Baking

Boston Brown Bread

Old Fashioned Brown Bread

I found a recipe for brown bread online that calls for more sour milk than my usual recipe, the one my Gram always made.  I had a lot of sour milk to use up and decided to give this old-fashioned recipe a whirl. I’ll give you both recipes here along with my thoughts on each.

Find more uses for sour milk in my article Sour Milk – Don’t Toss it Out!

A Tale of Two Brown Bread Recipes

This first recipe is the one that uses more sour milk. It produced a very chewy, hearty loaf of bread that was mildly sweet from the molasses but also had a bit of tang to it from the sour milk. It takes a very long time to steam. I suspect that this is a very old recipe that was used when eggs were not available in the winter, possibly going back to colonial days.

Boston Brown Bread

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup graham flour ( I used 6-grain flour)
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1 2/3 cups thick sour milk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Sift flour and cornmeal into a bowl. Combine baking soda with sour milk to dissolve the soda. Combine all ingredients and stir together. Pour batter into a greased coffee can (I used a Pyrex loaf pan). Steam for 4 hours, then bake in 350 F oven for half an hour. Makes 1 loaf.

My Gram’s Recipe

Next is the recipe I have always used in the past. It makes a more tender, sweet loaf of bread. This is the recipe that I prefer. The original recipe that my Mom and Gram used comes from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. I changed things up just a little.

Boston Brown Bread

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (I use 6-grain flour)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
  • 1/4 cornmeal (I use corn flour for a finer texture)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sour milk
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cooking oil (I use melted lard)
  • 1/3 cup raisins ( I increase to 1/2 cup)

In a mixing bowl, stir together all dry ingredients. In another bowl, combine all wet ingredients. Add to flour mixture and stir until well combined. Stir raisins into batter.

Pour batter into a well-greased 4 to 4 1/2 cup heatproof bowl or pan. Cover with greased foil (foil side down) and place on a rack set in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Pour hot water into a Dutch oven, around the bread pan, until water comes up 1 inch from the bottom of the bread pan. Bring to boiling, reduce heat, and cover. Simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the bread comes out clean. Add additional boiling water as needed.

Remove the bread pan from the Dutch oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Remove bread from the pan and serve warm.

I love the taste and texture of this old-fashioned recipe. It reminds me of my Grandma P’s kitchen. She would steam her Boston Brown Bread in a metal bowl. It came out of the bowl as a fragrant half sphere of down-home goodness. We slathered it with margarine (that’s what Gram kept in her fridge) and munched on it while it was still warm.

This recipe goes well with baked beans and ham or ham and bean soup. It also makes a tasty snack for breakfast when you heat it up and drizzle a little honey over it.

What recipes do you remember from your Grandmother’s kitchen? Do you still make them? Leave a comment!

11 Comments on “Boston Brown Bread

  1. Ok. My bread is in the oven. But what oven temperature should I be starting out at? I started at 400 degrees thinking the water needed to come to a boil – but maybe I should have just added boiling water to the pan (to come up 1″) to start with? Please clarify. And I’ve since lowered it to 350 degrees. But the Better Homes Cook Book never stated the Oven Temp in the Recipe! Ugg! So I’m guessing. I saw a lot of breads cooked at 375. But this recipe also says 2 to 2 1/4 hours, really? that’s a long time. I was wondering if I should check the bread in one hour? Nervous.

    1. Hi Maria,
      I’m sorry I didn’t see this question sooner. Yes…the bread really does take that long to cook! I hope your loaf came out well. When I am feeling up to it, I will make this recipe again…I’ve been missing my Gram and her cooking.

  2. Ok. My bread is in the oven. But what oven temperature should I be starting out at? I started at 400 degrees thinking I needed the water to come to a boil – but maybe I should have just added boiling water to the pan (to come up 1″)? And I’ve since lowered it to 350 degrees. But the Better Homes Cook Book never stated the Oven Temp! Ugg! So I’m guessing. I saw a lot of breads cooked at 375. But this recipe also says 2 to 2 1/4 hours, really? that’s a long time. I was wondering if I should check the bread in one hour? Nervous.

  3. Question: you said “until water covers 1 inch of the bread pan” do you mean comes up the side of the bread pan one inch is over top of the bread pan one inch? It couldn’t be over the top (yet you say covered) or you would have water in the bread pan even with foil.

  4. It looks yummy. I need to buy some corn for corn meal and I think I’ll give it a try. I’m always looking for breads I can do on the wood stove. I’ve even done biscuits in a dutch oven when the power went out. (Someday I hope to have a wood cook stove. 🙂 ) Unfortunately my Grandmothers died when I was younger and I never really had the chance to learn from them. So much knowledge that wasn’t passed on.

    1. Hi Missy,
      I hope to have a wood cook stove someday too 🙂 There are some beautiful models for sale through Lehman’s, but the one I like is around $5K! Yikes!

      I’m so sorry that you didn’t have your Grandmothers in your life for very long. I was very blessed to have so many years with mine. I was just talking to my Mom about my Grandma P. Good memories 🙂

      Have a great day!

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