Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Big Bad Bald Bastard's Best Boston Brown Bread

If you're going to steal, steal from the best, I say. Posting a recipe, I decided I'd crib Laura's "best ever" schtick, leaving out the "E" word for the sake of alliteration.

I have to confess that, although I am a born and bred New York boy, New England looms large in my background. My paternal grandfather was born and raised in Framingham, Massachusetts, and our family would always spend a couple of weeks camping in Maine every summer. One does not readily get New England out of one's blood. Oddly enough, my New England past caught up to me recently (perhaps it's because of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, when everybody in the U.S. gets a little New England-y), and I had a strange craving for Boston brown bread.

Boston brown bread is a throwback to the early days of the settlement of New England, before decent stoves were developed. The multi-grain bread (equal parts rye, corn, and wheat flour) is sweetened with molasses, and steamed in a mold (nowadays, using an empty coffee can is typical). It's not the typical sort of thing I crave, but I inexplicably had a jones for it, and the commercially canned stuff, like Moxie, is not readily available outside of New England. If I wanted it, I'd have to make it myself.

I want to note now that I am, culinarily, strictly a stove-top operator. I am not a baker, in fact, my ability to kill yeast surpasses that of Monistat. Of course, Boston brown bread's not really baked, so I figured I'd be okay. To start my brown bread experiment, I needed a mold. One comment on a Food Network site suggested using the can in which Pepperidge Farm "Pirouette" wafer are packaged. My beautiful co-worker **REDACTED** had one of these on her desk, so I have confess, I had my eyes on her can for quite some time (I was joking with another co-worker, and when I mentioned that I was eyeing **REDACTED**'s can, she asked, "The cookie can? What for?" See, I'm no Herman Cain, so I can get away with such things). Not being a "can shark" (FUTURE BLOG POST?), I decided that I had to buy a can of Pirouette wafers- they are tasty, but a little too sweet, I had them with coffee, to cut down the sweetness factor.

Now that I had the can, I had to assemble the ingredients and get to work. The recipe I used was from Epicurious:

Empty can (I used a "Pirouette" wafer can, because it has a convenient cover)
Oven safe pot

Dry ingredients:

1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:
1/3 cup dark molasses
1 cup milk

Add in:
1/2 cup raisins

Butter for greasing the can

Start off by liberally greasing the can (heh heh), make sure the entire can is well lubed before you continue. Set the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Set saucepan full of water on stove to boil.

Mix dry ingredients, mix wet ingredients, then mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients to form a batter. Add raisins and mix into batter. Pour batter into greased can to approximately 2/3 capacity. Cover can (if using coffee can, use aluminum foil, and tie foil into place) and place in oven safe pot. Fill pot with boiling water to the 2/3 of the can's height. Put pot into oven for two hours. After removing pot, let the whole shebang cool for an hour or so, and then "unmold" bread.

The bread itself is very moist, virtually crustless, with a pronounced molasses flavor... it's kinda like a massive muffin. While it goes well with butter, I imagine it would go really well paired with a mild cheddar cheese, kinda like a Bostonian take on the Jamaican classic bun and cheese. I imagine the recipe could be tweaked, substituting buttermilk for the milk, and playing with the flour proportions and amount of molasses. I think my next batch may have less molasses, as I really don't have much of a sweet tooth.

There you have it, an interesting quick-bread recipe for those of us cack-handed types who can't bake worth a damn.


Laura said...

What a dirty fuck you are! :)

This recipe sounds really, really good.
I've never baked that kind of bread before but I may have to give it a try.
I'm pretty sure that I have a "perfect can" (thanks mostly to God and my Daddy's side of the family) for such a recipe around here somewhere!

Yum! Yum! Yum!

P.S. Thanks for the shout-out!

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said... fact, my ability to kill yeast surpasses that of Monistat.

You're really hamming it up with this post, BBBB!

fish said...

Lots of brown bread in my past. I occasionally get odd looks when I discuss bread from a can.

However, the best bread in Boston comes via the Emerald Isle. The Oven Door Bakery in Southie has the most awesome Irish Brown Bread.

zencomix said...

I'm an old New Englander, now living in Iowa. I saw the cans of Brown Bread on the supermahkit shelf last weekend, but decided against buying a can. I figured the memory of the bread would probably be better than the actual product. But I'm a bread baker, so I might just give this recipe a try.

Glennis said...

I;ve never had Boston brown bread - I have to correct this immediately!

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