Anadama bread has gone out of fashion, and that’s really a shame. It’s a classic New England bread made with cornmeal and molasses. Legends about its origin abound. Probably the most popular one tells of a fisherman from Rockport or Gloucester who was so disgusted by his wife’s poor cooking that he set out to make bread on his own, all the while muttering, “Anna, damn her!” He used cornmeal and molasses—the ingredients that were available and popular at the time.
I use an old James Beard’s recipe that I’ve adapted over the years that highlights the classic ingredients. Since you’re using molasses, the dough will be a bit sticky. Be careful not to add too much flour in an attempt to overcome the stickiness. Slightly sticky, soft and springy is good; tough, dry dough is not good. You’ll just end up with a heavy loaf. I’ve made some door stops in my time that were definitely not worth the ingredients, time and effort!
1 package active dry yeast (or 1 TBS)
1 tsp sugar
1 1/4 C warm water
2 TBS butter (or canola oil)
1/4 C molasses
1 TBS salt
1/2 C cornmeal
4 C flour (approximate amount)
1. Proof the yeast in a 1/4 C of warm water and sugar. Should bubble up in about 5 minutes.
2. Combine the remaining cup of water, the butter, molasses and salt. Heat to lukewarm. A two cup glass measuring cup in the microwave is good for this.
3. Combine steps 1 and 2 in your mixing bowl. Add the cornmeal and mix well.
4. Add flour, one cup at a time, until the dough (although sticky) is pulling away from the sides. Be careful with this. I only used about 3 1/2 C of flour out of the 4 that the recipe recommends. Amounts depend on the humidity in the air when you make the bread.
5. At this point, start kneading by hand on a floured surface or use the dough hook on your heavy duty mixer. In either case, add additional flour a bit at a time until you have a smooth (slightly sticky) ball of dough.
6. Put the dough into a greased bowl. Roll it around until the entire surface is covered. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled. A warm, draft free spot is important. I like a closed microwave. This dough takes up to two hours to rise.
7. Punch down the risen dough. Knead again for a minute or two. Form into two loaves.
8. Place into two greased 8×4 inch loaf pans; cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled.
9. Preheat oven to 425 while the dough is on its second rise.
10. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes; lower heat to 350 and bake for 30 more minutes. Loaves will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom when they’re done.
11. Cool on a wire rack.
Enjoy a piece of New England’s history!