Updated Wednesday, March 5th, 2008
Yield: Makes 3 loaves
The name "anadama bread" first appeared in print in 1915, but it was undoubtedly baked in many New England hearths before then. What distinguishes anadama from other breads is the inclusion of cornmeal and molasses. Both were common ingredients in Northeast cooking, but they truly shine in this bread. So where did the name "anadama bread" come from? Local legend overwhelmingly credits a Gloucester fisherman with coining the term as a not-so-loving tribute to his wife, Anna. It seems Anna wasn't blessed with talent in the kitchen, and after numerous bowls of molasses and cornmeal porridge for supper, the fisherman angrily tossed in some flour and yeast one evening and threw the mixture into the oven. While it baked he sat muttering, "Anna, damn her!" and the name was born. Fortunately, so was this delicious bread. The molasses and cornmeal make for a sweet and nutty aroma while it bakes, which carries over into the flavor.
Grease a large mixing bowl with the oil and set aside. Dissolve the yeast in water and set aside. In another large bowl, combine milk, cornmeal, molasses, butter, and salt. Add 4 cups of flour and the yeast mixture and stir to form a dough. Add remaining flour a bit at a time, stopping when the dough becomes stiff enough to knead. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it's smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
Place the dough into the greased bowl, turning to coat, then cover with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled in bulk--about 1-1/2 hours. Gently punch the dough down, then let it rest for 10 minutes. Shape the dough into 3 loaves, then place them into three greased 9x5-inch loaf pans. Let them rise until just about doubled, then bake at 350° until browned and cooked through, 35 to 45 minutes. Invert loaves to cool onto a wire rack, then enjoy a slice of anadama bread warm!
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