I'm covered in flour and the entire house smells like warm bread. A good day by all standards.
With slender baguette pans, gurgling jars of sourdough starter, and an array of silky flours, my father was a talented bread baker. One of his specialties, the one I hold dearest, was Anadama Bread. As a kid, the lore of the New England fisherman who threw his bowl of molasses-sweetened cornmeal mush at his bread baking wife, exclaiming "Anna, damn ya!", mixing the ingredients and thus giving birth to this accidental
recipe was consistently intriguing, and consistently an excuse to use an unapproved word. But the flavor, aroma, and character of this bread, far outweighed it's value for smut-mouthed opportunities.
A yeasty moist bread, it is made hearty with the addition of cornmeal, and sweet and tangy with the addition of molasses. This is the quintessential eat at least a half a loaf slathered in butter right out of the oven as soon as it is cool enough to slice
homemade bread. Chewy, with a pillowy crumb, this also makes the best, the best
, toast. The sugars in the bread form a delicate crust all over the surface, providing just enough slight crunch before giving way to a slightly sweet supple center. It also makes an amazing sandwich.
As it is baking, largely thanks to the molasses, the bread will perfume your home with a distinct comforting gorgeousness, certain to lay tracks for intense sense-memory experiences decades from now. As has absolutely proven true for me.
There is a multitude of versions of recipes for this bread, from generations of it being passed down. Previously I have only seen it made using all-purpose flour. However, I added whole wheat flour to my version below, and loved the result. Feel free to use all AP flour if you'd rather, or try experimenting with a higher whole wheat content.
makes two loaves.
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, plus more for dusting the top
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup molasses
1 package or 2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
Mix cornmeal with one cup of water.
Bring one cup of water to a gentle boil, and add cornmeal mixture to the pot. Allow to return to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low, and continue to stir until all the water is absorbed and the mixture is quite thick, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter, salt, and molasses, and stir to combine thoroughly. Transfer to a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, and set aside to cool.
Combine the sugar with 1/2 cup of warm water, about 110 degrees--it should feel like a warm bath. Sprinkle yeast over the top of the water surface and allow to sit for about 10 minutes to activate the yeast. When ready it should look frothy on top.
Add yeast mixture to slightly cooled cornmeal mixture. Gradually add flours, either stirring by hand or with the paddle of a stand mixture.
Knead for about 10 minutes (or 7 minutes with the dough hook of a stand mixer), until it is soft, supple, and pliable. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer dough to the bowl, turning slightly to also coat the dough in oil. Cover loosely and allow to rise in a warm place for about ninety minutes, until the dough as doubled in size.
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Punch down risen dough. Divide in half. Lightly oil two nine-inch loaf pans.
Very gently flatten each piece of dough into a large rectangle, roughly 11" x 9". With the short end near you, fold the top side down a third, and then down again a third. Press slightly to seal at the seam. Place the folded dough, seam side down, in one of the prepared pans. Repeat for second loaf.
Lightly oil the tops of the loaves and gently cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for about 30 minutes, until they have doubled in size again.
Remove plastic. Sprinkle the tops of the loaves lightly with water, and dust with cornmeal if you choose.
Bake for twenty minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until slightly browned and makes a hollow sound when thumped with a finger on the bottom. Cool on a baking rack.
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