Saturday, November 28, 2009

Boston Brown Bread (Page 602)

RECIPE #1049

  • Date: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Brad, Deniz, Karen H, Dave, and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I had put off making this recipe for quite some time because I didn't have the coffee cans I needed to steam the bread in. Finally I decided just to buy some coffee in cans so I could make this recipe. I started by buttering my coffee cans and lining the bottoms with parchment. Then I sifted together flour, cornmeal, and salt. I heated molasses in a saucepan and added baking soda and buttermilk. I gently stirred that into the flour mixture. I tossed raisins in flour then added them to the batter. I poured the batter into the coffee cans, covered each tightly with foil, then set them on a steamer rack in a big pot. I poured boiling water around the cans until it reached halfway up the sides of the cans, then I covered the pot and steamed the bread at a simmer for about 1 hour. Then I removed the loaves from the cans. Here's what the bread looked like when it came out of the can:

This Boston Brown Bread was very tasty! It had a lovely moist texture and a great flavor. It had a bran muffin quality to it but without all the fat that is typically found in bran muffins. We ate this with baked beans (as shown above) and also just spread with cream cheese, and it was delicious both ways! I also enjoyed making this, as I don't typically make steamed breads. It was a new adventure! This recipe is a keeper.

This recipe isn't online.

I distinctly remember my first encounter with Boston Brown Bread. When I was in graduate school I volunteered ever Sunday on the lunch shift at a homeless women's shelter in Boston. When I walked in Sunday morning I would always ask, "What's for lunch today?" One morning the answer was, "Brown bread and baked beans." I remember thinking, "Most bread is brown... What kind of brown bread?" I assumed that the term Brown Bread referred to some dark wheat or pumpernickel bread. Little did I know that Brown Bread refers to a very specific traditional Boston food.

Later in the meal, the meal manager asked me, "Teena, could you grab the Brown Bread and get it ready." I responded, "Sure." Then started my search for this Brown Bread. I scoured the kitchen for dark bread, looking in the bread box, the walk-in, on the shelves, etc... The only bread I found was white, so baffled, I went back to the meal manager to admit I couldn't find it. She looked at me, confused, and said, "It's right on the counter." I looked at the counter, she looked at the counter, and when it was clear that I wasn't making the connection she pointed at a whole bunch of cans. I walked over, and indeed, half of the cans were labeled Baked Beans and the other half were labeled Brown Bread. This was my first experience with bread in a can.

Only later would I learn that Brown Bread is traditionally cooked in a can, and this canned version you can buy is not so different from what you would traditionally steam in the can at home. But at the time it mystified me, that bread in a can.

After we made the food and served the guests at the shelter, the volunteers ate lunch. I tentatively took a bite of the Brown Bread and Baked Beans that day, only to discover that I liked it. It's better, of course, when it is made fresh, but unfortunately it is hard to find in bakeries outside of New England. Fortunately, I now know how to make it at home!


Melissa said...

I Love brown bread! My husband has lived in Boston all his life and had never had it until I made him try it. Bread in a can is so under rated!

Teena said...

Yeah, it is so much better than it seems like it would be!

mish said...

I've never had brown bread so figured I'd try the recipe in the book. It calls for 2 13-oz coffee cans. I'm adding up the ingredients and I get to 5 cups, though. Will it all fit in the can as described?

Teena said...

I followed the recipe exactly and everything fit in the cans just fine!