Updated Friday, February 19th, 2010
Total Time: 30
There are loads of stories about how Anadama Bread got its name and where it originated. Most people agree it's either Rockport or Gloucester, Massachusetts, and that the name is a derivative of "Anna, damn her." Some say Anna was the "lazy" wife of a fisherman (as if a fisherman's wife could be lazy), who simply mixed molasses and cornmeal together for her husband's meals. One day, sick of the mush, he added flour and yeast, baked it, and created a new concoction. Others say the name comes from a woman who was a gifted baker, and when she passed away, her gravestone read, "Anna was a lovely bride, but Anna, damn 'er, up and died." Either way, this is the most New England of breads, and popular for good reason--it's rich and faintly sweet, terrific for breakfast toast and sandwiches. Try smearing a mixture of butter and honey on it, and you'll be hooked. This is my friend and mentor Jasper White's recipe. He uses a bit more cornmeal and less molasses than most, so this version can serve a dual role as both breakfast bread and accompaniment to hearty chowders. "It really is a New England staple," he says. "I've always loved its rich flavor and interesting texture. I'm with Annie--I like it for breakfast, toasted, with a bit of butter and jam."
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In a medium-size bowl (or the bowl of a standing mixer with hook attachment), combine yeast, sugar, and 1/4 cup warm water; mix well. Add melted butter, molasses, salt, flour, and cornmeal. Slowly add up to 1 cup more warm water; mix to form a soft, but not sticky, dough. Add more water if necessary. Knead by machine about 10 minutes, or by hand about 15 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.
Oil (or butter) a large bowl lightly. Shape dough into a ball and place in the bowl; turn it once so it's lightly greased all over. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and place in a warm, draft-free spot. Let dough rise until volume doubles, about 1 hour.
Grease two 9-1/2x5-inch loaf pans. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut in half and shape each half into a loaf. Place each loaf in a pan, return to a warm spot, and let rise until volume doubles, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Brush the tops of the loaves with egg wash and bake 1 hour, or until deep golden brown. To test for doneness, remove one hot loaf from its pan and tap the bottom of the bread; you'll hear a hollow sound if it's done. If it's not done, return it to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes. When loaves are done, turn them out of their pans and cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes.
Yield: 2 loaves
Adapted from 50 Chowders: One-Pot Meals--Clam, Corn & Beyond by Jasper White; Scribner, 2000; $30
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