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BBA #1: Anadama Bread

May 18, 2009
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About a year ago, I was talking with my Mom about the fact that I would really like to start baking more bread. I had heard about Peter Reinhart’s book The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, and thought that would be a good place to start. And come that Christmas, the book was given to me from my parents (supportive as always – thanks, Mom and Dad!) It immediately became clear to me that this book would be a great resource to learn from. The first 100 pages are devoted to detailed explanations of ingredients, baker’s formulas, and methods — everything a novice bread baker would need to learn to begin understanding how bread baking works, more than just following a recipe blindly with no understanding of the how’s and why’s. I spent days poring over the book, trying a few recipes, and offhandedly said to my Mom as I was telling her how much I liked the book “you know, I think it would be really fun to bake my way through this book. I know I would learn a lot.” The thought tickled my brain for a few days and then I got sidetracked on another project, only to revisit BBA periodically and vaguely remember my notion of cooking through it.

Until last week.

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Behold, the power of communication through blogs and Twitter — Nicole from Pinch My Salt casually tweeted one day that she was thinking of baking her way through BBA, and would anyone like to join her? About a week later, she had amassed a group of 200 bakers, myself included, all ready to take on this adventure and immerse ourselves in baking our way through this wonderful book. Some people are completely new to bread baking, some have been baking bread for 20+ years, but we all are interested in learning and tackling this book together. You can read more about the group on Nicole’s BBA Challenge page, including a list of participants and a world map showing where all of the bakers are located. She’s also started a BBAC Flickr group where you can see photos of the breads as they roll in.

The group intends to work through the book in order, tackling one bread per week for the next 40+ weeks. A committment?  Sure. But if there’s one thing that B and I adore (right up there with homemade pizza and ice cream) it’s freshly baked bread. I’m so excited to take on this challenge and to share the results of what I’m learning here with you.

So on to the first loaf! The inaugural bread this week was Anadama Bread, which is a traditional bread from New England flavored with cornmeal and molasses. There’s an interesting story behind how this bread is rumored to have gotten its name:  a Massachusetts man, angry with his wife for leaving him (and with only a pot of cornmeal mush and molasses, at that), threw together the mush and molasses with some flour and yeast and said “Anna, damn ‘er!” This was revised as it was retold to the more refined “Anadama,” and the story stuck. Who knows if it’s true, but I do know that cornmeal and molasses in a bread makes for a mighty tasty loaf.

ready to add the molasses, more flour, and butter to the cornmeal soaker

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the dough kneaded beautifully, and is  nicely textured with cornmeal

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proofed loaf, ready to bake

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warm from the oven

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I will say, this bread is absolutely delicious. The cornmeal and molasses give it a slight sweetness, but it’s not cloying at all, and it doesn’t taste overtly of either. The crumb was super soft and light, punctuated by little bits of crunchy cornmeal throughout that I really liked. It’s wonderful toasted with some butter, and we also used it for chicken salad sandwiches made with grapes and walnuts.

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As I was munching my way through this loaf, the thought kept nagging me that I’d tasted this bread somewhere before (and loved it.) It finally hit me: Henrietta’s  Table, in Cambridge MA, serves this bread in their bread basket along with a rustic cranberry and walnut yeasted bread. Henrietta’s Table is hands-down one of my favorite Boston restaurants; the chef serves seasonal, New England-inspired food sourced from local ingredients, and the atmosphere inside is like a classy-rustic farmhouse. Love!! I used to eat there at least a few times a year while I worked in Harvard square, and always, always one of my favorite parts of the meal was the bread basket.

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So, one loaf deliciously down, but I know I’ll be making anadama bread again for us. I’ll be posting my breads for the BBA Challenge every Monday, and in the meantime, do visit some of the other bakers to see their Anadama versions. (And, if you live near Boston, swing by Henrietta’s Table for a delicious meal and a taste of this bread!)

16 Comments leave one →
  1. May 18, 2009 4:39 pm

    Loved your post! Your bread looks pretty…I have to stop looking at all these pics…making me hungry! The workshops I am catering are going to love this bread! Have fun making the Artos recipes! Happy baking!

  2. May 18, 2009 5:23 pm

    Great looking bread. I loved reading your post. It is a pleasure to be baking along with you.
    Susie

  3. May 18, 2009 6:28 pm

    How delicious and beautiful this looks! I don’t think I have the bandwidth to bake my way through anything these days, so I’ll just follow along with you!

  4. May 18, 2009 7:23 pm

    What a great post! This is too much of a commitment, but I’m happy to watch you make beautiful bread all year!🙂

  5. May 18, 2009 7:34 pm

    Gorgeous! I’m so glad that Nicole suggested this crazy venture too.

  6. Carrie permalink
    May 18, 2009 7:40 pm

    Oh, how awesome! I only wish I had time to do this… one of my favorite things to do is bake bread… or maybe it is to eat it?! Either way… and a night out at Henrietta’s Table sounds nice too… hmmmmmmmm.

  7. May 18, 2009 9:45 pm

    Oh, this bread looks just beautiful. Mmm. I can’t wait to see the other delicious breads in this challenge!

  8. May 18, 2009 10:29 pm

    Lovely loaf. I don’t think I will formally join, but this will encourage me to dive farther into my BBA. I’ve only made 2 recipes so far!

  9. May 18, 2009 10:36 pm

    Yeah, it does look incredible🙂 Reinhardt’s BBA is, I hear, THE definitive resource for any aspiring bread baker!

  10. May 19, 2009 12:02 am

    This bread looks fabulous! Congrats on making your first BBA entry. I can’t wait to see all of you bake along with the BBA book. What a fabulous idea.

  11. May 19, 2009 12:40 am

    Gorgeous bread! I love our baking group. It’s a lot of fun baking together. I’ll check back next week for your Greek bread

  12. May 20, 2009 11:50 am

    Lovely loaves! I love seeing all the different sandwich choices people made; chicken salad sounds delicious.

  13. May 20, 2009 12:39 pm

    Woah, so great. 200 people? That’s amazing.

    Missing Ithaca!
    Jessie–

  14. May 20, 2009 4:03 pm

    Hahaha that’s a funny story about the name! Doesn’t matter if it’s true, because it makes the name unforgettable! Great-looking loaf! I especially likethe photo of the dough rising in the loaf pan🙂

  15. May 21, 2009 2:55 pm

    Thanks Jenn; Thanks Susie!

    The Leftoverist – happy to have people following along.🙂

    foodlibrarian – sometimes I wonder about the commitmyself, but I think it’s going to be fun no matter what.

    Caitlin – thanks! I know; I’m happy she organized it.

    Carrie – you and me both! My main motivation for baking it is how much I love to eat bread.🙂 Hope you and Nick can get out to Henrietta’s Table soon!

    Anna – thanks!

    Whitney – I thought this would be a good reason for me to dive deeply into the book, too. Hope you enjoy following along; you’ll get recipe previews!😉

    Manggy – thanks! It’s true, I’m already learning a lot. He’s a great teacher!

    Elyse, Tammy, Colleen – thanks!

    Jessie – pretty amazing what Twitter can do, hm?

    Thanks Marta!

  16. Pam permalink
    July 5, 2009 8:36 am

    I remember this bread from childhood and the story about it’s name was around back then (in the 50’s). I don’t know about the validity, but it sure made the bread interesting My grammy used to bake this and we would butter it up and eat it warm. It’s a great bread and brings back wonderful childhood memories (and cravings!!).

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