Anadama Bread

Traditional New England Anandama bread, a dark yeast bread made with flour, cornmeal, and molasses.

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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!”

Anadama Bread

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

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  • 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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Hank Shaw

A former restaurant cook and journalist, Hank Shaw is the author of three wild game cookbooks as well as the James Beard Award-winning wild foods website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. His latest cookbook is Buck, Buck, Moose, a guide to working with venison. He hunts, fishes, forages and cooks near Sacramento, CA.

More from Hank

Showing 4 of 26 Comments

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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