The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Fannie Farmer's Boston Brown Bread

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Fannie Farmer's Boston Brown Bread

I was browsing through Fannie Farmer's  The Boston School of Cooking Cookbook, 1918, and ran across a recipe for Boston brown bread. It is a steam cooked bread from a batter. A search through the Fresh Loaf found several posts on this bread, mostly from Maggie Glezer's book, made with a fairly stiff dough.

Farmer's recipe calls for 1 cup each of rye meal, corn meal and Graham flour,  ¾ cup molasses, 1 tsp salt, ¾ tbsp soda and 1¾ cup milk or water (or 2 cups sour milk).

I converted to weights as follows:

  • 130g rolled rye (like oatmeal, but from rye)
  • 130g cornmeal
  • 150g whole wheat flour
  • 11g baking soda
  • 6g salt
  • 240g molasses (I was a little short so made up the difference with blackstrap molasses)
  • 400g milk
I whisked the dry ingredients together, added the milk and molasses and mixed well. The batter was poured into a buttered melon mold, the lid was secured and it was put on a trivet in a stock pot. I poured boiling water around the mold to halfway up, covered the pot and set the stove-top's burner to simmer.

From the crumb pic, you can see that the bread fell before completely setting up. I think this was due to my bumping the pot about an hour into the steaming. After 3½ hours, I turned the burner off and allowed the whole thing to cool enough that I could lift the mold from the water bath; then turned it out to cool on the rack.

That was Monday evening. Tuesday morning I cut a slice. The taste was of sweet cornbread with a strong rye kick. Using the rolled rye adds a texture that complements the density of the bread. I might try using all blackstrap molasses next time, as the corn and rye pretty much cover the molasses flavor — and I like molasses.

Each day, the flavor and mouth feel have improved. By today, Thursday, the flavors have melded much like leftover stew and the bread still has moisture with no sign of staling. Opening the bread box brings a wonderful corn+rye aroma into the kitchen. Heated and spread with butter, you have breakfast Nirvana.


The molded bread. Notice the melon mold in the rear.

My mom would yell at me for running through the kitchen while a cake was in the oven; now I grok in fullness why.

Comments

sunnspot9's picture
sunnspot9

I just watched a good-eats episode last night on youtube and he made boston brown bread very similar to what you have made except he put the whole works in the oven, i like the melon mold, i've never seen that b4, [drools]

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

I got mine at Amazon.  This and another pudding mold that's like a smaller bundt pan.

I'm planning on getting a roasting pan that will hold my Pullman pan, so I can steam pumpernickel in the oven. I will try it with the Boston brown bread, too.

cheers,

gary

//edit: typo fixed

charbono's picture
charbono

Your bread sure sounds good.  I have avoided making BBB because of all the soda required.  (I try to limit sodium.)  Instead, I've made yeasted "thirded" breads with little success.

Did you roll the rye yourself?  Do you think scalding the cornmeal would be an improvement?

 

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

It is good, and has gotten better every day. In a one person household, that's a Good Thing™. The aroma is wonderful still,  now four days later.

I wouldn't think think that the soda in a slice of this would pose a risk. IANAD, but there is a significent risk in too low a sodium intake. See:

http://www.nature.com/ajh/journal/v25/n1/abs/ajh2011210a.html (American Journal of Hypertension)

http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=899663 (Journal of the AMA)

http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1105553 (JAMA)

http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/34/3/703.full (American Diabetes Association)

cheers,

gary

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

I've had this niggling worry that I'd forgotten something; sure enough,  I had.

The rolled rye came from the bulk bin at either Whole Foods or Central Market. I don't recall which. I don't think scalding or precooking the cornmeal would be worth the effort. Remember, this bread is "baked" in a covered pot of boiling water for 3½ hours. That should be sufficient for any grain.

cheers,

gary

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

OK ...Hey, thanks for sharing!  I'm going to try this one next.  I just baked Hamelman's baked version of Boston brown bread and it was like "bread candy" ...so good!  I used my pullman pan and baked it as he prescribed instead of steaming ... but I think I'll try this 1918 recipe next!  (Did I ever mention that I also love visiting Boston?)

Brian

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

I like to say I have never been high; at least, not that I can remember. Likewise, I have never been to Boston. One of these days, maybe.

cheers,

gary

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

I have never tried making it in such a large form.  I suspect that it may have been simply too heavy to support itself.

I add raisins and walnuts, and steam it in a can with a foil-covered cloth top tied over the ends with butcher's twine.

And make sure you remove both ends of the can so you can get the resulting bread out.

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

about it being too heavy to support itself, it finishes at 2 lbs, give or take. It is the recipe amount and the proper mold, as called for in the book. Until I try again more carefully and with the same results, I'll presume I did it wrongly, and not Ms Farmer. ;-p

As a kid, I loved raisin bread and pecans in my brownies. Now, not so much. :shrug:

cheers,

gary