I stared at this recipe for a long time suffering flashbacks of the disastrous Boston Brown Bread. The ingredients are so similar, and my memory of the Brown Bread was so awful, I was hesitant to invest time in what I was sure to be failure. The history of Anadama Bread’s name, too, is disconcerting. Apparently, “Anadama” derives from an angry New England farmer who was sick of all the cornmeal his wife Anna prepared for him. Damn, Anna. Anadama. Woeful etymology. I thought it was some South American recipe. While not the prettiest loaf, the taste was a pleasant surprise.
1 cup milk
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tsp stone-ground cornmeal
3-3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
2 tsp salt
1/3 cup warm water
1 envelope (~2 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
5 tbsp dark molasses
1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Once the oven reaches 200 degrees, maintain the heat for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat.
2. Combine the milk and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan and bring almost to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the cornmeal and continue to stir for 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and cool until lukewarm.
3. Mix 3 cups of the flour and the salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix the water, yeast, and molasses in a liquid measuring cup. Briefly mix together the flour and salt at low speed, then add the cornmeal mush, mixing at low speed until roughly incorporated, about 1 minute. Still at low speed, gradually add the liquid, and once the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and satiny, stopping the machine two or three times to scrape the dough from the hook and sides of the bowl if necessary, about 10 minutes. (After 5 minutes of kneading, if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add the remaining flour, 1 tbsp at a time and up to 1/4 cup total, until the dough is no longer sticky.) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead to form a smooth, round ball, 15-30 seconds.
4. Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl, rubbing the dough around the bowl to coat lightly with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the warmed oven until the dough doubles in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
5. Gently press the dough into a rectangle 1 inch thick and no longer than 9 inches. With a long side facing you, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Place the dough seam-side down in a greased 9×5 inch loaf pan and press gently so it touches all four sides of the pan. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until the dough almost doubles in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
6. Keep one oven rack at the lowest position and place the other at the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place an empty loaf pan on the bottom rack. Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a small saucepan.
7. Melt the remaining 2 tbsp butter in a small saucepan. Remove the plastic wrap from the loaf and carefully brush the top with the melted butter and evenly sprinkle the remaining 2 tsp cornmeal across the top. Pour the boiling water into the empty loaf pan in the oven and set the loaf onto the middle rack. Bake 40-45 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.
Karl-Peter thinks this bread tastes like beer. I think it tastes like a big soft gingerbread house. It took a million years to rise, I flicked it and shamed it (which probably didn’t help the little anadama morale, ignominious name, and whipped like a prisoner in a pan). I feel bad about all this after I tasted it, so certain was I of failure and waste. What a surprise. I’d give Anadama 4 stars. The sweetness and corn taste are well balanced, and though it struggled to rise and remained a rather squat little loaf, it is a fantastic slice for breakfast.
Perhaps I’ll bring some to Boston for the AWP Conference, which I just found out I get to go to in March! Eating this bread also makes me want to rewatch The Fighter.