Sunday, February 22, 2015

Anadama Bread: A New England Tradition

The Latest in the Eponymous Epicurean Delights Series


Anadama Bread

Folk traditions have a way of infiltrating our lives with both pleasure and confusion, and the history of Anadama Bread is no exception. The New England tradition of making this bread using cornmeal, wheat flour, and sometimes rye flour brings pleasure to anyone lucky enough to have ever eaten it. However, for those of us trying to untangle the history behind the recipe, including how the bread was named, confusion abounds. 

Supposedly, the bread was created sometime before 1850 by either a fisherman or a Finnish stonecutter from the Rockport or Gloucester, Massachusetts areas. The legend claims that a disgruntled husband lashed out at his wife, Anna, for serving him boring cornmeal mush one too many times. In a fit of exasperation, he yelled, "Anna, damn her!", as he added flour, yeast, and molasses to the cornmeal to make something new and different, a cornmeal-based risen bread. Interestingly, a 1936 recipe for the bread in The New England Cook Book, 300 Fine Old Recipes, compiled and edited by Kate Morrow by the Culinary Arts Press has a recipe called Amadama Bread, with an M instead of an N. It is listed this way in both the index and the recipe. I wonder what the story is behind this misspelling, an actual mistake or another angle to the folklore of this recipe?  Here is the recipe:


There are many variations of this story and there is no way to actually trace its origins with documented evidence, but there is no place for the truth where folklore is concerned!

What is known is that according to the records of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Anadama bread was introduced as a brand of bread in 1850, and the first use in commerce was July 1, 1876 for Anadama Mixes, Incorporated. Around the turn of the 20th century, Baker Knowlton of Rockport, MA made the bread and sold his version of it in horse-drawn carts. Additionally, other 20th century bakeries made and sold Anadama bread throughout the New England region.

Anadama Bread
The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, 12th edition. Bantam Books: 1979.

Brown and crusty with a chewy, springy texture, this old fashioned batter bread, quick and easy to make, is an American classic.

(2 Loaves)

1/2 Cup Yellow Cornmeal
1 Package Dry Yeast
1/2 Cup Molasses
2 Teaspoons Salt
1 Tablespoon Butter
4 1/2 Cups White Flour

Put the cornmeal in a large mixing bowl. Bring 2 cups water to a boil and pour it over the cornmeal. Stir until smooth, making sure that the cornmeal does not lump, Let stand for 30 minutes. Stir the yeast into 1/2 cup warm water and let stand for 5 minutes to dissolve. Add the molasses, salt, butter, and dissolved yeast to the cornmeal mixture. Stir in the flour and beat thoroughly. Spoon into 2 buttered loaf pans, cover, and let rise in a warm spot until double in bulk. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Bake bread for 45-50 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on racks.

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References

  • Foodtimeline.org
  • Yankee Magazine
  • Wikipedia
  • Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Andrew F. Smith [Oxford University Press:New York] Volume 1 (p.37)


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