I’m in a bread rut.
My husband has been taking sandwiches to work for lunch. I have poached eggs and a slice of toast each morning for breakfast. Sometimes he has a sandwich at home for lunch and still takes one to work for dinner. For the last few months I have averaged one loaf of 100% whole wheat bread per week. Every week. I can mix up the biga and soaker without consulting the recipe. Hell, I can mix up the final dough without consulting the recipe. To the gram.
It’s good bread! We both really like it. It’s soft for sandwiches, but still hearty, and makes a nice piece of toast. But I was getting a little bored. So I went back to the beginning. At least, the beginning of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. The recipes are listed alphabetically, and “anadama bread” was the first one. The traditional New England bread is made with cornmeal and molasses and I had never made it before.
Unlike most direct-dough method versions, Peter Reinhart adds an overnight soak for the cornmeal to coax out the full flavor of the starchy grain. Mmm, cornmeal mush.
After a little rest overnight, the cornmeal mixture is added to flour, yeast, and water for a quick sponge. An hour takes it from blech to bubbling.
Salt, molasses, and shortening round out the dough with the addition of the remaining flour. A little kneading, rising, and proofing, and we’ve got ourselves a loaf of bread!
The original recipe makes two loaves and I am low on freezer space, so I halved it. Reinhart recommends baking 24 ounces of dough in a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan, but despite careful attempts NOT to over-proof this loaf, it still got a bit wobbly on the top by the time it crowned the pan. I think next time I will try making it in an 8.5-by-4.5 inch pan and see if it’s taller.
The husband approved of it. It was a nice change (I mixed up another loaf of wheat bread yesterday) and still had some nice flavor and depth. The bread is quite fluffy and makes great toast! The cornmeal gives it a nice warm color, but the flavor is subtle and the corn adds sweetness more than a distinct taste. My only complaint was that the interior was so soft it made it difficult to spread refrigerated peanut butter on it without tearing. Yep, I am complaining that the sandwich bread is too soft and pillowy. Wah wah wah.
Adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice
Makes 1 loaf
The moisture content of molasses can vary widely, so don’t be worried if you need to add more flour to obtain a supple and tacky, not sticky, dough.
1/2 cup (3 ounces) coarse cornmeal
1/2 cup (4 ounces) water, room temperature
2 1/4 cups (10.1 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1 teaspoon (0.11 ounce) instant yeast
1/2 cup (4 ounces) water, 90-100F
3/4 teaspoon (.19 ounce) salt
3 tablespoons (2 ounces) molasses
1 tablespoon (0.5 ounce) shortening or unsalted butter, room temperature
1.) (The night before) Mix the cornmeal and the water for the soaker in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight at room temperature.
2.) The next day, combine the soaker, 1 cup flour, yeast, and water in a mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour or until it begins to bubble.
3.) Add the remaining flour, salt, molasses, and shortening or butter to the sponge. Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment (or stir) until the dough forms a ball. Add water if needed to make a soft, sticky mass.
4.) Switch to the dough hook or turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead by hand (about 10 minutes) or with the dough hook (6-8 minutes), adding flour as needed to form a dough that is tacky but not sticky which is “supple and pliable.”
5.) Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly-oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for about 90 minutes or until doubled in size.
6.) When dough has doubled, turn it onto a lightly-floured surface and shape into a loaf. Place in a lightly-oiled loaf pan (recipe says 9×5, but I am going to try a smaller one next time), mist the top with spray oil, and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Allow the loaf to proof at room temperature 60 to 90 minutes until the loaf has fully crested the top of the pan.
7.) Preheat the oven to 350F with the oven rack in the middle. Remove the plastic wrap from the bread, mist the top of the loaf with water and dust with cornmeal.
8.) Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking for 20-30 minutes. Loaf should be golden brown on all sides, register 185-190F in the center, and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. Remove from pan immediately and cool on a racj at least one hour before slicing or serving.
Submitted to YeastSpotting.