The addition of cornmeal to a yeast bread dough adds a characteristic toothsome, pleasing, irresistible crunch, a grit. It makes you feel, when you bite into a slice, that, in writer Gertrude Stein’s words, there’s a there there.
No one wants a bread that is leaden, but substantial is another matter. “Light,” as Americans are discovering, is not always the be-all and end-all of bread. There’s the nutritional wallop whole-grains pack, and hearty, hefty multi-grain breads simply taste and feel so good in the mouth.
As local artisanal bakeries spring up across America, it’s becoming easier to find such loaves. But nothing beats making your own. Anadama Bread, an American original dating from the Colonial era, combines European wheat and whole wheat with America’s primary native grain, corn. A drizzle of molasses for color and flavor and a bit of spice and you have a fine-grained, delicious bread, excellent when homemade from scratch.
What of its peculiar name? A highly suspect legend says a disgruntled farmer, disgusted with his slatternly wife, Anna, mixed up a dough of whatever was on hand, and said, “Take this to Anna, damn her, and tell her to bake it.” But to whom did he utter these words? And what was this farmer’s name? And where and when did this unhappy couple live? As the authors of the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book say, “This fine combination could never have been born of anger; it is just too good.”
By Crescent Dragonwagon, a food writer in Saxton’s River, Vt.