New Year’s Resolution: Bake More Bread – Anadama Bread

You wouldn’t know it by the scant number of entries under “Breadbasket” in the recipe index on this site (a grand total of 1 before today), but I do love homemade bread. Adore it, in fact. Just don’t get around to making it very often. A sad testament to this fact: when I started this loaf yesterday afternoon, I realized half way through making the dough that the yeast I had in the fridge was past its ‘Use By’ date. By 7 months. Had to make a mad dash to the market in the middle of a recipe. Hate that. But it was worth it in the end, as this morning the kitchen is filled with the aroma of molasses and yeast, and what could be better than that?! Only the ham sandwich I’m now munching on as I edit photos and type. *nom, nom, nom….*

This resolve to bake more bread dovetails nicely with the glut of whey I anticipate having as a result of swearing off store-bought fresh curds such as cottage cheese and ricotta and making my own. Two days ago I made my first fresh cheese and after researching uses for liquid whey on the InterWebs, decided bread-making would definitely be one of the primary uses for the whey we will have after cheese-making. From that first effort, we ended up with 500 ml or about a half-quart of liquid whey. I haven’t tried this, but saw on several baking forums that liquid whey can be frozen to be used for baking later.

As Serious Eats and Kenji Lopez-Alt was my inspiration for making fresh cheese, Sue at Know Whey is my inspiration for including bread baking one of my resolutions for this year. Sue is a cheese maker and bread baker living in Vermont, and she promotes both avocations beautifully on her site. I was completely entranced by her photos of her Anadama bread which is usually baked in a loaf pan. But Sue freed her loaves from the tin and baked them as batards — a French loaf style that is more elliptical in shape than its cousin the baguette. I wanted my bread to look like that too! I had to adapt Sue’s recipe to work without a sourdough starter, but kept the loaf shape.

Reading through many other recipes for Anadama — which usually include cornmeal and molasses, I was reminded of two things: Indian pudding and the canned brown bread that I remember eating with Boston baked beans — both also have that delicious molasses smell and a smidge of cornmeal. I don’t know for sure, but I would guess that Anadama and brown bread are somehow related or one was adapted from the other. Anyway, I think Anadama would also make a perfect accompaniment to New England style baked beans — the savory molasses flavor in the bread mirrors the sweeter molasses in the baked beans.

The 2 loaves I ended up with were only 12″ or so long (so, mini batards), and I definitely need a better slashing tool to get deeper slashes on my bread. But the texture of the bread was wonderful — close crumb, moist and chewy. And the aroma of molasses belies the fact that the bread is not at all sweet. I was surprised that it is actually a bit tangy — I’m attributing this to the substitution of whey for water since I did not use a sourdough starter this time (’cause mine’s not ready yet). The first rise on this dough took a very long while. I can only guess that the cool house (we keep it around 68F deg. in winter) contributed to this, but long slow rises are supposed to help develop both flavor and texture so I didn’t want to do anything to speed up the rising time. In fact, since it did take much longer than I anticipated and I was getting sleepy, we ended up putting the dough in an even colder place to further retard the rise so that I could wait to bake it the next morning, which is today. So after a few hurry-up-and-take-the-shot-cuz-I-want-to-eat-warm-bread photos, I scarfed the first end piece with gobs of unsalted butter, then set about building a sandwich with guava-glazed ham left from Christmas morning. I’m so happy, I had to share right away…

Sue is also a sourdough advocate, and offers a primer on making and feeding sourdough starters. I’ve tried making sourdough starters before without great success, but I’m willing to give it another go, and began a starter yesterday, too. More on that to follow…

Thank you, Sue, for the lovely inspiration in the new year.

UPDATE 01/17/2011: And to really get back into the swing of things, we’re sending this molasses cornmeal bread out to Heather, aka Dar, at Girlichef, this month’s host for the long-running bread-baker’s event, Bread-Baking Day, created by our dear Zorra of 1x Umrühren Bitte. The theme for this month’s event — the 36th in the series! — is Corn-y Breads.. The deadline for submitting your bread-baking efforts to this event (remember, it has to feature corn in some form) is February 1st, so get baking and let’s fill up Heather’s breadbasket!! Can’t wait to see this round-up for more inspiration to help me keep my new year’s resolution.

What is your resolution for 2011? Hope it involves family and the kitchen! Happy Baking, Everyone!

(Adapted from Anadama Batards on Know Whey)
Makes 2 12″ loaves

3/4 cup (177ml) liquid whey (or water)
1/2 cup (85g) yellow corn meal, plus extra for baking sheet
3 TBL (44g) unsalted butter
2 tsp (10g) sea salt
1/4 cup (60ml or 88g) unsulphured (aka blackstrap) molasses
2 ½ tsp. active dry yeast (2 packets)
3/4 cup (177ml) liquid whey
2 cups (200g) (divided) all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
1½ cup (195g) whole wheat flour

Attach dough hook to stand mixer.

Put liquid whey in glass container and heat for 1-½ minutes on HIGH in microwave to bring to simmer. Combine liquid whey and corn meal in the bottom of mixer bowl, and stir together well with a spatula or wood spoon. Will be a thick paste. Immediately add butter, salt and molasses and stir again in to combine.

Attach bowl to mixer. Add second measure of liquid whey and first cup of all-purpose flour. Stir together with dough hook until flour is fully incorporated, about 2 minutes on the dough hook. Add yeast, all whole wheat flour, and about ½ cup of remaining all-purpose flour and mix together about 4 minutes at medium speed until the dough is elastic. I had to pause and scrape down the sides at least twice to incorporate all the flour. If the dough appears very sticky (does not begin to pull away from the sides), add the last ½ cup all-purpose flour and more if needed — enough to make a firm dough. Continue mixing with dough hook until flour is well-incorporated, about 3-4 minutes.

Turn dough out on to well-floured board or table. Knead by hand for about 10 minutes.

Prepare large glass bowl by wiping with a well-oiled paper towel. Oil large square of plastic film (to cover bowl while dough rises).

Bring kneaded dough into a ball by bringing all ends to the middle underneath the dough until a smooth ball forms. Toss the dough ball gently in the oiled bowl to cover dough with light film of oil. Cover bowl with plastic film and set aside to rise until doubled in size.

Rise should normally take 90 minutes to a couple of hours, but mine had not quite doubled after 4 hours and I was ready for bed, so I put in an unheated room that was registering about 42F degrees. [When I woke up (6 ½ hour later), I punched down the dough (keep the film) and gently kneaded it on the table again 5-6 times, then let it rest for 10 minutes under a damp cloth.]

While the dough is resting, sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal and prepare an egg wash: beat an egg and remove a tablespoon into a small bowl — keep the remaining egg for breakfast. Add a teaspoon of water to the tablespoonful of egg and beat well.

After its power nap, cut the dough in two with a dough scraper, then shape them into elliptical loaves. Place loaves on baking sheet, sprinkle with corn meal from at least 12” above the dough (this will help evenly distribute the corn meal into a fine dusting). Cover with film and let rest until the dough is fully risen. Test by gently but firmly pressing the top of the loaf — if the indentation remains, it is ready to bake; if it springs back, it needs more time. It took almost an hour before my loaves were ready to bake, but start checking after 30 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 400F/200C after 30 minutes of proofing. Place rack in middle of oven.

Brush loaves with egg wash, then slash about ½” deep with extra sharp razor. (Note to self: look for extra-sharp razor — I “slashed” with a regular chef’s knife that was not nearly as sharp as it needed to be and sort of pulled the dough as it cut. My slashes were also rather timid, about 1/4” deep.) Sprinkle with more corn meal and flour, if desired.

Place loaves on rack and bake 15 minutes.

Turn oven down to 375F/190C. Turn baking sheet around. Bake another 15 minutes and check for doneness. Test: lift loaf with oven mitts or kitchen towel, and turn over. Knock on bottom of loaf and listen for dull, hollow thump that signals bread is done. My loaves were ready after 17 minutes. Cool on rack.

I couldn’t wait until the loaves cooled completely and started slicing while the first loaf was still warm, which is why the bread did not slice cleanly. But the pay-off of eating warm bread with butter was so-o worth the ruined photo…

Bread was absolutely divine with just unsalted butter. But here’s my ham sandwich flanked with Trader Joe’s New Zealand grass-fed cheddar and bread ‘n’ butter pickles homemade by my neighbor, Barb. Also known as this morning’s breakfast — the sandwich, not the neighbor….

For more in the “Bake More Bread” series — my resolution to bake more bread at home this year — check our theBreadbasket archive, including a lovely Banana Yeast Braid.