Anadama Bread

Have you ever had Anadama bread? It’s a traditional dark yeast bread from New England. Please welcome Hank Shaw as he shares the recipe for this delicious loaf he made for us the other day. ~Elise

My mum was never much of a baker, but she used to tell us about a bread she loved back at home on the North Shore of Massachusetts called, oddly, anadama bread. Apparently the old tale is that Anna was a fisherman’s wife who fed her beau little more than cornmeal porridge sweetened with molasses. One day, so the story goes, the fisherman came home, added some flour and yeast to the mush and tossed it in the oven to make bread – all the while muttering, “Anna, damn her!”

Obviously this is an apocryphal story, but the bread – based on cornmeal and molasses – dates back to Cape Ann, Massachusetts, in the early part of the 20th century. It is a dense, dark bread, a little sweet from the molasses, and it is very, very good with butter and cinnamon. Serve it hot, and then later as toast.

Anadama bread also freezes well, which is why this recipe makes two loaves. We’ve read dozens of recipes for anadama bread and decided to base ours off the venerable one in the Fanny Farmer cookbook, which is more than a century old.

  • Prep: 40 minutes
  • Cook: 50 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 2 loaves

The dough is very sticky and is not kneadable; just spoon it into the loaf pans. It will also take some time to rise properly – sometimes 3-4 hours. Just give it time, it’ll rise.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 3 Tbsp butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour

Method

1 Place the cornmeal in a large bowl. Boil the two cups of water and pour the hot water into the cornmeal, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Let sit for 30 minutes.

2 Add the molasses, salt and butter and stir to combine. The cornmeal water should still be warm enough to melt the room temperature butter.

3 Put 1/2 cup of warm water (slightly warmer than body temperature) into a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let sit for a few minutes. Then stir it to gently combine. Let sit for another 5 minutes.

4 Add the yeast and the water to the bowl with the cornmeal and everything else, and mix to combine. Add the bread flour, a cup at a time, stirring after each addition. You will end up with something of a gloopy mess.

5 Butter a couple of 5x9 loaf pans. Spoon the dough mixture into the pans as best you can; it’ll be sticky. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for several hours, until it doubles in size.

6 Heat the oven to 350°F and bake the breads for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer or knife blade comes out clean. Let the loaves cool for a few minutes, then turn them out onto racks to continue cooling.

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