If you’ve followed this blog at all, you know that I have a special place in my heart reserved for America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. Last April, I was chosen as a finalist for their “Learn To Cook” series. Alas, I did not win, but I still love them and put my full trust in their tried-and-true recipes. What I love so much about their recipes is that they test out many different methods, using many different ingredients until they settle on the “perfect” way to do something.
This cake is no exception. Normally, when one thinks of an upside-down cake, images of juicy rounds of pineapple studded with shiny and saccharin-sweet maraschino cherries come to mind. But this one is different in so many wonderful ways.
As I’ve said before on this blog, this semester has been rough, to say the least. I feel like I’ve not any extra time to do anything besides study, let alone cook and blog about it. Just so you know, I haven’t forgotten about you (those of you who read this). I appreciate your sticking with me and being patient.
With that, I’ll say that I took part in some much-needed culinary therapy this past Sunday. I woke up knowing that I wanted to bake, and more specifically, I wanted to bake bread. I only knew that I wanted it to have a nice texture, not take forever to rise, and include black strap molasses. I love love love molasses, and don’t utilize it as much as I should. So, recipe hunting I went!
I ran across a recipe for a bread popular in New England called Anadama Bread. Now, legend has it that a woman named Anna was quite a lazy cook and, much to the dismay of her husband, baked the same bread daily, or oftentimes, did not even finish the bread. The horror! One day, her husband either threw a bag of cornmeal at her and missed, with some spilling into the dough, or he got fed up and attempted to finish what she started – accidentally grabbing cornmeal instead of flour. He’s said to have muttered, “Anna, damn her!”
Now, I can’t say for sure if any of this is true. But what I will say is that I happened to have the majority of the ingredients in my house, so the decision was made. Anadama Bread it was!
The recipe called for dry milk, which, let’s face it, who really has that? In lieu of the dry milk, I used whole milk (replacing the boiling water required for the dry milk). I also replaced the whole wheat flour with bread flour. Not because I didn’t have whole wheat, because I did, but because I hadn’t used my bread flour since I bought it and I wanted a slightly chewier texture in the end.
This bread smelled so lovely as it was rising, and smelled even lovelier while it was baking. For a bread that required at least 2 1/2 hours of rise time, it was relatively stress-free and went by rather quickly. And let me tell you, it turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. It had a crunchy texture from the cornmeal, a slightly sweet flavor from the molasses, and a lovely chew due to the use of bread flour.
New England Anadama Bread
Adapted from the King Arthur Flour website
Yield: 1 loaf
3/4 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 cup whole milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup bread flour
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
In the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk together the cornmeal and salt.
Add the butter and molasses to the bowl.
Put the milk in a saucepan over med-high heat until it begins to boil, but be careful not to scald it.
When it comes to a boil, pour into the cornmeal mixture and stir until the butter has melted. Let stand for about 10 minutes, or until it is lukewarm.
To the cornmeal mixture, add the flours and yeast and stir until combined. Let the dough rest for about 20 minutes.
With dough hook attachment, knead dough for about 6 1/2 – 7 minutes at medium speed, until it’s smooth and pulls away from the bowl. Cover bowl with cling film and let dough rise until it’s just about doubled, 1 hour.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, shape into an 8-inch log. Place the log in an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan, cover with cling film, and let the dough rise until the center has crested about one inch above lip of the pan, about 90 minutes.
Toward the end of the second rise, preheat oven to 350ºF.
Bake the bread in the center of the oven for about 35 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers at least 190ºF.
**If you want a lighter crust, tent the bread loosely with foil for the last 15 minutes of baking.