Zombie post today while I am in San Francisco looking at old books!
I am subject to many food cravings. Sauerkraut. Pretzels covered with the strange white coating they call “yogurt.” Doritos (once in a blue moon). Dill pickles. Coconut macaroons. Only once before can I remember craving Boston Brown Bread. When I was little, we used to buy cans of it from the grocery store, and slice them to eat with tangy cream cheese from a silver foil-wrapped block.
It is dangerous to revisit favorite foods from childhood, because they often disappoint. The last time I bought B&M Brown Bread in a can, it didn’t taste the way I remembered. And looking it up on Amazon, I saw that the reviews were mixed. Some were delighted with it, while others complained that it was dry and stale. That’s when I decided to try making my own.
Boston brown bread should be moist. Unlike most breads, it is steamed. I suspect that it descends from English steamed puddings, but it uses New World ingredients which were available to the New England colonists: cornmeal and molasses. Rye flour was used in preference to scarcer wheat flour, though whole wheat flour often makes up part of modern recipes. The taste is strong, especially if you use blackstrap molasses. There is no fat, except for a small amount from the buttermilk (I used soy milk with a teaspoon of vinegar). Yet the bread is delightfully moist.
Alton Brown’s recipe is fairly traditional, although it has a few extra touches, like orange zest (I doubt this was readily available to the colonists). It produces a raisin-studded bread that tastes mainly of molasses but has subtle notes of allspice and rye. I was a bit worried about using cans (who knows what strange chemicals might lurk in their linings these days?), so I tried a couple of glass jars instead, and they worked beautifully.
On a second try, I substituted orange marmalade for half the molasses and was very pleased with the result–a lighter flavor with more evident notes of orange.
I have never seen such a thing! Steamed puds, yes. I guess it is kinda similar…
It’s yummy. And contains no lard, which I understand is an occasional ingredient in steamed puddings.
I must confess, I’m more a fan of lard and suet in puddings than I am of molasses 😉
Maybe the molasses is an American thing. I am quite fond of it, and I like the blackstrap kind. I used to eat a spoonful of it every day as an iron supplement 🙂
The Brits love it, too. I never caught on…
I thought the Brits prefer the light “treacle” which is also called “golden syrup.” The Dutch like that too, I notice. They use it instead of maple pancake syrup.
Treacle and golden syrup are two completely different things…
Haha, not according to Wikipedia!
Interesting… I see what you mean… I’ve always taken treacle to be black/dark brown, while golden syrup is, well, golden. I’ve never heard anyone refer to the light-coloured stuff as treacle!
I guess they are like light and dark rum 🙂
robert okaji said:
Ooh, it’s been a while since I’ve made Boston Brown Bread (but not in a can). Served with a delightful mild goat cheese. And now I’m hungry!
Goat cheese would be fantastic on this! And I recommend the orange marmalade 🙂
robert okaji said:
I’ll have to try that!
Lisa @ cheergerm said:
How neat, so much like a steamed plum pudding but simpler and more ‘bready’. I have read of it in novels so great to see it in ‘real life.’
You’ve read of it in novels? Interesting! I am completely hooked on this version of the stuff.
looks very much like a sticky toffee pudding to me 🙂 Sounds nice with tea and cream 🙂 Did you have no problem with closing the jars because of the steam? Looks like you had enough headroom but the main reason why people put greaseproof paper on top and a fold in it is to let the steam escape, but seems to work if you give them enough room 🙂
What they call breads round here is funny to me, coming from the Germanic/Austrian tradition 😉 To me this would be dessert, albeit a tasty one. Have to say though steamed puddings not my things and the more dried fruit and stuff they have the less i lik’em. Christmas pudding! yuck! 😝
I love dark breads baked, looovee soda bread for example 🙂
This is closer to a dark brown bread, more moist and slightly more sweet because of the molasses, but it’s not the kind of thing one would serve for dessert here. It makes a good tea bread. Now, I will have to give some thought to the steam issue. I left plenty of head room for the bread to expand. I didn’t find the bread too wet, especially not at the top end where the lids are, but at the bottom of the jar it is definitely moister. So it would be worth an experiment. Maybe I could punch a couple of holes in the lids.
That sounds like great idea! i don’t think i’ll ever the hang or taste for the in-between things. I love my bread very savoury and anything else is dessert, but then again i’m not into doughy desserts either, dessert in my book must contain one or many of: cream, buttercream, alcohol, fresh fruit , alcohol preserved fruit, custard, whipped cream
Yum, I couldn’t agree more about the creamy dairy products 🙂
You’re in San Francisco? I’m a bit south of you in Pebble Beach (Carmel-by-the-sea-ish.) I thought of going there, but decided it would be more of a challenge than I want to deal with. I’ve never been there, but I’d love to go someday. And eat lots and lots of Asian food. I hope you’ll eat lots and lots of delicious Asian food for me. 🙂
I’ve never heard of brown bread. It sounds delicious…almost like a ginger bread minus the ginger? (I’m thinking of the recipe in the Silver Palate cookbook. If you haven’t tried that ginger bread, you should. It’s predictable, easy to make and delicious.)
I know what you mean about not wanting to revisit childhood cravings. Just the other day we were in Salinas driving around and we ended up in Marina at dinnertime. My husband suddenly flipped a U and said, “I’ve never been to Long John Silver’s.” I said, “Oh. You’re not missing anything.” I’d actually had fond memories of the hushpuppies. Needless to say, we were both so disgusted that we couldn’t eat.
Doritos, on the other hand, never seem to disappoint me. Neither do Ramen noodles, especially the ones you buy at the Asian market. Don’t ever look at the label on those things. The Asian ones have about a week’s worth of sodium in them.
I had a great visit to San Francisco, and yes, the food was great, Asian, Mexican, and several other varieties. We can’t get good Mexican here at all, so that was a highlight for me. Re the brown bread: yes, it is something akin to ginger bread without the ginger. I seem to be hooked on it now, even though I am not usually fond of whole wheat bread.
As a child I often went to Long John Silver’s and like you I remember the hushpuppies. Also the little bits of fried batter you could get as a snack. I wonder whether the quality has actually declined since then, or whether we just didn’t know the difference as kids? But then, what about our parents???
I love ramen noodles but usually have to prepare my own from store-bought, because it’s hard to find a vegetarian version in a restaurant. I use my own broth, and that way I can cut back on the massive sodium.
Glad you had a nice time in San Francisco. It’s on my bucket list.
I remember the “crunchies” as I used to call them! Those were the best. I wonder the same thing about quality vs. memory. I tend to think it’s the latter, but I’ve noticed that even chain restaurants can vary in quality.
Haha…and what about our parents. I have to admit, my parents weren’t exactly foodies.
Homemade ramen is delicious. My vegan friend made me some from store-bought noodles, some kind of broth (I forget what) and a bit of garlic cooked in coconut oil plus veggies and basil. It was so good.
Yeah, it’s easy to make a broth and so yummy! I use vegetable broth and add stuff like tamari and ginger.
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