January 7, 2008

Happy New Year: Anadama Bread

Well, it was nice while it lasted. I spent a lovely two weeks at home in Illinois over the holidays, doing not much other than sleeping, eating, watching tv, eating...

I spent a few days in Chicago, which is just gorgeous in the winter, if a bit cold. And on New Year's Eve, it snowed, the first snow I've seen in almost three years.

In spite of having so much free time, I didn't do much baking aside from the usual Christmas cookies, but I did manage to get off my butt long enough bake this lovely bread. The bread has a chewy texture and a distinct molasses aroma. The recipe is adapted from A World of Breads, by Dolores Casella, which was a very thoughtful Christmas gift from a close family friend. If this recipe is any indication, I'm going to love this book.

Anadama Bread
Makes 2 loaves

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup water

1 packet (2.5 tsp) dry active yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 stick (2 tbsp) butter, melted and cooled
2 cups flour

4-5 cups flour
2 tsp salt

The night before baking: Combine cornmeal and 1 cup water in a large bowl, and leave (covered) overnight or for 12 hours.

The morning of baking, make the sponge: Proof yeast in the 1/2 cup warm water. When yeast is foamy and active (about 10 minutes), add to cornmeal mixture along with warm milk, molasses, butter, and 2 cups flour. Cover bowl and let sit at room temperature for one hour, until sponge is bubbly and has risen a bit.

After one hour, uncover sponge and stir in remaining 4-5 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough forms a homogeneous mass and feels tacky to the touch, but not too sticky.

Place dough on a floured surface. Cover with plastic wrap or an upside down bowl, and leave for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle salt over dough and knead for 10 minutes, adding more flour if necessary in very small increments. Place dough in a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a nice warm spot until doubled in size (about 1.5-2 hours).

Butter 2 loaf pans. Once dough has doubled, turn out onto floured surface and pat into a rough rectangle. Divide dough in half, form each half into a loaf, and place loaves in pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

30 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 375 F. Once loaves have doubled in size, brush tops with water and sprinkle with cornmeal. Bake for 40 minutes or so, until loaves are golden brown on tops, sides, and bottoms. Cool loaves in pans for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

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