When I was young, B&M Boston Brown Bread (straight from the can) and baked beans were the traditional side dishes for hot dogs or hamburgers. I’m sure there was a bowl of fruit, too, but this was probably the only meal my mom made that wasn’t accompanied by at least one vegetable. Rarely did we get a meal that didn’t have a protein, a starch, a fruit, a vegetable, and milk. I still feel guilty if I don’t follow this rule.
A bite of Boston Brown Bread – sweet, a little grainy, and full of plump raisins – immediately takes me back in time. I made some today that tastes exactly the same, and it wasn’t difficult at all, once I figured out the best way to steam it.
Traditionally, homemade Boston Brown Bread is baked in coffee cans. I can’t bring myself to do this (nasty BPA linings) so I tried some in a standard loaf pan. Meh. Just not the same. I made some in tubular canape pans, and that worked very well, but they were too tall for most of my steaming options.
I sent an e-mail to King Arthur Flour (whose catalog is dog-eared even more than my seed catalogs) and begged them to make brown bread pans, about the size of large bean cans. Ideally they’d have tight fitting (or screw-on) bottoms. Their customer service wrote back to me, saying it was a great idea and they’d pass it along to the right people. I’m desperately hoping that this wasn’t a form letter – that they’ll really consider manufacturing these. I know I’d buy several, and I’d browbeat all of you to do the same so I didn’t look like a total idiot!
Update: I contacted them again six months later, and though the pan is still on their “Customer Wish List”, they have no plans of adding them to their line. So…I wrote to USA Pans to see what they would say. Their pans are made in the USA and are PTFE free, a big plus for me. I’ll keep you posted.
For now, my best results came from the canape pans, using my big pressure canner as a steamer – not locking the lid, of course. Any kind of tall pot with a lid will work, as long as the lid can fit over the upright canape pans that are sitting on a rack in the pan.
Here’s my recipe:
|Boston Brown Bread (without the can!)|| |
- 1 cup rye flour
- 1 cup corn flour (or you can put cornmeal in the blender briefly for finer texture)
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1¼ cup molasses
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1 cup raisins
- Generously butter (or use a baking spray with flour - my favorite method) the insides of the tubular canape pans. Put a piece of foil over the bottom of each pan and place each firmly into their bottom caps. Put a larger piece of foil on a flat surface. Set one of the canape pans in the middle and bring up the foil, wrapping the pan snugly almost to the top. (This will keep any water from getting in from the bottom.) Repeat with the other two pans. Set aside.
- In a very tall pot with a rack on the bottom, add about 2-3 inches of water. Bring it to a simmer while you're making the batter.
- Blend the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the molasses, vanilla, buttermilk, and raisins.
- Stir the molasses mixture into the flour mixture until it is well combined.
- Divide the batter between the three canape pans, approximately ⅔ full. Cover the tops with a piece of foil, pressing around the sides firmly.
- Set on the rack in the simmering water. Cover. Turn heat up to medium and allow the bread to cook for about an hour and a half, checking the water level occasionally. You may need to pour in a little more water if it gets too low.
- Test with a long skewer to make sure the bread is cooked through.
- Move the pans to a cooling rack and remove the top foil. The bread should be pulling slightly away from the pan. Allow them to cool for an hour, and then remove the foil and bottom cap and press gently on the end of the bread. It should slide right out of the pan. Cool completely before slicing and serving.
Some people steam their bread in the oven. I tried it, and found that the bread didn’t bake as evenly. But if you don’t have a pot tall enough for the stovetop method, use the tallest oven-proof one you have and follow the same procedure. Just lay a loose foil tent over the top. Bake for about 1 1/2 -2 hours at 325 F.
This bread ages well; it just keeps getting better and better. The flavors stand out even more after a couple of days of rest – if you can keep it around that long! Refrigerating can dry it out, so make sure you keep it well wrapped if you like it cold. I do…with a scraping of butter. And beans and hot dogs on the side!