I’m very excited to get the BBA Challenge 2011 started and I’m also happy to see we’ve got a few people signed up (with results already up from Coz, Sharlene, Jim, Adam, Lisa, Joanne, Paul , Nancy and Geraint) and ready to pound, shape and bake some dough. Looking through the book, I can that I’m really eager to try out all of these different breads!
I’m also happy to point out that Peter Reinhart himself (the author of the book we are using) commented here and left an encouraging message to all of us, wishing us luck in the challenge. If that’s not a nice way to get this daunting challenge started, I don’t know what would be!
Given that Reinhart’s book is organized alphabetically, that means that the first recipe up out of the gate is: Anadama Bread (sample recipes can be found here, here, and here). According to the font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, Anadama Bread has it’s origins in New England – in Gloucester, Massachussetts specifically (I’m from New York, which isn’t quite in New England, but close enough, and in all truth I’ve never heard of this bread!). Anadama Bread is shaped as a typical American loaf, baked in the classic rectangular pan, but it has a unique look and rich taste that comes from the fact that corn meal and molasses make up a sizable amount of the ingredients. It’s also cool and worth noting that the name “Anadama” comes from a story, which suggests that:
A fisherman, angry with his wife, Anna, for serving him nothing but cornmeal and molasses, one day adds flour and yeast to his porridge and eats the resultant bread, while cursing, “Anna, damn her.” The neighbors baked it because it was so delicious and coined it Anadama.
Just cornbread and molasses? I would have been mad too! I don’t blame him for adding some flour and yeast just to see what would happen. Well, the fisherman didn’t do a bad job. Not that it’s the best thing to bake a bread that emerged from an obviously toxic relationship, but the story certainly gives the bread itself a little extra character and makes the name easy to remember! Comments about the process and product below.
I’d rate Anadama Bread as pretty simple to make – I’d place it at beginner-level bread.
I guess that means that if you are a beginner at baking, it’s a good thing that Reinhart’s book starts with this one (though the last steps in organizing the dough shape in the week two bread — Greek Celebration Bread — seem a bit more advanced, but let’s cross that long bridge when we come to it!). I know when I started baking bread I tried breads a bit too out of my league, and it led to a lot of frustration. I should have started with a pan bread like Anadama.
All in all, though — nothing to fear here with this bread. The recipe is standard fare, so jump right in. As usual, it’s just a matter of getting your feel for the texture of a dough and knowing when it is ready to go to the next stage (rising or proofing), if you are just getting started baking. The fact that this recipe has corn meal in it, though, leads to a texture issue — the dough is coarser than the typical dough.
(Note that I’ve added this little “difficulty scale” graphic to the left – I’ll try to use it in all my subsequent posts to keep track of difficulty levels as we work through the book.)
Anadama has three steps: the soaker, the sponge, and the dough.
The soaker stage is simple, it just involves mixing corn meal and water overnight. The idea here, I suspect, is that the corn meal will release much of its taste ingredients into the water overnight, giving the bread as a whole a more full bodied taste. The sponge is a straightfoward hour long yeast fermentation process involving the soaker and some extra ingredients, and preparing the dough is a standard process – one rise, and then a proofing stage after shaping.
I should also note that I got to prep these loaves in person with Adam from Within Reason (who is also doing the challenge). He was here at the house for the weekend, so we decided to stagger our baking, since I’ve only got one oven after all, and then compare our loaves afterwards. Adam is a purist, so he kneaded his doughs by hand. What a tiring process. I admire his dedication to the ancient art! To be honest, though – I’m a purist too, but I’m a purist about my Kitchen-Aid, so I used the mixer for all stages of dough preparation. In the end, to be honest, I couldn’t tell any difference between his loaves and mine that would make one insist on hand kneading, though I know a lot of people out there just like to do it. I get it, but for some reason — much as I love making bread — I’ve never gotten into the hand-mixing and kneading stage. Bread making takes enough time, it seems to me – why add the hand kneading element if it’s not required? I know, many of you are reading and thinking “uh, that’s heresy!”
Here’s a shot of the loaves after they were done proofing in the pans:
Note that my loaf on the right looks proud and ready to enter the oven, whereas the one on the left is a bit anemic and sad. This always seems to happen to me: I divide the dough in half by sight, but it always turns out that one of the doughs is bigger than the other, even when they look initially exactly the same. I suppose I should weigh them to make sure they are equal, but to be honest they always seem right on the money (and then turn out not to be) so I never end up weighing them. And every week I end up with the sad loaf and the proud loaf. One week I’ll learn my lesson!
Comments on the Process and Product:
I was really happy with the way the Anadama Bread turned out. I didn’t have many problems putting it together, and it tasted great. However, where Reinhart’s recipe called for 20.25 oz of flour, I had to use 22.25, and that was to get it to the stage where the dough was “somewhat sticky,” whereas Reinhart says the dough should be “tacky” instead of sticky. I tend to believe the more hydrated doughs turn out better, so I try to go for a dough that is “just barely handleable” (I oil my hands a bit to make handling easier without the need for more unwanted flour). Other than this adding of the 2 oz, the only other issue I had was in appearance. I’m not sure why this happened, but the tops of my loaves separated a bit. Here’s a shot:
I’m not sure exactly why that happened. Possibly it was a defect of the shaping process, which is admittedly my weak spot (not the best looking loaf, from this angle!). At the same time, though, there were no seams at the top/sides, so that shouldn’t have made a difference. Well, I don’t know. Maybe someone else does?
Onto the bread itself, I loved the fact that the crumb of the bread was remarkably light, moist and airy — exactly the way I think you’d want this bread to come out. Given the taste of the bread, you wouldn’t want this one too heavy or dry. I was also surprised by the fact that the molasses was not – even given the 7 tbsp used – overpowering at all in the bread. In fact, it mixed very well with the corn meal to give the bread a hint of “cornbread” along with a richer more sugary taste. All in all, this is excellent sandwich bread.
A quick note on use of this bread: don’t use Anadama bread as a dipping bread for red Italian sauce: I made gnocchi that night, and we found ourselves without Italian bread, and used the Anadama. I knew it wouldn’t work, and — not suprisingly — it doesn’t really. Not that anyone out there might be silly enough to try that, but you never know, so I’m just sayin’! Stick with sandwiches. That said, it did work well buttered and toasted in the morning!
Some folks from the challenge posting at The Fresh Loaf suggested that Anadama goes well with:
- Cinnamon-spice or gingered cream cheese
- Honey or honey butter
- Peanut or almond butter
- Goat cheese
Look, Making bread is fun, but someone has to eat it afterward. It can’t just be me — I’d be 400 pounds in no time, and a 1000 pounds by the end of this BBA Challenge year. So the kid test is important to the success of a good bread. Basically – these kids (and the wife) need to help eat it.
In this case, Anadama Bread was a mild success, I’d say. Both the 5 and 2 year old ate the Anadama bread eagerly, though they didn’t ask for seconds. This isn’t surprising – they tend to eat multiple slices of rustic breads, but not so much the sandwich oriented breads. The next day they forgot that it was in the bag on the counter.
I’d say that this means on the kid-o-meter, Anadama Bread gets a 2 out of 5 or so. It’s an adult bread I guess. Like a Peek Freen’s cookie
Anyone remember the jingle about how they were made for grown up taste? (“Peek Freens are much to good to waste on children, oh…, they’re serious…very serious! If you’re a grown-up or plan to be one, you’ll know what we mean…”
Other Photography Shots
I’m working on my food photography, which isn’t as easy as it looks it seems. Here are some more final shots, from different angles:
and then from the top corner…
NEXT WEEK (Challenge #2): Greek Celebration Bread
To be honest, I’m a little intimidated by the instructions for the shaping and cutting of the dough in the final stage. See you all there!