BBA#1: Anadama Bread

January 8th, 2011 by Chris

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 CozSharlene, 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.

Difficulty Level


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

Kid Test

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!

37 Responses to “BBA#1: Anadama Bread”

  1. Mike Says:

    I admire your enthusiasm, however, are you aware that the recipe and the procedures you have published on your site are copyrighted by Peter Reinhart?

    It appears as if you intend to eventually publish every recipe in his book. I doubt that he would look favorably on this venture. You might even find yourself in the middle of a nasty lawsuit.

    Think about it.

  2. Chris Says:

    Hi Mike –

    Thanks for the heads up. I suppose that since we’re covering the whole book, that’s a different situation than a recipe here and there. As I have no desire to take away from Reinhart’s royalties, I’ll focus on general summaries when dealing with BBA.

    Thanks for the heads up, and word of advice!


  3. Geraint Says:

    Hi Chris et al

    Nice looking loaf Chris – I like that your bread has ‘shoulders’.

    Photos of my process here:

    Reinhart suggests using light, refined molasses for this recipe, but I only had blackstrap molasses. This is dark & strong flavoured, but a less sweet, which suits me fine.

    Like you, Chris, I needed to add more flour, in my case, 75g (2.6oz). The initial mix felt more like a 100% rye. Even after the additional flour, the dough was still very wet & sticky, so I used the French method of kneading to develop the gluten, which I find much easier than bench kneading with wet doughs (good video here:

    I preheated my oven, in which I have a kiln shelf, to 250c (482F) & turned it down to 180c (356F) after loading the breads. There’s a baking tray below the kiln shelf & I added a cup of boiling water to this immediately after the breads went in. Total baking time was 40mins. The dough smelled good, but the aroma while they baked was astonishing.

    The loaves were light with an amazingly soft, springy crumb, and with the slight crunch from the dusting of polenta, a very enjoyable eating texture. I’m not sure I’m totally satisfied with the flavour, the dark sweetness of the blackstrap molasses maybe just a bit too powerful.

    I took one loaf to friends for dinner, & it went well with the hot & sour soup that was served. The ham sandwiches we made this afternoon were delicious too.

    This is a recipe I will definitely bake again.


  4. Chris Says:

    Geraint –

    I was uncertain whether the “shoulders” were considered a defect or not. Personally, I like the look of them, but I’m not sure how typical loaf bakers view them, aesthetically.

    It seems like we were basically in agreement separately on the amount of needed flour. Could be a mistake in the recipe. At 20.25 oz, it wasn’t even close to being capable of handling – and like I said, even with the extra 2 oz, I lightly oiled my hands to make handling easier.

    I baked longer – 52 min, which seemed just right, but I didn’t use any misting or tins of water (I do this for cheesecakes, but not for breads). What is the result of using the water for a loaf like this? What effect was there on the crust?

    I too was really taken back by the soft spring on the crumb. It was very nice! (Toasted really good too, actually).

    I used the molasses that Reinhart recommended, which was subtle – I think he pointed to the right brand in this case.

    I agree, this is a keeper recipe. Great for sandwiches.

  5. Chris Says:

    Lisa is having a hard time getting the comment box to open, so a heads up that her try at the Anadama bread is here:

  6. saltandserenity Says:

    Just checked out your photos on Flickr. Your windowpane shot was fantastic. I never did get the hang of the windowpane test! FYI, when we did our challenge last year with Nicole of Pinch my Salt, was all agreed not to post any recipes as that would be unfair to Peter Reinhart.

  7. Geraint Says:


    re: misting/tins of water

    The idea is that the moisture/steam present in the oven at the start of the bake prevents a crust forming too soon and inhibits the expansion of the loaf, or in other words, it’s supposed to increase oven spring.

    I generally bake my bread in the smaller top oven of my stove – the Anadama loaves almost touched the roof, although they’d sunk back a bit by the end of the bake. I normally only leave the water in for 10 mins (it’s usually pretty much evaporated by then anyway), but these had steam for 20mins.

    The oven was hotter at the start of the bake than suggested by Reinhart which is maybe why my loaves baked in less time than yours.

    There was surprisingly little water/weight loss during the bake, only 4%, whereas most breads are around 10% lighter after baking. Maybe the polenta/cornmeal cooks and absorbs water during the bake instead of evaporating? And why the crumb is so soft?

  8. Adam Says:

    I baked another couple of loaves with Chris this weekend, so here’s my Anadama:

    And Geraint, that is a beautiful windowpane! I am pretty jealous. I know you said that you used the French method, but about how long did you end up kneading the bread? I’ve loved that youtube video for a long time, but y dough is never anywhere near soft enough to use that method. I’m guessing I added a bit too much flour when trying to make the dough more manageable?

  9. Lisa Says:

    I love this recipe. Great texture, great flavor. Made great sandwiches. Thanks for hosting the challenge, Chris. This will get me to do some of the recipes I tend to skip for no real reason. Thanks for posting the link to my website. we will see if the photo of my sliced Anadama shows up here.

  10. Chris Says:


    I guess that makes sense on the oven-spring. I’ll try that next time on my next free-standing loaf (I don’t typically get much spring from pan loafs).

    Do you have a 1 1/2 oven like mine? I have a full oven, and then a kind of “half” oven above it, which is less than half the height of the bottom one. I’m always too afraid to put bread up there because it would get too close to the coils (I have an unfortunate electric oven).

    I’ve never tested for water loss. Can you explain how you do that?

  11. Geraint Says:

    Adam: I kneaded with the French method for 12mins, by which time the gluten was sufficiently developed to bench knead for another 5mins. To get the windowpane I tend to pinch off a golf ball size piece of dough & then tease it out carefully – if it tears too easily I figure the gluten needs a bit more development, although apparently if the tears are straight/smooth-edged that’s a good sign. With doughs such as this one with ‘sharp’ bits of cornmeal to tear the dough, getting a good windowpane takes a bit more care!

    Chris: Yes, sounds like you have a similar oven: the top oven on mine is 17cm(6&3/4″) floor to element. I manage to fit a grill pan on the bottom & a shelf holding my 1.5cm thick kiln shelf immediately above that. I’ll post a photo sometime soon. I’ve cooked up to 1.4kg freestanding sourdoughs in this oven. Although it doesn’t get quite as hot as the bottom oven, it still gets above 250c (482F) & the temperature is much more stable. Also there’s no fan, so all the steam isn’t immediately pumped out. Commercial bread ovens are pretty low too.

    Re: water loss: weigh the loaves when dividing for shaping, weigh again after baking, calculate by subtracting baked weight from pre-baked weight, then dividing by prebaked weight & multiplying by 100, e.g. I divided my dough into 2x683g pieces; after baking they weighed 657g & 660g, so 23g to 26g weight loss; 24/683×100=3.5%

  12. Paul Mihalyov Says:

    Aside from a serious case of flat-top (due to over proofing), the bread turned out very well. The crumb was more moist than I expected and the taste was less sweet than I feared. There was just a hint of sweetness I assume from the corn meal and the molasses. All things considered, it was a success and makes a great sandwich bread and toasts up quite well. I have a picture of the loaf/crumb but do not know how to post it.

  13. Paul Mihalyov Says:

    Duh – I just noticed the prompt for adding an image so here it is.

  14. Lisa Says:

    Hi Chris,
    I did mention I used honey instead of molasses as my husband doesn’t care for molasses flavor.
    PR illustrates shping strageties in BBA. This softer dough was challenging for shaping. I didn’t want to work the dough too much but I did want to have that ‘skin’ stretched. The dough did well as long as I didn’t totally degas it in the shaping process.

  15. NancyB Says:

    I’ve just started to bake along with you guys. Anadama Bread is up on my blog:

    Photos are over there, but I’ll try a link to one here, too–don’t want to have to downsize, then upload, a jpeg to Chris’s blog when I have one sitting there on Flickr.

    The baking went very smoothly–Anadama bread isn’t a favorite of mine so it’s been years since I made a loaf. I’m finding it interesting to try to follow all of Reinhart’s steps, such as the windowpane test for kneading instead of those vague “knead until smooth and supple” instructions. I’m expecting my real challenges when we get to the French breads, which will be new to me.

  16. NancyB Says:

    Image link didn’t work (no great surprise–most comment systems screen ‘em out), so please visit my blog if you want to see the results.

  17. Geraint Says:

    Chris: oven set-up posted: [url=][img][/img][/url]

  18. Geraint Says:

    sorry, how do I post images? oh, seen it…

  19. Joanne Says:

    What great looking loaves, this is going to be fun. Another thought about the shoulders on the bread it could be that your loaf might have been underproofed slightly, or like the others were saying the crust dried quickly on the top and didn’t allow for expansion.
    I am trying really hard to keep up with this site and the others too. I just finished the Greek Celebration bread and got ok results, although I had several issues too. Can hardly wait to see all of yours!


  20. Joanne Says:

    Just a note, I didn’t add any extra flour into the mix. I did however knead the dough a little bit longer than it called for, to make it easier to handle. Just curious, did yours have a more cakelike texture to it? Mine was definitely textured like a sandwich bread.


  21. Joanne Says:

    Just was wow’d again by one of Marks videos. Master shaping at it’s best. You can see the air bubbles in the dough as he shaped them. Amazing. Would love to master this technique! Just scroll down till you find his video.


  22. Adam Says:

    That’s a great shaping video, Joanne. Thanks for sharing. Now I think I have some idea of what’s going on behind the pictures in BBA. And I know from looking at the dough he’s shaping that something is still going terribly wrong for me before the shaping step.

  23. Joanne Says:

    Just a thought, if you are talking about how soft his dough looks, make sure that your dough has been given a chance to rest before shaping. If the gluten is really tight and it pops back as you shape it then the best thing you can do is cover it and let it sit for 10 to 20 minutes and it will loosen up. It is actually the hardest thing to do to just allow it time to learn how to behave. I always tried to force it to behave and ended up breaking the gluten strands or having no bubbles left in the dough. The other issue I had was adding way to much flour, thinking it looked to wet to be able to be handled, rather than testing the dough to see if it had enough gluten development.

  24. Chris Says:

    @ Joanne: Thinking in terms of Joanne’s comment, I can definitely say for sure that at this point I’m just not sure exactly how the dough should behave before shaping it, for me to be sure that the gluten is well developed enough. This is a weak spot of mine.

    @ Geraint: your oven looks pretty much the same as mine. Still, I can’t imagine putting a bread in the top compartment. How many inches high is that top oven?

  25. Joanne Says:

    The only other thought I had was if your dough is stiffer, as in more flour in it than there should be it might also feel harder to form into the correct shape.


  26. Coz Says:

    I was out of town this past week so am posting a little late but here it is. Hope the picture shows up otherwise I have lots of pictures at my blog

    I didn’t have to add any extra flour to my recipe but it could be that it is dry in my house. I used a metal and a glass bread pan and they both turned out different. That was a fun experiment.

  27. Chris Says:

    @Coz: I was just looking at your pics at your blog, and you really got a nicely shaped loaf with good shoulders on it. Looking forward to your multi-day seed culture Celebration Bread!

    Why did the glass/metal tins make a difference, do you think? I bake a lot of cheesecake, and I know that a ceramic vs metal springform makes a world of difference. Is it the heat retention?

  28. jim Biscardi Says:

    I used 1 paket of yeast ( 2.5 tsp),let the sponge ferment 2 hours to develop more flavor.My dough was not at all sticky using the reccommened amount of flour.I did have to add some water during hand kneading to achieve the right feel.I only had dark molasses,so i used 3 tbsp instead of 6.
    The loaves rise nicely, baked in 45 min in pans,on a baking tray.The flavor had just of hint of sweetness,chewy,springy.My wife and I devoured half a loaf .I just kept slicing and buttering…WE enjoyed…

  29. Chris Says:

    Jim –

    I did a lot of “slicing and buttering” myself!

    Can you upload a picture for us to see? (there should be a button for that underneath where you type in your reply — says “browse” to find the file in your computer).

  30. jim Biscardi Says:

    i’ll try again ….

  31. Coz Says:

    Chris, I think it is something to do with the metal vs. glass. I also think the glass was slightly smaller. I used to bake pies and we had foil tins and glass pie plates and sometimes we ran into the glass pie plates not baking the bottom of the pie crust. Never had that problem with foil. I was nervous using the glass pan but it’s all I had so figured it would become an experiment and I actually liked the finish product look of the glass pan better.

  32. Chris Says:

    @Coz –

    Typically many bread formulas are enough for two loaves, so I tend to do the same thing. I make one regular, and then I do something different with the other one just to see what happens. I do wonder whethe the glass heats the same as the metal, though. Not sure, but there’s definitely a difference between metal and silicon.

    @Jim –

    Hmm. It came out a little fuzzy I see. Did you figure out how to use the image uploader?

    @Joanne –

    No, it’s not a problem with too much flour. I definitely err on the side of higher hydration. I just don’t have the actual process of shaping and stretching the strands down yet. I suppose it takes time to figure out how the dough should feel/look/react. I’ve come a long way in a year, but this is something I need more practice with.

  33. Jim Says:

    Chris, the procedure is simple,even though it appears in th slot next to browse,it still fails to load.The image is a jpeg,?
    perhaps the planets were not in line ? I’m going to try once more….

  34. jim Says:

    Ahh success, such a warming feeling..LOL second photo,crumb shot,lets see if it loads…

  35. Chris Says:

    @Jim –

    I see you’ve got the image issue figured out! Nice loaves in the first shot, and nice butter shot in the second pic. Looking at your first pic, I have to ask: do you have TWO Kitchen-Aids? If so, I’m jealous! :)

    I’ve got a quick link to your comments/picture at the top of the thread now.

  36. Judy Says:

    I was pleased with this bread. I was doubtful about the combination of molasses and cornmeal but, I, along with everyone else who tasted it thought it was really good. An easy bread to start with. This is my first attempt at making yeast bread outside of the bread machine.

  37. Joanne Jones Says:

    @ Judy – What a nice shape to your loaf! The crumb looks great too. It’s nice when everyone who its it likes it.

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