Monday, January 5, 2009

Anadama Bread

This isn't my scheduled project for the week, but I said I'd blog about other baking projects (recipes both familiar and un-) and I like to make sure you all know I'm human by blogging about my failures, so...

Legend has it that this bread gets its name from a man cursing his wife, who feeds him only a porridge of cornmeal and molasses. One day he decides to make it into something different, adds flour and yeast, and mutters "Anna, damn her!" while kneading the resultant mass into bread. Supposedly, it's commonly found in New England, but not in these parts, although I know I've seen it in the bakeries of various gourmet supermarkets and health food stores both here in Utah and in California. And I'm certain I've eaten it before. Perhaps I need to remember in which supermarkets I've seen it and resolve to buy this bread, not make it myself.

It's a delicious bread (if memory serves). And unusual. Cornmeal, molasses, whole wheat flour, white bread flour. Very unusual. And not as easy to make as one would think. I'm not sure if it was me, my ingredients, or the recipe I used, but I have never had such problems with bread. Now, I'm no bread expert. But I have made my fair share of breads. This one was virtually impossible to knead. It just didn't seem to have enough liquids to accomodate the 6-1/2 cups of flour that went in. And it never really rose like it should have.

I started out by boiling together 2-1/2 cups of water, 1/4 cup of molasses, 2 tablespoons of butter and 1/2 cup of cornmeal. That seemed like a good amount of liquid. But as it cooled to lukewarm (as the recipe suggested), the cornmeal absorbed the liquid and it congealed into something less liquid-y. So lacking in the liquids, in fact, that after I mixed in the yeast, 2 tablespoons of warm water and the whole wheat flour, I decided it would be impossible to stir in the bread flour and that I would have to work it in 1 cup at a time on the counter surface.

It didn't look very promising from the beginning:

But I faithfully attempted to work all that flour in. And kneaded for 15 minutes according to the recipe. And just about worked my shoulder out of its socket in the process.

Ended up with this, which was supposed to rise (and double) over the course of the next hour: rose, but didn't really double:

Kneaded a little bit more, shaped it into loaves. Here they are after "rising":

And after baking:

Rock bread. That's what Prima thought would be a good name for this bread. That was pretty much the density of it. Smelled delicious. But did not turn out right. At all.

A mystery to be solved. I need to get serious about reading my food science books and I think I may need to get a real bread baking book as well. Suggestions? About what went wrong here or books I should look at?

TGIP Rating--Anadama Bread--"Anna, damn her!" indeed. Find a new recipe. Or something.


Bill said...

The recipe at has much different proportions.

I'm no bread baking guru (although I'm a student and attempting to gain guru status), but it's my understanding that whole wheat flour alone doesn't have enough protein to form the glutton required to hold in the gas produced by the yeast to get the bread to rise. Maybe half whole wheat, half all-purpose is better. Or add wheat germ...I think. I also need to review and further study the food science of bread.

April Fossen said...

Yeah. I've looked at some other recipes and they all have different proportions from each other. This one had 2-1/2 c. whole wheat flour, 4 c. white bread flour. So there should have been plenty of gluten in there.


I'll try one of those other recipes once my shoulder recovers.

Summer said... it supposed to be like Brown Bread? I made one recently (without yeast), boiled on the stovetop. Pretty easy and the kids really liked it.

April Fossen said...

Can you send me the recipe you used, Summer? (And also your rye bread recipe?) I'm curious about it. This is supposed to be like brown bread, but not as dense as Boston Brown Bread, for example.

Miriam Latour said...

I make 100% stone-ground whole wheat bread all the time, so I don't think that it's the wheat flour that is the problem (although it does take longer to rise). The problem seems to be too much flour. I never follow a bread recipe exactly, because the amount of flour needed varies day to day. The temperature of your kitchen, moisture in the air, the altitude, everything affects the density of your bread and the yeast. You gotta go by the "feel" of the dough. It should never be too stiff. Less flour is better than more. I've sometimes added only half the flour a recipe calls for to get the right texture. Just a thought. (Not that I'm any expert on bread... but I've had a lot of failures to learn from.)