Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I used to love to bake. I learned to bake bread when I was in graduate school, and home-baked bread was often the only bread I could afford. I tried all kinds of breads. I bought The Farm Journal Book of Homemade Bread, which I still have and which has all kinds of short-cut recipes, such as CoolRise French bread and brioche.

One of the cliches that puzzles me about baking is that baking recipes, unlike other recipes, must be followed precisely and don’t allow for innovation. It seems to me that if that were true, there would only be one recipe in the world for banana bread, or whole wheat bread, or ordinary white bread. I’ve even run across more than one recipe for croissants, which are all kinds of fussy to make. Somebody must have been playing around with these recipes.

So I am perfectly happy to mess with baking recipes. By swapping out cottage cheese, instant minced onion and dill seeds in Dilly Casserole Bread for Campbell’s Cheddar Cheese soup, chives and parsley, I made a batter cheese bread that got honorable mention in a local contest. 

My favorite bread recipe to mess with is Anadama Bread. My Farm Journal book gives the history of Anadama Bread as follows:

A Massachusetts fisherman, tired of the cornmeal mush his wife, Anna, spooned up for meals, added molasses and yeast to it and baked the first loaf of this bread while muttering “Anna-dam’er, Anna-dam’er” (or so the legend goes).

A batter bread with the addition of something thick and mushy allows for a lot of messing around with. The Book of Homemade Bread even offers one such variation, with oatmeal substituted for cornmeal. My own variation is made with a can of sweet potatoes, blended to a mush. It gives the taste of potato bread but is a lot faster and easier to cook.

I had promised to bake pumpkin bread for the UMW fall bake sale, and had actually been planning to use my trusty Anadama recipe with a can of pumpkin in place of the cornmeal, when I saw that Libby makes a pumpkin bread kit, with all the ingredients for two 9x5 loaves or three 8x4 loaves (or one 9x13 pan or cupcakes). Recalling that quick breads seem to sell faster than yeast breads anyway, I  opted for the easy path. The kit even came with a glaze to put on top. What could be easier?

Saturday evening I baked the three 8x4 loaves in disposable pans. After cooling the breads according to directions, I put them back in the pans and glazed the tops. I wrapped them each in plastic wrap, not too tightly so as not to mess up the glaze. I thought about putting them in the refrigerator, but I had read somewhere that putting baked goods in the refrigerator dries them out faster, and it was a cool night. I thought about moving them across the room to the baking center, but I’d have to clear it off. So I left them on the counter near the window.

When I next looked at them Sunday morning, little black specks were moving across the glaze: sugar ants. I said a quick “Anadama!” or at least one syllable thereof and thought frantically for a moment of just scraping off the glaze before realizing the ants were all over the pans and the bread had to be tossed out. If I had made the yeast bread, this wouldn’t have happened. If I had just moved the bread across the room to the baking center, it wouldn’t have happened. I donated the amount the breads would have sold for to the bake sale and made a note to call the exterminator the next day.

I’m still going to try the Anadama pumpkin bread just for fun. I’m not going to leave it anywhere near the window.


  1. Huh. I was trying to forget the Ant Invasion of last August, but you bring it back to mind all too vividly.

    As for Anadama, the way I heard it was that Anna walked out on her husband (probably after one too many complaints about her cooking), thus forcing him to learn to make his own bread, dam 'er.

    I don't bake as much as I used to, but I'd still rather bake than cook.

  2. I like your version. I'm actually baking Anadama bread now, but I think the yeast is too old, because it didn't rise well. I decided to bake it anyway and see how it comes out.