If you’ve already dived into the Extra Crispy story of regional breakfast foods or have spent any time in New England, you’re likely acquainted with anadama bread. I've done both—in fact, I distinctly recall my friends and me getting really excited when we saw anadama bread on the Smith College dining hall menu. The bread, just a tad crunchy and sweet from cornmeal and molasses had sort of a weird history. As legend goes, a Gloucester fisherman of yore was married to a woman named Anna, who wasn’t a great cook. After nights of eating Anna’s (admittedly not great-sounding) dinners of cornmeal and molasses, the man added flour and yeast to the cornmeal mush and baked the mixture into a loaf while grumbling "Anna, damn her."
Personally, I think Anna probably had other things to do around the house, and maybe she didn’t have time to make her husband dinner every night. She probably wanted him to figure it out on his own and clearly, if this guy managed to turn Anna’s mushy cornmeal into a tasty loaf of bread, he was actually the cook in the family. Maybe he should’ve been making dinner all along instead.
Whisk together ½ cup coarse cornmeal and 2 teaspoons kosher salt in a large bowl.
Bring ½ cup of water and ½ cup whole milk to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat, then remove from the heat. Immediately whisk in 3 tablespoons room temperature butter and ¼ cup molasses.
Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and whisk well to avoid lumps.
Next, very gently combine ½ cup warm water with 1 envelope of dry active yeast and 1 teaspoon molasses. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, until it starts to foam a bit, then gently mix the yeast mixture into the cornmeal mixture with a wooden spoon.
Working with 1 cup at a time, mix 3 cups of flour into the dough. The dough will be very sticky, so if you have a stand mixer, this is a good time to use it. Mix the dough for about 10 minutes, or until it’s no longer super-sticky (add a few extra teaspoons of flour if you’re finding it impossibly sticky).
Cover the bowl of dough with plastic wrap and let sit until it has doubled in size, about 1½-2 hours.
After the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape it into an 8-inch log and place it in a well-greased 8-inch loaf pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the loaf rise again, another 1½ hours.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF and melt 2 tablespoons butter. When the loaf has risen, brush the top with the melted butter. Bake the bread for 35-40 minutes (it may take up to 45 minutes, but begin testing for a toothpick poked inside to come out clean after 35).
Let the bread cool for at least 10 minutes in the pan before turning it out onto a cooling rack.
Anadama bread makes just as satisfying a breakfast sandwich (BEC or banana with peanut butter, and everything in between) as it does a simple piece of toast, buttered and jammed if you prefer.