Wednesday, February 24, 2010

ANADAMA BREAD - Bread Baker's Apprentice

OK, the challenge has been accepted. I will be trying new island recipes, and new ingredients when possible, but also I plan to continue my progression as a learning cook. I promised myself on New Year's Eve that I would be trying to learn more as a bread baker, and if possible to cook through the "Bread Baker's Apprentice - Mastering the art of Extraordinary Bread" book. I brought three cookbooks with me to my island adventure. The "Bread Baker's Apprentice" book was one. I considered waiting to start till I moved to a larger kitchen (one of our priorities in island shack hunting). But, as I learned from some of the comments when I did my Virgin Island kitchen reveal, many New Yorker's live with this size kitchen every day and will never be able to cook in a larger kitchen. And besides, a loaf of bread was WAY too expensive.

SO... yesterday, I made the first recipe for ANADAMA BREAD. Actually, when I say yesterday, I mean I started the day before yesterday in preparation for baking. You use a "starter" in this recipe. The book has a nearly 100 page tutorial on basic bread baking concepts before you even see a recipe (he calls a formula). While most recipes will use a commercial yeast, his goal is to reduce the amount that you use. A starter is a way to "grow" a living yeast culture and allow the breakdown of starches to improve the flavor of the bread.

I started with 6 ounces of Course ground CORN MEAL, mixed with 8 ounces of room temperature WATER. I am living in a "stocked" kitchen. But there are no mixing bowls. I do have a resident manager that is very generous to let me borrow stuff. But today, I used a sauce pan to mix the starter. It had a lid, so I followed the instructions to cover with saran wrap (the lid), and let it sit overnight at room temperature.

The next morning (mid day actually), I mixed 2 cups of unbleached FLOUR, only 2 teaspoons of INSTANT YEAST, The Corn meal and water mixture (the SOAKER) and one cup WATER. I miss my Kitchenaid, but I made due and stirred, stirred stirred til well mixed. I covered the bowl with a towel and allowed it to ferment for one hour, till the sponge begins to bubble (a sign the yeast is working by creating gases). If you double click on the image to the left, the magic of the Internet will make it bigger and you can see the bubbles.

At that time, add 2 and 1/2 cups more FLOUR, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons SALT and 6 tablespoons of MOLASSES and 2 tablespoons of BUTTER. And, here is where I really miss the Kitchenaid, as it would be easy to let the hook do the mixing and kneading. But, by hand it was to be.

Stir until the ingredients form a ball, add water if needed to make a soft, slightly sticky mass.

Sprinkle flower on a work surface and start kneading by hand. keep adding flour as needed to make a tacky but not sticky dough the dough should be supple and pliable, but definitely NOT sticky. It will take at least 10 minutes of kneading (more for me, and nearly an additional cup of flour).

But, it can be done.

And here's the proof!

Lightly oil a bowl and move the dough to it. Roll the dough to coat and cover the bowl and allow to rise for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size...


Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into two equal portions. Form the dough into loafs and place into prepared, oiled and floured bread pans. Coat the tops with a small amount of additional oil, and loosely cover the tops with a towel.

Allow the dough to rise for 60 to 90 additional minutes, until the dough crests above the tops of the pans.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with the oven rack in the middle.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the center of the bread registers at 185 degrees (nice to be a griller, with an instant read remote prob attached thermometer).

When the loafs reach temperature, remove from oven, and immediately remove from pans and allow to cool.

And here is where I went off book a little...

I brushed a very thin layer of molasses on the top of the bread.

I ground up some walnuts in a mini chopper to just slightly bigger than dust...

But not much.

The book says to spray the top of the loafs prior to baking with water and sprinkle more corn meal on the top.

I thought (yes, this is my own concoction... sorry to the purists, but I figure I lost purists long ago), the extra sweetness on the top crust from the extra thin layer of uncooked molasses, combined with the extra nutty taste of the walnut dusting would make an extra treat...

It did!

I did add just a small dusting of corn meal as well.

We enjoyed a slice for breakfast with butter. This is a very dense bread. The corn meal makes the bread grainy, like a multi grain loaf of bread. The sweetness of the molasses shines through in every bite... But it especially shines through on the top with the extra raw molasses and walnut dust.

Bottom line... The bread has a full earthy rich taste. I liked it a lot, but... The bread is a little pricey to make... Corn meal on the island is expensive, so unless I were making polenta and had some left, unlikely that I would make this again. The molasses I seem to use quite a bit, so I would have some of that on hand. Adding both of those "extra" flavorings to the bread, as well as the walnuts made the 2 loafs at least $10. Still, better and cheaper on the island than to buy two loafs of "wonder" bread type loafs, and much cheaper than buying a specialty loaf from an island baker.

1 formula down, and 200 pages of recipes in the book to follow!




  1. Looks perfect! Based on what you said about bread prices there on the island, I expect to see you doing lots more bread recipes! :)

  2. You did a terrfic job and I think you should get an extra award since you are im primative kitchen diggs and had to work harder! I was wondering with the humidity how your bread would do, but it looks fantastic!

  3. Yay for commencing with your bread baking adventure! You know how I feel about baking your own's one of the finer things in life :D

    Anadama bread is one that I've always wanted to try. Eventually I'll break open my BBA as well...

  4. Your bread is beautiful! Amazing food can come out of a small kitchen. Perhaps a clean, removable board over the sink to make more counter space?

  5. So you made it to the Virgin Islands...lucky you! Man I wish I was there. They are calling for more snow here tonight. NOT good. Your bread however looks very good! I just have to start working with yeast already.

  6. Love the molasses and crushed walnut topping you put on this. Gosh, groceries are super-expensive there!

  7. Wow! I can't imagine living in the Virgin Islands but you seem to have settled right in! The bread looks fabulous! BTW, stop by and grab your award! I posted it a couple of days ago. :)

  8. What a gorgeous looking loaf of bread! I see you have moved temporarily so I'm going to have to check out your new adventures :)

  9. Your bread looks awesome! I've never had anadama bread before. I've been wanting to pick up BBA, it looks like a great book.

  10. Good job! By hand bread is not the easiest thing in the world to make, for sure. I have a feeling you are really going to miss that KitchenAid mixer more and more. (among other things)

  11. This is a gorgeous hunk of bread to come out of your small kitchen! Bet it tastes great, especially as you are gazing out of your windows toward the ocean. :) I think you're living a great life right now, Dave! Have fun!

  12. Are you going to try to cook through the book? The texture of your bread looks wonderful. Not too dense but with some body.

  13. i LOVE this bread, especially with that molasses!