So! I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon, joining more than 200 other food bloggers around the world on the Bread Baker’s Apprentice (BBA) Challenge. Organized by Nicole at Pinch My Salt, the idea is to work through all the recipes in Peter Reinhart’s book, Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, a week at a time. You can read more about the Challenge here and bake along if you’re interested.
We start with Anadama Bread, a traditional New England recipe that gained its unusual name from a man in Rockport, Massachusetts, who was upset with his wife not only for leaving him, but also for leaving behind only a pot of cornmeal and some molasses. He threw it together, along with some flour, yeast and water, cursing “Anna, Damn Her!” as he kneaded the dough, later refined to ‘Anadama’ for polite conversation.
What I love most about Reinhart’s book (apart from the recipes) is the 80 pages of pre-recipe fodder providing novice bread-makers like me with a deep-dive into the key stages of bread-making. Everything you should know about the fermentation process, various types of dough and yeast, as well as the Baker’s Percentage Formula, is in there. It was a section I found myself returning to over and over again, particularly after a disastrous first attempt. I’ll let the picture speak for itself:
Now isn’t that the grouchiest (not to mention depressing) loaf you’ve ever seen? Not only did it fail to rise in the oven, it felt like a ton of cornmeal-encrusted bricks, each grainy molecule stubbornly clinging to each other till death rips them apart with a bread knife. Back to the drawing board we went.
For the second attempt, I decided to get a new packet of yeast, and was more meticulous about accurately measuring out each ingredient according to the Baker’s Percentage Formula. I also halved the recipe to make one loaf, instead of two.
We have our very first home-made bread loaf! It turns out that the yeast was a problem (apparently it needs to be kept refrigerated or frozen, which we neglected to do with our previous batch), and in the second attempt, the dough rose smoothly and beautifully at each fermentation stage (see my ‘8 steps’ below). The bread itself has an interesting texture, as a result of the cornmeal, and the molasses give a subtle, almost woody aftertaste. It’s great as a breakfast toast, spread with some home-made jam, although I’m sure it’ll go pretty well with savory ingredients for a light sandwich. Well, I’m off to find out! In the meantime, you can check out how other BBA-ers went with this recipe:
- Chad at mmmbiscuits
- Laurie at Chili & Chocolate who used wild yeast instead of instant yeast
- Libby at At The Very Yeast
- Michelle at Brown Eyed Baker
- Cindy at Salt and Serenity
Danielle’s 8 Steps of Bread (Part Deux)