Anadama bread is a classic New England yeast bread made with molasses and cornmeal. It's gently sweet, relatively dense but soft and tender and with a lovely rounded flavor. It's great for making sandwiches, dipping in soup or simply snacking on (especially with a smear of butter).
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I first had anadama bread many years ago now in a breakfast-cafe not too far from us that is sadly no longer there. I wasn't familiar with it, but liked the sound of it so gave it a try and immediately loved the flavor. It became my go-to for later visits.
Since I hadn't been familiar with the name, I did a bit of research on the ingredients and background. I've had it elsewhere since as well, though it sadly isn't all that common. All the more reason for me to do as I had promised myself: make it at home, too.
The origins of anadama bread
This bread originates in Massachusetts, but as with so many traditional recipes, the exact origins are a bit of a mystery. Some say it goes back to early colonial times, others say it is more recent. The origins of the name, too, are just as unclear.
What is known, however, is that anadama bread was trademarked as a bread brand in 1850, so it certainly existed at least before then. It is also known to have been sold in the Rockport, Massachusetts area in the early 20th century, as well as elsewhere in New England.
As for the name, well legend has it that it's all down to a fisherman in the Rockport area and his wife, Anna. Apparently she wasn't that great a cook and so one night, on being given the same dull cornmeal mush, he started throwing some flour, yeast and molasses into it to try to make something different, yelling "Anna, damn her!"
How much truth is in that is anyone's guess. But whatever the true background, it's a shame this bread isn't better known, it's so tasty.
Core ingredients and variations
You don't need all that many ingredients for this, though you'll find a couple of minor variations in recipes. The core ingredients are wheat flour, yellow cornmeal, molasses and yeast, along with some liquid and a little fat.
The fat seems to have traditionally been shortening though butter is common in many modern versions. Some older recipes make it with just water, but you'll also see part milk as the liquid in a few recipes, though I imagine a more modern addition. You will also find some add a little rye flour in the mix as well.
I chose to use butter and part milk for the liquid as I find both add to the flavor of the loaf, but otherwise I have kept very much in the traditional style. There's really no need to mess around with the recipe as the result is so lovely and flavorful.
Method and tips
In terms of method, one of the key things where this is a little different from other breads is that you need to warm the liquid to help hydrate the cornmeal. Some recipes have you simply mix them, while others call for you to cook it slightly.
I opted to cook it a minute, but you can just as easily mix off the heat. The main thing is you want to break up any large clumps of cornmeal as otherwise, they may form coarse lumps in the bread. The corn meal will look lumpy no matter what, so don't worry about small lumps. However squish any larger lumps with a spatula/spoon to break them up.
Add the butter to the warm cornmeal mixture while it is still warm so the heat with melt the butter. Also, add the molasses and salt while it's still warm so they distribute well. Then, let the mixture cool which also allows the corn meal to further hydrate.
Then, the method is much like other yeast loaves - knead for a few minutes, let it rise to double in size, gently knock back and shape into your mould, then let it rise again.
As with all breads, don't rush the rising process. This bread is a little more dense than some, mainly due to the molasses and cornmeal, and has a little higher proportion of yeast to flour to help compensate. But it does need that rising time to make sure it isn't overly dense.
While we weren't too bad on having patience for the rises, we were less good at waiting to slice the bread once baked. Hence the texture isn't quite as good in the picture above since cutting warm bread tends to make it clump a little. But it is SO good warm with a little butter melted into it!
This bread is also a great texture for making sandwiches - just bear in mind with it's slight sweetness it might not go with everything, but cheese and/or ham would pair perfectly. It's also great dipped in soup and much more, too.
Anadama bread has such a wonderful flavor and texture from the addition of molasses and corn meal. And despite these giving a distinct, gently sweet flavor, it's still really versatile, too. It's a shame this bread isn't better known these days as it is really pretty special, though without any fancy ingredients or complicated method. Give it a try soon and enjoy!
Try these other delicious breads:
- Pain de campagne (French country bread, with tasty flavors from sourdough base and part rye)
- Spelt rolls (with a tasty, slightly nutty flavor from the spelt)
- Japanese milk bread (a lovely light, fluffy white bread)
- Piadina (an easy non-yeasted Italian flatbread)
- Plus get more bread recipes in the archives.
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ cup yellow cornmeal medium-coarse
- 1 ½ tablespoon butter
- ¼ cup molasses ('fancy' molasses/dark)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 ½ cups all purpose flour plain flour (approx, may need a little more/less)
- ¼ oz instant yeast (¼ oz is approx 2 ½tsp, one packet)
- Place the water and milk in a small pan and warm over a medium heat to bring it to just about a simmer. Add the corn meal and mix well so that it is well combined - you can do this either on the heat and cook a minute more or take off the heat. Try to make sure you break up any clumps by pressing against the edge of the pan with a spatula.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter. Mix it in to melt it into the corn meal mixture. Add the molasses and salt and mix both through well. Transfer the mixture to a medium-large bowl and allow it to cool so that it is lukewarm.
- Once the molasses-corn meal mixture has cooled, add most of the flour, but hold back a little at first (add around 2 cups), and the yeast. Mix together well then add more flour as needed so that it comes together as a smooth dough that is not sticky, but also not dry.
- Transfer the mixture to a lightly floured surface and knead for around 5 - 7 minutes. Alternatively, you can mix the dough and then knead with a stand mixer (knead around 3 - 5 minutes).
- Lightly oil a bowl then form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Cover with cling wrap/film and leave at warm room temperature for around 1 hour to double in size.
- Once the dough has doubled, lightly butter a loaf tin (can use either 9x5in (23x12.5cm) or 8.5x4.5in (22x11.5cm) tin - I used the larger size here but smaller will give a slightly higher slice). Then, gently knock back the dough and form into a log and place it in the loaf tin so that it fills the bottom.
- Cover and leave to rise for another hour. The dough should roughly double in size. If using the larger size loaf tin, the middle should rise slightly above the height of the tin but the sides will be a bit lower. If using the smaller size, the dough should start to come over the sides slightly.
- Pre-heat the oven to 350F/175C. Uncover the bread and once the oven has heated, bake for approximately 35 - 40 minutes until the top is lightly browned. Tip the bread from the tin onto a cooling rack or your hand with an oven glove on it and tap the bottom. It should sound slightly hollow - if not, put back in the tina and bake for a couple more minutes. Once baked, remove the bread from the pan and allow to cool on a cooling rack at least 10 minutes before slicing.
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