Sunday, May 17, 2009

BBA CHALLENGE: Anadama Bread (Week 1)

Here we are in our first week of bread baking as part of the BBA Challenge, started by Nicole from Pinch My Salt. Nicole originally thought that oh, maybe about four or five people would want to join her in baking through Peter Reinhart's book The Bread Baker's Apprentice. As it ended up, more than two hundred people joined, Kayte and I along with them. If you'd like to read about how the BBA Challenge started with Nicole on Twitter and grew exponentially, click here.

Meelyn, Aisling and I are still waiting for our copy of The Bread Baker's Apprentice to come in the mail, so we relied on our colleague Heather Lalley for the recipe for this week's Anadama Bread: click here if you'd like to read it at her blog, Flour Girl.

So, without further ado, I give you Anadama Bread!


Anadama Bread was apparently first baked for family consumption in the New England region of the United States in 1850. The apocryphal story goes that somes grouchy old Massachusetts man, who is in some versions of the tale a fisherman and in others just regular, was dumped by his wife, Anna. In lieu of a Dear John letter propped up on the sugar bowl, she left him with nothing in the house but flour, molasses and some cornmeal mush. When the man came home for his dinner, he had no choice but to throw those items together for a meal, shouting "Anna! Damn 'er!" while he let them bake.

So sweet!

Although I have the greatest respect for bakers who enjoy the whole kneading-and-rising-and kneading-some-more aspect of bread making, I am not one of those people. Ma Ingalls and I have very little in common except for an admiration of her daughter, Mrs. Almanzo Wilder. To a point, I am much too lazy. So I decided to adapt Anadama Bread to my bread machine and let it do all the work while I basked in the results of home made bread.

Most bread recipes make two loaves of bread, so I needed to cut the recipe roughly in half. My bread machine will make a 1 1/2 pound loaf and therefore, math needed to be done.

I do not like math.

But I do like bread.

So I sat down at the table with a piece of paper and a pencil and a calculator and a worried mind. My great fear was that I would figure for too much bread and wind up with dough running all over the inside of my beloved bread machine, which I would sleep with under my pillow if my neck were a little longer. I made some chicken-scratchy marks on my paper and came up with this:

For the "soaker" (obviously Anna's cornmeal mush) I used:

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup cornmeal

The soaker sat out on the countertop overnight, covered with plastic wrap. Upon arising, I stirred it together with :

1 cup bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 cup lukewarm water

That mixture sat on the counter for an hour, where it fermented just as promised.

At the end of that hour, I added these ingredients together with the fermented mixture, all in the order that my bread machine's manufacturer recommends:

3 tablespoons molasses
[fermented mixture]
1 1/4 cup bread flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons cold butter

I punched the buttons to get things started on the machine and then sat back and waited on my bread, which I planned to present to my family, to the accompaniment of their admiring oohs and aahs, at dinner.

Three hours and ten minutes later, the timer went off and I scampered out to the kitchen to turn out a beautiful, tender loaf onto my bread board, so imagine my disappointment when I looked in the interior of my machine and found a "crater loaf." That's what it's called when you have walls of crisped dough that rise up the sides of the pan, with the actual bread sunk down in the middle.

"Anna! Damn 'er!" I said.

I did a little online research and found out that this condition is caused by either/or too much water /too much yeast. In comparing the recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice with the recipes in the leaflet cookbooks that came with my machine, I believe that I would have a successful loaf if I subtracted two tablespoons of water and used only one teaspoon of yeast.

The actual bread was not a disappointment at all, though. After those ugly crater walls were broken off the truncated loaf, we sliced it up and found it very delicious. I ate some for breakfast yesterday with some crunchy peanut butter and a glass of milk and it tasted like heaven.

Kayte told me that someone told her that this bread is served in sandwich roll formation at some restaurant somewhere with sliced deli turkey, lettuce and cranberry chutney, which sounds fabulous.

So! In spite of a little trouble, the four of us here found that Anadama Bread is really very good and worth another go in the bread machine, which I shall do tomorrow. If that still doesn't work, I think I'll do it the old fashioned way -- oh, my aching shoulders! -- and knead it on the counter.

1 comment:

Kayte said...

I don't love math. I do love bread. That was hysterical! I am happy you liked it even tho it did not work out quite how you wanted it to. Did you calculate the different between INSTANT yeast and ACTIVE DRY yeast or fresh yeast...which did you use? Since Reinhart uses instant yeast in this book, someone did a conversion of what you do if you have the other kind...which this week I had to figure out for Active Dry as that was all I had. We loved this bread. I will be making it again. Very nice write up! I'm so happy you are baking along.