Or, if one isn’t as polite, “Anna, Damn ya!” bread. It’s an early American bread, supposedly created by an irate husband who came home very late on a cold winter night and found there was only some cold, leftover “Injun mush” (AKA “cornmeal mush” AKA “hasty pudding”) for his dinner. Worse yet, he hadn’t had any luck with his hunting, fishing, or trapping, there wasn’t any bread rising, and his wife was sound asleep…
In pioneer days, one wasted nothing that’s edible. It wasn’t uncommon for the women and children to eat mush with some kind of sweetener or, cornbread and milk for every meal in late winter, but a hard working man expected something more. A bit of squirrel stew, or perhaps half a rabbit. And, of course, bread. With no bread rising near the woodstove, the man knew there would only be pan fried cornbread tomorrow. So, after filling his belly with cold injun mush, the man decided to make bread from the remaining leftover mush. (Personally, I think he must have been a very nice man, in love with his wife, but that’s never included in the traditional story…)
As I think I’ve mentioned before, in those days, everyone, male and female, learned to make bread almost from infancy. Still, it was “women’s work” and this man probably hadn’t made bread for the past several years. Cold mush is rather firm, so he probably added some water from a hand pump in the kitchen, added a good dollop of sourdough starter, and handfuls of flour until he could knead dough, and left the whole mess to rise so his wife could bake bread in the morning….
All of the above is, of course, fiction, but traditionally some version of the story always accompanies the recipe for Anadamya bread. Unfortunately, with a broken (but healing) arm, I had to break with tradition to actually make the bread. Someday I’ll follow the brief instructions in the story, but this time I adapted the recipe from The King Arthur 200th Anniversary Cookbook.
Anadamya Bread — makes 2 loaves
2 Cups water with 1/2 Cup blackstrap molasses (or honey, or maple syrup) and bring to a rolling boil.
Stirring constantly to avoid lumps, slowly add 1/2 cup finely cracked corn (or regular cornmeal, if you can’t find cracked corn; I prefer cracked corn, since it adds both sweetness and texture.) and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let it cool completely, stirring occasionally to avoid clumping.
While the (very liquid) mush is cooling, in a different bowl, (I used the bowl of my stand mixer) use a whisk to mix together:
5 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup powdered milk (optional – but the bread will rise a bit better if you add it.)
1 Tablespoon (or one packet) store bought yeast.
When the liquid is completely cool, make a well in the center of your flour mixture, and add all of the liquid “mush” to the bowl of flour. Using a bread hook, turn the mixer on low, scrapping the sides of the bowl as often as necessary to incorporate all of the flour. If the mixture is too moist, add more flour, 1/4 cup at a time. If the mixture is too dry add a tablespoon of water at a time.
When the dough is pulling away from the sides of the bowl, turn the mixer up to “knead” and let it run for 5 minutes. Then add 1/4 cup of vegetable oil. Let the mixer knead the dough another 5 minutes, and turn it off. The dough will feel gritty, but elastic. If you firmly press a finger into it, the dough will resist you, but not have the usual “bounce back.”
Oil a large bowl in which the bread will rise, and, with your hands still lightly covered in oil, remove the dough from the mixing bowl, form it into a rough ball, and put it in the oiled bowl. The dough should not stick to your hands, nor should it feel oily. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a cool, shaded location until doubled in size. (This takes longer than usual, even using our modern yeast — about 2 hours.)
When the dough has doubled in size, gently press it down, and divide it in half. Still using your fingers, on a well floured counter or breadboard, press each half of the dough into a rectangle, such that the long side will fit in your bread pan, and fold it in thirds, making sure to press firmly enough to avoid trapping any air while sealing the seams. If necessary, fold the ends towards the center so the loaf will fit in your bread pan, again avoiding trapping any air.
Only press it down enough to be able to divide it and shape it. Treat this dough roughly and you end up with a rock. It’s still in the bowl here, ready to be divided in half. Just press, fold, and pinch edges — don’t knead it again.
Put each loaf, seam side down in lightly oiled bread pans, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise again for about 45 minutes or until the dough has risen slightly above the top of the bread pan. Slash the top of the bread, and place in a cold oven. Turn the oven to 400°F and bake for 15 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 350°F and bake until the bread tests done (about another 35 -40 minutes.)