Wednesday, May 12, 2010

BBA: Anadama Bread

The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge was the first challenge group I came across when I began exploring the wider world of food blogging. I instantly knew I wanted to be a part of this group for two reasons. 1) I've always wanted to learn how to bake bread, but have been intimidated.  And, 2) Ever since seeing Julie&Julia I've wanted to cook my way through a cookbook. I'm sure that reference makes some food bloggers cringe since many food bloggers have been doing this kind of thing for years and I'm sure they see me as a newbie who only got interested in this concept after seeing a movie.

PinchMySalt started the challenge to bake every recipe in Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice back in May of 2009. Some baker-bloggers have already completed the challenge, but others are only half way through. I decided to just jump on board and start baking. I probably won't catch up, but that will allow me to just do this on my own timeline.

The breads are organized alphabetically and before even beginning I had to read roughly 80 pages of introduction to bread. Did you know there are 12 stages to bread?

Bread Baker's Apprentice Bread #1 is Anadama bread. I'd give a more detailed bread description commenting on sweetness, softness, and dryness, but honestly, I'm new to all the bread lingo. It's a bit like asking a new wine drinker to describe a wine.
This dough uses a cornmeal soaker and requires two days to prepare. Baking bread isn't necessarily that labor intensive but it does require a lot of time! You have to be very well organized in your time management for the bread to be completed when you want it to be.

One advantage of being behind the pack is that I have a number of other blogger's posts to rely upon when I am confused. The author states you want the dough "slightly tacky but not sticky". Where is the line between tacky and sticky? Luckily, a fellow blogger already answered that question.

This dough was tricky for me. It was the first time I've really worked with bread dough, so I had no idea what feel I was going for. Windowpane test? I see the picture in the book, but my dough isn't even close to doing that. Have I added too much flour or not enough? Registers 77 to 81 degree on the instant read thermometer? What if my dough is at 74? Do I knead more? Just let it sit? Put it in the microwave? (Just kidding on the last one.)
Dough rising still feels like magic to me. Every time I leave the dough to rest I assume it won't rise. And, yet, I return a hour or more later and my little dough ball has exploded. Peter Reinhart did a nice job explaining the reason for this in the beginning chapters of his book. I'm sorry Mr. Reinhart, I skimmed or skipped that section. For now, I prefer to still think of it as magic.
I do have another question. What happens if your dough sits for too long? Bread making is all about timing and what happens if you forget about it during the 90 minute fermenting or proofing time and leave the house only the return an hour after you were supposed to complete the next step?

I forgot the saran wrap while I proofed, but my bread survived. The author discusses in the beginning chapters the importance of paying attention during bread making. He suggests you bake bread, especially if you're a beginner, at a time when you can devote your full attention to the process. Those of you who also have small children in house please commence to laughing along with me. 
Just as I was beginning to feel completely dejected about my first bread making experience- my temps weren't right, my windowpane was non-existent, I fermented and proofed too long, I didn't roll the bread into the pan very nicely- I began to smell the aroma of baking bread. It was like magic entered again. I created that smell. And, nothing that smelled that good could taste bad. And, I was right.
The author leaves the final torture for the end of the baking lesson. "Cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing." I made it 47 minutes.


  1. Looks great! I have made this several times as the guys love it. Make it mostly as rolls now as they like to eat it with bbq pork in it. They also like ham sandwiches in it...the flavors go together nicely. I am in the BBA Slow & Steady Group...we bake at a slower rate as we have kids and busy lives and that just seems to fit our style. There are about 8 of us, I think, maybe a few more. I just finished Pain a l'Ancienne (Bread #21). Nancy, our fearless leader, posts a round-up of sorts of the Slow & Steady as she puts all our breads side by side and it is enjoyable to see them all together. We have become close friends as well. You can see the bread round-ups at (might be If you wish to join us (I know you will catch up sooner than you think as we started at the beginning like everyone else and this is just how far we are now), just drop Nancy an email on her blog and let her know. We'd love to have you.

  2. Welcome to the BBA!!! I hear you on the baking with kids part. Total mindfulness would mean no bread in my case. Personally I love how you can manipulate temperature to make bread baking doable in "modern life". I've never really achieved windowpane myself--I think you can get pretty close and have great results though!

  3. I am so excited you are doing the BBA challenge. I learned more from baking every recipe in the book than I ever imagined that I would.

    Anne marie

  4. Thanks for all the encouragement. I'm really excited to learn to bake bread!

  5. Welcome to the BBA! Beautiufl bread. I can't wait to see you bake your way through the book.

    I learned more in this last year of baking bread than I had in the ten years prior. Funny how that works. The other thing about the challenge is that it forces you to bake breads you never thought you would bake. Plus, pulling your first successful bagels or even baguettes out of the oven is just so wonderful.

    Oh, and that microwave comment? Some people put a glass of water in the microwave for a minute, then take it out and put the bread in as a sort of proof box. I've never actually done it, but I heard about it from other BBA participants.


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