand. I just use it very sparingly. The other notable ingredient is cornmeal.

The Story of Anadama

Anadama Seed Bread
The story of how this bread came to be called "Anadama" is different, depending on where you've heard or read it. All the stories have some similarity, dealing with a Massachusetts man, angry with his wife and stating, "Ana damn her!", and thus the bread was shortened to Anadama. Some of the stories say that Ana began making bread but decided to leave, whereupon her husband came home and tried to finish the bread, calling out "Ana dam her". Others say that the husband was tired of cornmeal mush and molasses every day and tried adding some yeast and flour and making a bread, using the same epithet. The stories all vary just a little, but all of them deal with cornmeal and molasses and finally becoming bread - which then became famous, somehow. 
beautiful texture

As I said earlier, I did try making this kind of bread once over 30 years ago. I have had no great urge to repeat the experiment until very recently. The same bread baking book I have been rhapsodizing over for more than a year now is the reason I became interested in trying this bread again. In The Bread Baker's Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart, there is a recipe for Anadama bread, with Mr Reinhart's own version of how this bread came to be. As I have made over a dozen kinds of bread from this book, ALL of which have been splendid examples of bread creation, I figured that the recipe for Anadama Bread might just be something I would wish to try again. Mr. Reinhart advises that one find the very lightest molasses possible. This, alone, made me trust that maybe this recipe would be a better version than what I had tried so long ago.

Still, I waffled on actually making the bread. I would periodically look at the recipe, and then turn to something else instead. And so passed a year. And then I got one of my cooking magazines in the mail, and what should I find inside? A recipe for Anadama Bread! This one though, had a little twist: the addition of seeds. They used light and dark sesame, light and dark flax and poppy seeds. I love seeds in breads so this sounded wonderful. I have light and dark sesame seeds, but had no flax except ground. Since flax seeds will pass right through a person without ever breaking down to yield their health-giving properties, I figured using pre-ground seeds would be a good idea anyway. I left out the poppy seeds, only because there wouldn't be enough of them to really taste, with everything else going on in this bread. I do love poppy seeds in things! I thought it would be a waste to use them here.
fresh from the oven

Creating a Recipe of My Own

When I read this recipe for Anadama Bread with seeds in my magazine, I wondered what differences there would be, between the recipe in my revered book and the recipe in the magazine. (I keep saying "magazine" because I cannot recall if it was Food and Wine or Bon Appetit). I got out the book and sat comparing the two recipes. I was amazed at how vastly different they were. The ingredients are much the same: flour, cornmeal, molasses, yeast. Little variances: the addition of milk or not, seeds or not, etc. 

I decided I would create a recipe of my own, walking a line of sorts between the two recipes. Since my tolerance for full flavored molasses is very low, I opted to use half molasses and half honey for that portion of the recipe. I went in between with other ingredients: neither as much as one, or as little as the other. It is a straightforward bread, mixed, allowed to rise, form, shape and bake. No exceedingly long "sponges" that need to grow for a day or more. Nothing difficult at all. I've made bread for so long that it is a way of life for me (though my whole foundation for this way of life was my Mom's bread: said foundation was shaken to the core with Mr. Reinhart's book). I know the basics. I know how a yeast dough works, how it looks and feels. 

Once I had decided on the amounts for my version of this bread, I went to work. I made up the dough; the recipe worked splendidly. It grew nicely, rose beautifully in the pans and baked perfectly. I allowed the bread to cool and sliced it. The flavors were wonderful. While I cannot specifically taste the seeds, they do make for a lovely presentation. Whether the seeds (optional in any case) are added or not, my version of this bread is all I hoped. And I hope some of my readers might try it out!

Anadama Seed Bread

Anadama Seed Bread
makes two (4 x 8-inch) loaves

1 1/2 cups (210 g / 7.4 oz) yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups (12 fl. oz.) warm water
3 cups (420 g / 14.8 oz) bread flour, divided
2 1/2 teaspoons (8 g / 0.28 oz) instant yeast
1/2 cup (120 ml / 4 oz) water
4 tablespoons (60 ml / 2.8 oz) light molasses 
    (or use half each molasses and honey)
1 1/2 teaspoons (6 g / 0.21 oz) fleur de sel or coarse salt
3 tablespoons (19 g / 0.67 oz) softened butter
2 tablespoons (20 g / 0.71 oz) white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons (20 g / 0.71 oz) black sesame seeds 
3 tablespoons (22 g / 0.78 oz) flax seeds, ground
1/2 cup (70 g / 3.0 oz) bread flour, if needed
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer, stir together the cornmeal and war water. Allow these ingredients to soak for 1 hour to soften. After the hour, add in half the bread flour, with the instant yeast and the 1/2 cup of water. Stir well and allow to ferment for an hour. 

Add in the remaining half of the 3 cups of flour with the salt, molasses (and honey if substituting part), the butter and the seeds. Stir these ingredients until they come together. If mixing by hand, turn dough out onto a floured surface, using some of the last half-cup of flour as needed. Knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes. If mixing in a heavy duty mixer, set dough hook in place and begin kneading at lowest setting, slowly increasing to setting 2 or whatever speed is recommended for kneading bread. Add in the remaining half-cup of flour if needed, until the dough comes together well. Continue kneading for 8 to 10 minutes. The resultant dough should be tacky but not overly sticky.

Grease a large bowl and place the dough into the bowl, turning once to grease all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for approximately 90 minutes, or until doubled in size. 

Grease two (8.5 x 4.5-inch) loaf pans with cooking spray and sprinkle with cornmeal. Set aside. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide in half. Form each half into a smooth loaf, flattening the dough and then rolling tightly. Tuck in the ends. Place each loaf into one of the prepared pans. Spray the tops of the loaves with cooking spray and sprinkle liberally with cornmeal. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow them to rise until the dough shows at least 1-inch above the rims. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set the loaves on a lower-middle rack and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate pans, for even baking and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the loaves are golden and test 185 - 190 degrees with an instant read thermometer inserted into the centers. Turn loaves out onto racks to cool before slicing. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.