Wednesday, June 22, 2011
I have been a demon bread maker for years, 27 to be exact. When I was staying home with my son, I decided making bread was a good way to save money. Most of the bread recipes in the cookbook were made in 1984, 1985 at the latest. I kept it up pretty faithfully until sometime this winter, when I got bored with putting the bread in to bake at 11:30 at night and having to stay up for an hour so I could run down and turn the timer off. Otherwise it beeped frantically all night, which didn't bother me but drove my husband and the old Corgi dog crazy.
This week I decided to rededicate myself to the cookbook. The dinner party had given the month a quasi respectable total, but I could do better. Plus, bread was $4.95 at Safeway, which seemed like a ridiculous price. I made Anadama Bread because we needed bread.
Anadama Bread is a traditional New England bread that was thought to originate in Rockport Mass. A restaurant called the Blacksmith Shop opened a bakery in 1956 and sold Anadama Bread all over New England. Pepperidge Farm used to make Anadama Bread, and may still, for all I know. I remember as a child, I didn't like it. I was firmly convinced all bread should be white. That was before the late 60s and early 70s when white bread was revealed to be poison, causing bowel cancer, draining the national vitality and in general bad stuff. I turned to whole wheat bread overnight.
After 40 years of eating and making whole wheat bread and I guess what might be termed whole grain bread (if you don't have enough whole wheat or white flour, throw in whatever you do have, which in my case was usually oatmeal or cornmeal.) Anadama bread tasted pretty normal. The recipe makes two nice, fine grained loaves.
For those who would undertake this, be warned. It is not difficult, but it does take time. I started it around 1:00 and took it out of the oven at 8:00 pm. It has to rise no less than three times. You just have to time things. Start it on Saturday morning before you go to your yoga class. Beat it down when you return for lunch. Let it rise 45 more minutes and then take care of the rest of it.
About the kneading. The instructions are not very helpful for a novice. "Add flour gradually stirring in just enough to make a stiff dough. " What is a stiff dough? How gradually? Answer number two, very gradually. Add the flour half a cup at a time. If you put in too much, you end up with a stiff intractible mass. I will translate as the recipe moves along. To see kneading at work, click on the You Tube symbol. Also, Anadama Bread is made with corn meal, which is very crumbly. Lest your bread be crumbly and fall apart, you have to knead it until it becomes smooth.
1/2 cup yellow corn meal, preferably waterground
2 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons shortening
1/2 cup dark molasses
1 tablespoon salt
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
7 to eight cups sifted flour
1. Add the corn meal to the boiling water, stirring constantly. Add the shortening, molasses and salt and let cool to lukewarm.
2. Soften the yeast in the warm water and stir into the corn meal mixture. Add the flour gradually (1/2 cup at a time.) stirring in just enough to make a stiff dough. (A stiff dough is kind of hard. You don't want it to be soupy. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl and form into a lump.) Knead well (for about 1o minutes, or until the dough stops sticking to your hand. Place in a bowl rubbed with shortening or butter. Cover with a cloth and let stand in a warm place. (You don't have to turn off the air conditioning.)
3. Slash through dough with a knife or punch dough with the fingers. Cover and let rise in a warm place forty-five minutes longer. Pull out onto a lightly floured board and knead well, adding more flour if necessary. (It will be necessary. Sprinkle the flour onto the dough a couple of tablespoons at a time, like the baker in the video. More flour keeps the dough from being sticky.)
4. Shape the dough into two loaves. (You do this by digging out half the dough with your fingers and then rolling the piece between your palms until it assumes the proportions of a longish, fattish sausage. Then tuck the ends under and put it into the baking pan. Push the dough in the middle down so the ends are more or less level with the middle) and place in two 9-by-5-by-3 inch loaf pans rubbed with shortening or butter. Cover and let stand in a warm place until nearly doubled in bulk.
5. Prehead the oven to 400 degrees.
6. Bake the two loaves fifteen minutes and reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Bake about forty-five minutes longer. Brush the tops of the loaves with the melted butter and remove the bread from the oven to a rack.
To see the video, click here.