Boston Brown Bread

Print

Holy North End Batman, this molasses-rich, dense brown bread from Hank is good. We’ve made it four times in the last month. Yum! ~Elise

Boston Brown bread makes me think of my mother, a native of Ipswich, Massachusetts. Disks of deep brown “bread”—brown bread is chewy, with a density approaching traditional pumpernickel—studded with raisins and fried in butter. Lots of butter. Brown bread was part of my mom’s weekly rotation, and it was always served alongside baked beans with plenty of salt pork in them, as well as hot dogs that, like the bread, were also fried in butter. Healthy, eh? Maybe not, but it sure hits the spot on a cold Saturday night.

Brown bread is usually steamed, not baked, in a hot water bath. You can do this in one of two ways, in the oven or on the stovetop. This bread will take some time to cook. The slow steaming helps soften the corn meal.

Traditionally brown bread is made in an old coffee can, but it can be made in any small loaf pan. Brown bread is dense, so you don’t need too much to get filled up. I recommend making only one batch at a time, I have found it works better than doubling up a batch.

In addition to being an accompaniment to baked beans and franks, we used to eat brown bread—again, fried in butter—for breakfast, drizzled with maple syrup. I have no idea how else to eat Boston brown bread. It was a curiosity in New Jersey, where we lived, and my mother was the only one I knew who served it. Any New Englanders out there? How do you eat your brown bread?

Boston Brown Bread Recipe

Print
  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6.

Do your best to find the rye flour. It adds a lot to the flavor of the finished bread.

Ingredients

  • Butter for greasing loaf pans or coffee cans
  • 1/2 cup (heaping) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (heaping) rye flour
  • 1/2 cup (heaping) finely ground corn meal (must be finely ground)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 cup molasses (any kind)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  • One metal 6-inch tall by 4-inch diameter coffee can, or a 4x8 loaf pan

Method

1 You can either make this in the oven or the stovetop, and you can either make this with a loaf pan or a metal coffee can. If you are using the oven method, preheat the oven to 325° and bring a large pot of water to a boil. If you are using the stovetop method, set the steamer rack inside a tall stockpot and fill the pot with enough water to come 1/3 of the way up the sides of your coffee can. Turn the burner on to medium as you work.

2 Grease a coffee can or small loaf pan with butter. In a large bowl, mix the all-purpose flour, rye flour, corn meal, baking powder and soda, salt and allspice. Add the raisins if using.

3 In another bowl, mix together the buttermilk and vanilla extract if using. Whisk in the molasses. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir well with a spoon.

boston-brown-bread-1.jpg

4 Pour the batter into the coffee can or loaf pan taking care that the batter not reach higher than 2/3 up the sides of the container.

boston-brown-bread-2.jpg

5 Cover the loaf pan or coffee can tightly with foil. If you are using the stovetop method, set the can in the pot, cover and turn the heat to high. If you are using the oven method, find a high-sided roasting pan that can hold the coffee can or loaf pan. Pour the boiling water into the roasting pan until it reaches one third up the side of the coffee can or loaf pan. Put the roasting pan into the oven. Steam the bread for at least 2 hours and 15 minutes. Check to see if the bread is done by inserting a toothpick into it. If the toothpick comes out clean, you're ready. If not, recover the pan and cook for up to another 45 minutes.

brown-bread-3.jpgbrown-bread-4.jpg

6 Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before putting on a rack. Let the bread cool for 1 hour before turning out of the container.

7 Slice and eat plain, or toast in a little butter in a frying pan.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to Boston Brown Bread on Simply Recipes. Thank you!

Print

Links:
Gluten-Free Brown Bread - from No Gluten Required
Boston Brown Bread Ice Cream - from David Lebovitz
Brown Bread Muffins - from The Dogs Eat the Crumbs

boston-brown-bread-b.jpg
Boston brown bread with franks and baked beans

Never miss a recipe!

Subscribe to Simply Recipes free via email:

Showing 4 of 103 Comments

  • Muriel

    Am I the only person that thought the bread was a wee bit too salty? I think I will try again, but with only half the salt.

  • Melodie

    I am originally from the east coast but now live in Mississippi. The only time we ever had brown bread was on Thanksgiving and Christmas just warm with butter.

  • Pete

    I grew up in Cincinnati but went to college at Holy Cross in Worcester Mass. in the 1960’s. The College dining hall was not a cafeteria; there was only one selection at each meal. Boston brown bread, baked beans and hot dogs were a staple on Saturday or Sunday nights. I still miss it.

  • C. J. Catskills

    Pressure Cooker Brown Bread – This reply is about 4 years late, but yes, it works! Brown Bread lovers of the world, rejoice! There are lots of posts out there about it now. Also, for those who don’t want to buy a 1 lb. coffee can just for the can, fantes.com sells stainless steel “Boston Brown Bread Pans” for a little under $6. I also use if for baking small round yeast breads for egg sandwhiches.

    You can also safely use straight-sided 1 pint Ball/Kerr jelly jars or 1 1/2 pint (harder to find) canning jars in the pressure cooker but you need to reduce the cooking time. When they are done, just pop lids on them and tuck them into the freezer. They store much better that way than plastic bags.

    To pressure cook your can of BBB, fill the can as directed, cover the top with foil, tie it with twine, put it on a trivet, fill with water at least 2/3rds of the way up the side and cook at high pressure for 45 minutes. Use the rapid release method. Remove from the pressure cooker immediately, test for doneness, place on a rack and remove the foil hat. Allow to air dry for 15-20minutes and remove from the can. You may want to dry the top in the oven for a few minutes. I don’t bother. If it isn’t quite done, stick it back into the steamer, bring the pressure back up, cook for another 5-10 minutes and test again. Some sites suggest first simmering the bread for 15-20 minutes with the top on but not locked, and then cooking under pressure for 40 minutes. (This is similar to a method used for English steamed puddings). I haven’t tried that method.
    .

View More Comments / Leave a Comment