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.

Anadama Bread Recipe

  • Prep time: 40 minutes
  • Cook time: 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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30 Comments

  1. oldelady

    I’ve been making Anadama bread for years and the old family recipe I use is a dough rather than a batter. This should be an interesting experiment, although I believe it will be much more dense than my recipe which is OK, it’ll just be different.

  2. Rachel

    Interesting! I have a recipe that turns out great and definitely gets to a kneading consistency.. but if this turns out normal, that’s awesome.

  3. jonathan

    Very similar to Boston Brown Bread (no yeast, think quick bread) which was steamed in an oven in a coffee can. My mother served it once a week, but she never made it. Oh no. She just…opened a can of it. That’s right. A “can” of bread. http://tinyurl.com/26o5bek

  4. Michelle

    For those of us New Englanders who still remember Pepperidge Farm’s Corn and Molasses bread (and miss it dreadfully)this is a close approximation. When they stopped making this bread, my dad spent years trying to recreate the recipe. If you have never tried it, you don’t know what you are missing. Best breakfast toast ever!

  5. newlywed

    Oh, I am beyond excited to see this! I am a pre-K teacher, and one year I was given a loaf of this as a holiday gift. I’ve received many homemade goodies over the year, but this was one of my favorites. Throughout my Christmas vacation, I would wake up so excited to eat a thick slice of this and slather it with marmalade or honey or lemon curd. I can’t wait to make it for myself, though I confess I would not complain if someone made it for me again! I highly recommend giving this as a holiday gift.

  6. Dunja

    Thank you sooooo much for posting this. I bake all my bread myself and of all my recipes Anadama bread is one of my favorites. My recipe is a bit different but I cannot wait to try this. Ooooh yeah, this is going to be simply delish!! Thanks and please keep the bread recipes coming!

  7. Ibor

    How many grams to the dry yeast package?
    Correponding to how many gr of instant yeast?

    It’s about 21 grams of dry yeast – each packet is 0.75 of an ounce. ~Hank

  8. Martha

    @jonathan — ha, I was raised on the canned brown bread, too! I wonder how this approximates (besides being much better, I’m sure).

    For the record, all you canned brown bread fans, this is very different. Lighter in color and flavor. I’ll be making a real Boston brown bread recipe when the weather cools down! ~Hank

  9. Renee

    The recipe that I have is for Anadama Oatmeal Bread which uses oatmeal in place of some of the cornmeal as well as wheat flour in place of some of the bread flour. It’s from the book that came with my bread machine.

    Thanks for posting this recipe so that I can now make two loaves at once!

  10. randi in canada

    Would this be similar to malt bread?
    I’m not that familiar with malt.
    Here in Canada, we can buy delicious molassis tasting malt bread that is a round loaf which makes me think it may be like the canned bread I’m reading about. I’m wondering if the Anadama bread is close.

    Sorry, never heard of malt bread before, so I don’t know if the flavor is similar. ~Hank

  11. Amanda

    oh yes! i live on cape ann in massachusetts, and while this used to be EVERYWHERE in my childhood, its only served in a select few, older, more traditional restaurants now. i make it at home just like this. how i love seeing my small little corner of the world kept alive! thank you!

    oh, and i LOVE canned bread. brown bread with raisins next to a big bowl of molasses or maple baked beans, or a slice toasted for breakfast with cream cheese….mmm…..

  12. Ana

    What would happen if I substituted whole wheat flour for the bread flour, partially or completely . . . do they sell whole wheat bread flour?

    Yes, they make whole wheat bread flour, and I’d substitute maybe half the regular flour for whole wheat and see if you like it. ~Hank

  13. Alex Bishop

    Just wondering if you have to grease the bread pan first? Sounds wonderful – can’t wait to try it out!

    Yep, grease the pan first — unless you use a non-stick. ~Hank

  14. Heidi Harring

    I agree with the comment that Pepperidge Farm Corn and Molasasse Bread is great. We grew up with my father making Anadama Bread from the Joy of Cooking. Would always request that over the white bread which he made too. We have a great big antique bread bucket and he would let his rise. To see the baker, my dad can be found making his quince jelly on this site.

    Hi Heidi! We’ve got your dad making his rye bread too! ~Elise

  15. Rene Eife Abray

    I’ve made this bread and it was really enjoyable. It prompted me to look into the stories of the Cape Ann area and one book I read, THE LAST DAYS OF DOGTOWN by Anita Diamant really gives an idea of the hardtimes and unusual history of this place. How different now than from the past.

  16. Melissa Scharp

    I grew up in Maine and my Aunt Gloria used to make this all the time. It was delicious and a favorite of her family. We were very lucky indeed to drop in on a day she was baking!

  17. IanFJ

    Can I substitute polenta for the cornmeal? Is there any difference? I only ask because I actually have polenta on hand but not cornmeal. I assume the cornmeal is for texture …

    You can try it, but polenta is a really coarse grind. I am worried you might get a gritty result. But I’ve not yet tried it, so let us know how it goes. ~Hank

  18. joan

    I remember those tin cans of Bread. LOL!!! My mom used them, as well. Delish. When it gets a little cooler – how could I NOT try this? Those B&B breads were wonderful; thank you

  19. ems

    I just made this and it’s an instant favourite– so delicious and so easy to make. I halved the recipe to make one loaf but I should have made two– the loaf disappeared almost immediately. It went really well with soup. Thanks for the recipe!

    By the way, we have this bread in Canada too! There’s a recipe for Anadama Bread in an ‘Old Nova Scotia’ cookbook in our house that is nearly identical.

  20. Jessica

    The weather is turning fall-ish here already, and bread-baking sounds lovely!

    Does it matter what type of molasses you use? I think I have both dark and blackstrap on hand.

  21. Susan

    Hank and Elise, I made this bread today and it is fabulous! I had to add just about 1/2 cup more flour because I could still stir the dough like a batter after the 4.5 cups of flour was mixed in..that surprised me. The extra got it to the “gloopy” stage so I could at least feel it was more of a dough! I can not wait to make some french toast with this..and then a big pot of beans to serve with the rest. I will definately make this again. Wonderful bread. Thanks!

  22. Katie

    Delicious bread! I like the chewy crust and that it could go sweet or savory (fruit jam or ham sandwiches). I had just seen an anadama loaf at the farmers’ market the day before you posted the recipe and I’ve been itching to make it ever since. Well, it was worth it AND worked well at high altitude, too! The only complaint I have is that molasses makes for a messy kitchen- or maybe that’s just the cook.
    Thanks Hank and Elise!
    -Katie

  23. Kat

    Well, I thought 2 loaves would mean there would be some left for breakfast, but apparently not when the bread is this good! Next time I’ll make 4 :) Thanks for yet another solid keeper!

  24. Sorcha

    First time making this and it turned out great!
    I used coarse cornmeal because that’s what I had on hand. It makes a nice texture, not too gritty at all. This is a lovely rustic bread.

  25. Vicky

    Mmm bread. I am placing this recipe on my list of early spring recipes to bake. Being a New Englander I have heard of this bread and seem to remember hearing the story too. I also remember those cans of b&m brown bread, they were good though a bit on the moist side. A family member makes a similar homemade bread with raisins baked in a can and calls it hobo bread. Beans & brown bread yummy.

  26. carol

    I made this bread this morning, was real disapponted…….my bread fell. Ive been baking bread for years, I personally think there is way too much liquid in this recipe. In the future I’ll look for a better recipe :-(

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