BBA #1: Anadama Bread
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.
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
the dough kneaded beautifully, and is nicely textured with cornmeal
proofed loaf, ready to bake
warm from the oven
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.
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.
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!)