If you follow several food blogs, you might be seeing quite a few posts about Anadama bread and wondering why so many people are talking about it. If you’re on Twitter, you may be wondering what the hashtag #BBA that so many people are using means. They’re both part of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge that is being hosted by Nicole from the Pinch My Salt blog. Over 200 people are baking their way through each recipe in this James Beard award winning book. As I explained a couple of weeks ago, I am one of them.

I made my first bread for the challenge, Anadama bread, over the weekend. You know that scene in Castaway where Tom Hanks makes fire and he dances around yelling, “I. Have made fire.” That’s how I felt when my bread came out of the oven. I had made bread, and now I will always be able to feed my family (I know that's a little far reaching, but it's how I felt).

It’s not that I’ve never made bread before. I make an awesome banana bread – but that’s not really the same thing. I have a bread machine, but I don’t really do the work with that. And I’ve even made the no-knead bread I talked about here, and it turned out okay. But this was different. This was making a soaker, creating a sponge, kneading (well, okay my Kitchen Aid did the kneading), letting it rise – twice, and then baking in the oven.

Here’s how it went.

The day before I made the bread I made a soaker. “What’s a soaker?” you ask. It’s okay, I didn’t know what one was before I began this challenge either. A soaker is a pre-ferment that doesn’t involve yeast. You take a course whole grain and soak it overnight in water or milk so it softens the grain and releases enzymes in the grain to bring out some of the trapped sugars.

The next day I added more ingredients to the soaker, including the yeast, and let it ferment.

Finally, I added the remaining ingredients and let my Kitchen Aid do the tough work. I am planning on doing my own kneading at some point during this challenge, but for my first attempt I went with the stand mixer. Probably will for the second attempt, too. Because that will involve making a starter, and that seems a bit daunting. But that’s why I’m doing this; I want to tackle the things in the kitchen I find daunting, the things that most people knew how to do 75 years ago.

After the dough finished proofing (the process of letting it rise again after you’ve formed it into the shape the loaf is going to take), into the oven it went. And when it came out – bread. Two loaves of amazing smelling, golden Anamdama bread.

I'm doing this challenge to learn a skill that I didn't pick up earlier on in life. A skill that I can pass down to my boys. Nicole from Pinch My Salt has agreed to give me an interview later this week, and I plan on asking her why she thinks so many other people have risen to this challenge. Look for that and for my bread baking attempt #2 - Artos: Greek Celebration Bread.

(MNN homepage photo: imagestock/iStockphoto)

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