Anadama bread is a traditional yeast bread of New England in the United States made with wheat flour, cornmeal, molasses and sometimes rye flour.
It is not readily agreed exactly when or where the bread originated, except it existed before 1850 in Rockport, Massachusetts. It is thought to have come from the local fishing community, but it may have come through the Finnish community of local stonecutters.
Near the turn of the 20th century, it was baked by a man named Baker Knowlton on King Street in Rockport, Massachusetts and delivered in a horse-drawn cart to households by men in blue smocks. In the 1940s, a Rockport restaurant owned by Bill and Melissa Smith called The Blacksmith Shop on Mt. Pleasant St. started baking the bread for their restaurant in a small bakery on Main St. They baked about 80 loaves a day until 1956, when they built a modern $250,000 bakery on Pooles Lane. They had 70 employees and 40 trucks which delivered Anadama bread all over New England.
The Anadama bread centre of consumption was in Rockport and next-door Gloucester, Massachusetts. It was commercially available from local bakeries widely on Cape Ann from the early 1900s until 1970, when the Anadama Bread Bakery on Pooles Lane in Rockport closed due to Bill Smith’s death. For a number of years, it was baked by small local bakeries at breakfast places on Cape Ann.
An apocryphal story told about the origin of the bread goes like this: Every day a local worker would find cornmeal mush in his tin lunch pail, despite asking his wife for an occasional piece of bread. One day, because of weather or other circumstances, he came home just prior to lunch time. His wife, Anna, was out. He sat down and opened his lunch box to find the usual cornmeal mush. He sighed and said, “Anna, damn her,” as he resolutely reached for the flour, molasses and yeast which he added to the cornmeal mush. His resulting bread became a local favourite.
- ⅔ cup yellow polenta
- ½ cup molasses (not blackstrap)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus melted butter for brushing
- 7 g packet active dry yeast
- 4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
- ⅓ cup nonfat dry milk powder
- 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
- vegetable oil, for brushing
- Combine 1 cup water, the polenta, molasses and 3 tablespoons butter in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and let cool until lukewarm (40°C to 43°C), stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
- Sprinkle the yeast over ½ cup lukewarm water (40°C to 43°C) in a small bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add to the polenta mixture along with 1 cup flour and the dry milk; mix with a wooden spoon. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place until the dough increases slightly in volume and is bubbly, about 30 minutes.
- Mix the dough with the dough hook attachment on medium-low speed, then mix in the salt and the remaining 3 to 4 cups flour, ½ cup at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition, until the dough comes together into a firm, tacky ball. Increase the speed to medium high; knead the dough until it pulls away from the bowl, about 2 minutes. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand until smooth and pliable, adding more flour as needed, about 5 minutes. Brush a large bowl with vegetable oil; add the dough, cover with a kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 hour to 1 hour, 30 minutes.
- Brush a 23 x 13 cm loaf pan with vegetable oil. Punch down the dough and turn out onto a clean surface. Shape into a smooth 10 x 20 cm loaf, then transfer to the pan. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until the loaf rises above the pan by 1 cm, 30 minutes - 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190°C.
- Uncover the pan and transfer to the oven. Reduce the temperature to 175°C and bake until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when tapped, 35 to 45 minutes. (Cover loosely with foil if it is browning too quickly.) Brush with melted butter and let rest in the pan, 10 minutes. Turn out onto a rack and let cool before slicing or freezing.