Laissez Faire

Letting Life Lead

Diary of an Inconsistent Cook #58: New England Boston Brown Bread (#homecooking)

Hello, readers!
I know that it’s been slow lately and I haven’t written a thing in ages.  Why? It’s summer and school is out.  Two kids, two cats, and a dog.   Need I say more?

The other day, when I had five minutes of energy, I had a hankering to cook something different. It could be because I binge watched the Great British Baking Show, so that I could fantasize about all the delicious food I can’t eat because my butt and pants aren’t getting along. Anyway, I decided to make a New England style steamed molasses bread made of flour, corn meal, and rye. Oh! While at the grocery I snagged some ribs for 69 cents a pound. Doesn’t matter if spare ribs aren’t in your week’s meal plan, you buy it at that price!

Where was I?

This bread is steamed not baked (not unlike those British boiled puddings), and its classic cylinder shape is from cooking it in a coffee can.  If pumpernickle had a fling with raisin bread their love child would be Boston Brown Bread.   You can find it pre-made in cans such as B&M Brown bread.  However, just like anything pre-made it will have a processed flavor.

The recipe is as easy to remember as pound cake.

Classic Boston Brown Bread

1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or whole wheat, or graham flour)
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup fine ground yellow cornmeal (stone ground works too)
1/2 cup molasses (another dark, strong sugar should work)
1/2 cup raisins (optional but highly recommended)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk (can substitute yogurt mixed with some water, or by adding 1 tbsp of vinegar to milk or milk substitute)

Prefer a weighted recipe?  Alton Brown’s Boston Brown Bread Recipe is almost identical to this one and it is measured by weight.


Prepare the 28oz can (any 6 inch by 4 inch diameter metal tin or similar size loaf pan or mold will do). Be sure the can is PBA free.  If you don’t have a can or are unsure this recipe can be made in a 4×8 loaf pan or even a high sided casserole.  Whatever you use, butter it well. I highly recommend lining the can on the sides and bottom with parchment paper.

For Stove top preparation: Boil water in a lidded pan deep enough to hold the vessel with enough liquid to cover the can 1/2 way up. Include a rack, foil, or can lid to the bottom to keep the bread away from direct heat.

For oven preparation: set oven to 325 F and choose a high sided oven safe pot or pan and fill it with boiling water. Water should reach 1/2 to 1/3 the way up the vessel you are using for the bread.

Combine dry ingredients; mix well to combine.
Combine buttermilk and molasses (and vanilla if using)
Add the wet to dry and mix well.
Fold in raisins.

Pour batter into the can (it should read 2/3 of the way up).  Cover the top tightly with foil to seal. Place the can into the boiling water on the stove top, cover, and reduce heat to simmer.  Let cook this way for 2 hours and 15 minutes.  Check the water level halfway through and add more as necessary. For the oven bake in the water bath at 325.

Bread is done when  skewer stick comes out clean.  If no done, reseal and cook 30 – 40 minutes longer.  Use your best judgement based on the level of wetness at the center when you test it. If you want a faster cook time then use smaller containers or you could even use a muffin pan! I didn’t have a proper can so I used a tin drinking mug I’d gotten from a fair.  Perfect size.

Umm…it was bigger…but the kids and I ate half before I remembered to take a picture. Oops.

Let cool at least 10 minutes before removing from the can. Cool one hour before slicing.

Slice in rounds and serve warm(can be toasted or pan fried) plain or with butter traditionally as a side dish to franks and beans.

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This entry was posted on July 14, 2017 by in bread, cooking and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

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