New England Anadama Bread

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New England is know for many different foods: clam chowder, lobster rolls, baked beans, cream pie, but maybe not anadama bread. I grew up, and still live here, and I had never heard about, or tasted, this regional lost classic.

Anadama bread deserves a wider audience. While it resembles an Irish brown bread on the surface, the similarities stop there. Anadama bread’s defining characteristics are the use of molasses and cornmeal, household staples in the region at the start of the 20th century. Those two ingredients, combined with melted butter in the dough, give the finished bread a wonderful mix of sweet and nutty flavors with a sturdy, yet fluffy interior.

This bread is perfect for fall soups, a weekday lunch sandwich, or just as a sweet and savory afternoon tea snack, toasted with some salted butter.

So what about that name? What exactly does anadama mean? No one really knows. Local legend credits a Gloucester fisherman in a not-so-loving tribute to his wife, Anna. It seems Anna wasn’t blessed with talent in the kitchen, and after numerous bowls of molasses and cornmeal porridge for supper, the fisherman angrily tossed in some flour and yeast one evening and threw the mixture into the oven. While it baked he sat muttering, “Anna, Damn her!”, and the name was born.

True or not, the recipe survives and the bread is damn good!

Other than the molasses and cornmeal, this anadama bread recipe doesn’t require any special ingredients. It’s not intimdating to handle or shape. I needed to use a little extra flour (3 or 4 T) to get the dough to come together in the stand mixer but once it did, it was easy to shape into a ball for the initial proof.

The amount of yeast in the recipe yields a light, fluffy interior, but keep an eye on the second proofing time. Typically, in my cooler kitchen, my doughs take longer to proof, but I found this dough to be cresting out of the loaf pan after barely 30 minutes.

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