This morning, on a walk in Tenants Harbor, I found a red leaf on the sidewalk. It was the very earliest harbinger I’ve seen of the next season, my very favorite, fall. But there are other signs. Earlier we were in the kitchen baking bread as the sun rose. I put on slippers and a flannel shirt over my nightgown. A cool breeze was coming up from the valley, in through the open windows. Man and machine together are turning tall grasses into useful bales of hay. Yellow school busses are practicing their routes. Small apples ripen on apple trees. This has been a beautiful summer. Today, especially was golden-green with a spotless sky and seventy-two degrees out on the peninsula. Violet and I stacked stones on the beach and washed our feet in a cool tidepool and ate peaches. It was hot. Not steamy or sweltering, but hot. But there’s that leaf. One red leaf on a perfect August day. It tells of things to come.
I had forgotten how much I love baking bread. The magic of yeast, the kneading, the wooden bowl and floured board, waiting for it to rise, punching it down, and watching as it rises again. Anadama bread is a New England classic recipe with a folkloric origin story. A hard-working husband, a farmer or fisherman, is tired of his wife’s lazy and monotonous dinner offering, a simple corn meal gruel, and one night adds flour and molasses and bakes the batter into a bread, and while doing so mutters, “Anna, damn her” under his breath. If there ever was such a wife I wonder if she grew up on her father’s boat and wishes she were out at sea with great waves crashing over the deck, watching for whales. Maybe she wanted to see how many nights her boorish husband would eat the same old mush. Anadama bread is similar to brown bread, which is steamed, baked in a can. I consulted many sources, and in the end, most closely followed the recipes found in RSVP, an Invitation to Maine Cooking and The New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne.
This bread is wonderful for breakfast, slightly sweet and homey, in thick slices slathered in Plugra unsalted butter.
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup corn meal
- ½ cup molasses
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 heaping tablespoon yeast
- ½ cup warm water
- 5-6 cups all-purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 375. Prepare loaf pans with butter.
- Bring the 2 cups of water to an almost-boil. Whisk in the cornmeal and salt and cook for 5 minutes, making sure there are no clumps. Remove from heat. Add molasses and butter and allow the mixture to cool. Meanwhile, mix yeast with warm water. Pour that into the pot. Add the flour gradually, mixing well after each cup.
- Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead for 10 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Set the bowl in a warm spot and allow it to rise until it doubles in size. Punch down and form into loaves. Cover the loaves in their pans and allow the dough to rise again. Bake 30-40 minutes. Brush the top of the loaves with melted butter.