BBA #1: Anadama Bread

 A couple of weeks ago, Nicole over at Pinch My Salt threw out the idea on Facebook that she was thinking of forming a group of people to bake their way through Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  I thought this was a great idea, and threw my name in immediately.  I have been wanting to start baking my own bread exclusively, so I thought this would be a great way to practice, try different kinds of bread, and meet other people baking the same things.  It’s gone from a small group, to over a hundred bakers.  Apparently, people like bread.  If you’re interested in following the challenge, finding out about where we are on Twitter or Facebook, or want to see the Google Map of the bakers, head on over to the main challenge page at Nicole’s.

Meanwhile, let’s talk bread.  When I began this site, I committed to posting only original recipes here.  That’s not changing, as I’m not posting the recipe to the breads I’m baking.  I know; it’s a technicality.  Still, I think a lot is to be gained from following the process.  Instead of recipes, I’m providing pictures and commentary about the baking process for each loaf.  If you want the recipes, you can find the book on Google Books, visit your library, or buy the book.  The book is wonderful, with 100 pages of writing devoted to the art of bread making, followed by 43 formulas for breads.  Think ratios a la Michael Ruhlman, but with specific amounts and recipe text.  

As we are baking our way through the book alphabetically, the first bread is Anadama Bread, a traditional New England loaf.  It’s enriched and sweetened with molasses and butter.  I’m not a huge fan of molasses, but I can assure you that if you use a light flavored brand such as Brer Rabbit, you won’t be disappointed in the bread.  The bread is soft, and it would make an excellent sandwich bread.  We ate it plain, or with some peanut butter or jam.  It was great for breakfast.  Since the recipe makes two loaves, I froze one.  When I run out of sandwich bread next, I’ll be defrosting it to use.  

The bread starts with a cornmeal soaker.  To add texture, I used polenta:

Polenta - Anadama Bread

The polenta adds flavor, texture, and a very subtle crunch to the bread.  This soaks overnight in water, and is added to the dough the next day.  Being something of a bread purist (translate: I don’t own a Kitchenaid), I mixed and kneaded my dough entirely by hand.

Mixing dough - Anadama Bread

This actually isn’t hard. The key is to have a large mixing bowl and a good, sturdy wooden spoon. After it was well mixed, this inital sponge rested for an hour to ferment. The holes you see in the sponge indicate that the yeast is working and the dough will rise.

Mixed dough - Anadama Bread

After the fermentation, all ingredients for the bread are added to the sponge to make the dough. More stirring ensues, and then comes the fun part: the kneading. Reinharts suggests that it will take about 10 minutes of kneading until the dough registers the appropriate temperature and passes the windowpane test. However, it took my dough about 25 minutes. I used an instant-read thermometer to gauge the temperature of the dough so I could be certain it was ready for its first rise. Hopefully next time I can get some shots of kneading the dough, the windowpane test, and also shaping the loaves. After an hour and a half, I came back to find this:

First Rise / Fermentation - Anadama Bread

Needless to say, the bread rose beautifully. I shaped the loaves and placed them in oiled pans. However, as I was heading out of town for an impromptu overnight trip, I popped the dough in the fridge to retard it before proofing the loaf. I did this at the stage Reinhart suggested; he says it will last for two days.  When I returned from Virginia Beach, I went straight for the fridge to remove the dough and let it come back to room temperature for proofing. Apparently, my fridge doesn’t retard dough well, because the loaves had still risen completely! They were a mess, spilling over the sides of their pans. I removed them from the pans, kneaded them again to completely de-gas them, and reshaped them again. I then placed them in their pans to proof for four hours since they were well-chilled. Later that evening, I baked off the loaves. To develop the crust on the bread, I placed a pan of hot water on a rack positioned at the floor of my oven. I preheated the oven to 450º, even though the bread bakes at 350º.  I did this so that when I misted the interior of the oven with water, I wouldn’t lose too much heat.  Just before putting the bread in the oven, I misted it with water and sprinkled it with cornmeal.  I misted the interior of the oven fully after putting in the bread, and once again about a minute later.  I then reduced the heat to 350º.  Before removing the loaf from the oven, I checked the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer to make sure it was at least 180º.  It took my loaf 25-30 minutes to reach this temperature rather than the 20 minutes Reinhart suggests.  I hated putting the hole in the loaf, but I was glad I did as my bread needed to bake longer.  I bake my sandwich loaves in thick, commercial grade pans, so they may take a little longer to heat up.

Finished loaf - Anadama Bread

The photo is a bit orange as it was snapped at night in my kitchen, but it is an Anadama loaf fresh from the oven. I garnished the loaves with yellow cornmeal, which looked beautiful and added a little texture to the crust.  I removed the loaves from their pans and cooled them on racks.  They remove from the pans very easily, so Reinhart’s spray oil trick has instilled me with confidence!  It was hard to keep from slicing them, but I waited the requisite hour. Here’s a shot of the cooled, sliced loaf:

Sliced loaf - Anadama Bread

As Kelly at Sass and Veracity described, the loaves look a bit “baggy.” (You can see her pictures at her Flickr page).  They are not perfectly rounded on top. The crumb is a little loose, but the bread is sturdy and should work well for sandwiches, toast, or general snacking.  I had it for breakfast with a bit of jam, and it was divine.

Crumb - Anadama Bread

Since it’s yeasty, I’m submitting my Anadama post to Yeastspotting. Fun!

41 thoughts on “BBA #1: Anadama Bread

  1. Great way to write this up — lots of information without delving into the specifics of the recipe. I still haven’t written on my anadama, so hopefully you’ve provided the motivation. Just seeing your photos is making me want a loaf all over again. And good to know someone else has “baggy” loaves! ; ) Mmm…love this bread toasted with buttah and honey.

    • Thanks, Kelly! I say go for it – you’ve got your pictures taken, and that’s the hardest part. Now that you’ve mentioned bread and buttah and honey, I think I need a snack. Might be time to defrost loaf #2.

  2. Your loaves look great! I have the same trouble with my fridge…it doesn’t seem to retard dough proofing AT ALL!!! I thought it was just me but let’s blame it on the fridge!

  3. Great read and a wonderful loaf. I think the people who put their dough in the
    fridge had a harder time with the loaf rising the 2nd time.
    Great baking along with you,
    Susie in northern NY

  4. Other than (like you said) not well rounded at the top the loaf looks really good and as long as it tasted good it should be counted a success. I wish you the best on your Greek Celebration Bread. It is a fun bread to make. (I just made mine)

    • Thanks, Sean! My second loaf was better rounded but it went straight to the freezer. We loved it, so we’ll be making it again. So excited about the celebration breads!

    • Thanks, Pete! We will definitely be making this one again. My husband finished it off with some spaghetti and declared it a winner with all foods. Here’s hoping the next one is just as good.

  5. Beautiful loaf! Made a toasted sandwich with mine this evening and almost died of happiness after the first bite!! The bread made it.
    Also wanted to say that you’re hardcore, kneading by hand… I used to, but now Arthur (my stand mixer) does it 🙂
    Looking forward to seeing your future loaves!

    • I can only say that I wish I had an Arthur in my kitchen. 🙂 I never even got around to toasting any of my first loaf, so the second one will have to get introduced to my toaster. It was so good we just kept slicing and eating without stopping!

  6. Thanks for all the pictures. I’m doing the BBA Challenge as well. Will blog about it this week. We enjoyed it with our Dinner and also toasted for breakfast. Can’t wait too see your second bread.

    • Hi Helene! It’s great to meet another BBA baker! I’ve loved looking through your blog, and it’s going to be fun getting to know you, discover your recipes, and see your bread!

  7. Loved reading about your Anadama adventure. One of my loaves sagged in the middle as well. The other one did not. Have no idea why. Reading all these beautiful blogs is inspiring me to start blogging but I haven’t got a clue how to start. Any suggestions?


    • I really appreciate that! I wish I could get even more pictures, but I don’t want to get sticky dough hands on my camera. I may have to recruit my husband….

  8. Your bread looks beautiful! I made the anadama twice and did a better job the second time. We decided we like them made into rolls, especially.

    • Practice is always key, isn’t it? I’m making some poolish baguettes this week with my leftover poolish from the Christopsomos so I can get a round or two of making them in early.

  9. I love love love The Bread Baker’s Apprentice! It’s the book I used to teach myself the art of bread baking about 10 years ago! And I love love love Anadama Bread! With jam, like you said…or even lightly toasted with a little butter, vegan of course 😉 hehee. Nicely done Haley!! I can’t wait to see your Artos, which I believe might be next?

    • Hi Sara! You are exactly right. Artos is next, and I’ve just finished it. Getting ready to post it, but the Anadama spoiled me…it’s better “toast” bread. This book, though, is completely wonderful. Definitely receiving Most Favored Cookbook status on my shelf.

  10. Mmm. Love this book… and I love the look of that bread.
    There’s not much in this world that really compares to a loaf fresh out of the oven, is there?

    Have been devoted to my copy of Bread Alone (which has great tips on sourdough/cultures) — but I haven’t acquired Bread Baker’s Apprentice yet. Gotta check it out.

    • it’s a swap, then – I’ll see if I can’t score Bread Alone at the library. I’m enjoying this book so much, but I think I’ve got the fever for baking.

  11. Such a nice loaf of bread…honestly, I am always reluctant to bake bread without a bread machine…but after seeing yours, I should try. Looks very rewarding. Nice pictures.

    • Juliana, please let me encourage you to leave the bread machine behind. They do make great bread, but it’s really not difficult to make without one at all. If you’re going to be at home for a while, it’s very easy to make, watch a little TV, then go back to. So yummy.

  12. Spraying oil is one of those things I never bought before BBA. Now it absolutely has to be on hand at all times. One less thing to worry about right?

    • I am completely with you on the spray oil. I always thought it was blasphemy, but I figured if Reinhart says use it, who am I to question it? It has certainly been useful! I don’t know if I will ever have the guts to break it out during my “regular” cooking, though.

  13. Pingback: Asparagus and Garlic Scape Tart with Polenta Crust « Appoggiatura

  14. Pingback: My first loaf of bread! « make my day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s