Thursday, June 30, 2011

BBA #1: Anadama Bread

As a child, I fancied myself quite the bread baker. At 14, I signed up for the Advanced Yeast Breads competition during our summer 4-H Fair. Even though it was my first year competing, I decided I didn't want to waste my time with the Beginner or Intermediate Yeast Bread categories.

Yes, the competition was minor. All who signed up were able to participate, and, if you successfully baked a yeast bread and filled out an eight-page booklet about your work, you received a blue ribbon and were rewarded with three dollars. Even then, that wasn't much.

But I was eager, and I decided to make potato and onion dinner rolls. They required an overnight rise (which I now know helped them ferment and helped extract those delicious flavors from the wheat). They required a light misting with water, to help simulate conditions found in professional bread ovens. They had a light egg wash to bring out some color during baking.

Did I mention that was my first time ever baking bread?

Those first potato and onion rolls did end up being somewhat successful, earning me a blue ribbon and that coveted three dollar prize. However, the baking experience only demonstrated to me that I could successfully follow a recipe and achieve a desired result. 14-year-old me just had no understanding of the beauty of bread making, how yeast can coax flavors out of the bread, how a slow fermentation can work wonders, and how the same base ingredients can be modified into countless unique breads.

Perhaps current me still isn't quite sure, but with The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhart, a delightful birthday gift from Thomas and Alyna, I'm learning.

A few years ago, Pinch My Salt challenged bakers to bake through The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, completing each of the recipes in order. Pinch My Salt started the journey a few years ago, but the group has just taken off, and new bakers are constantly taking on the challenge.

So, with the Anadama Bread, I'm officially beginning the BBA Challenge and starting out on a journey toward true knowledge of bread. It's a delicious bread with a delightful myth behind it. According to Wikipedia, a fisherman was angry at his wife Anna for leaving him with nothing but cornmeal and molasses. After she left, he threw in flour and yeast and tossed the bread in the oven, cursing his wife the entire time shouting "Anna, damn her." Inspired neighbors are said to have adopted the recipe and changed the name slightly.

This bread incorporates a delicious mix of cornmeal, bread flour and molasses. The cornmeal soaks overnight with water, so that the natural sugars trapped in the corn are released. The soaker is followed by three rises and a long knead. I kneaded the bread by hand, which gave me a good sense of how the bread came together. These loaves rose beautifully, almost ridiculously well.

After enjoying a fresh slice with butter, I reminisced more about 14-year-old me. I thought about the first dish we learned how to make in Home Ec: egg-in-a-hole toast. I cut a circle in the bread, buttered it, put it in a hot pan, and cracked an egg in the middle. A perfect dinner after a day of bread baking.

As part of the BBA Challenge, we're agreeing not to post recipes from The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread. If you're inspired, get the book and bake along with us! 


  1. Katie, I thoroughly enjoyed this post and love your bread. I wish I could join in. I love yeast baking. Unfortunately, hubby can't eat it and I don't want to be the only one, indulging.

    I will have to admire yours instead. That should be fun.

  2. Your bread looks great, and I love your process photos! Have fun with the Challenge. At times you may feel like giving up, but there are some great breads in the book. And if I can get the whole way through, so can you!

  3. I also enjoyed your post.
    Your bread looks great. I'll be following,

  4. Thank you all! I can see how the cooking through the book could get a little daunting, but it's so nice to know that others before me have done it! I'm excited to get baking more bread!

  5. Wow, I don't think I have seen more perfect looking loaves loaded into bread did a fantastic job on that! The bread looks wonderful. I made loaves and also rolls with this recipe, just to see what it would be like as little rolls. Those were a hit, the guys really like those for sandwiches, so although I have made the loaf a few times, I have made the little rolls countless times as the guys love the molasses in the bread with ham sandwiches, a perfect match. So exciting that you are starting the route...I have enjoyed it all and learned much. This book is the best, the absolute best!

  6. Kayte, I love the idea of making rolls. I made one small roll out of the leftover dough since I don't have two 1 1/2 pound loaf pans yet. I didn't even think to make rolls out of more of the dough. They would be perfect for sandwiches! Did you decrease the baking time? I'll have to keep that in mind as I bake additional breads!

  7. Katie, Beautiful, beautiful job! What lovely looking bread! So enjoyed your post and what chutzpah it took for you to enter the advanced yeast bread contest without any experience and then win the blue ribbon! Love it!

  8. Katie, here is my post for the Anadama Bread I noted in my book this: 12 rolls (4 oz) each Bake for 20-22 minutes. Also: the recipe makes 1 9x5 loaf and 8 rolls of 3 oz each baked in a 9x13 cake pan (those are the ones shown in the photo on that blog entry). I think those bake about 20-25 minutes, everyone's oven is different, so keep checking them! I freeze them individually in sandwich baggies and pull them out the night before to thaw on counter (keep in the baggie for thawing) for making sandwiches for guys' lunch bags that day. Then you already have the baggie right there for the sandwich!

  9. Kayte, I love that idea! Thanks for passing your post along as well. The next time I bake this bread, I'm definitely going to try to make some sandwich rolls. Placing them in the baggie is such a smart idea!

  10. Great post! I am baking my way through the book too but all out of order to get around having to bake celebration breads until closer to christmas. I haven't made this one yet but its next on my list. Yours looks lovely. I'll be following along :)

  11. Stephanie, It is definitely tempting to bake the breads out of order. I don't really need a Greek Celebration bread for anything this week, but I'm making it because it's next. You will just love this bread!