Have you heard of Boston brown bread?
Sadly, it’s a slowly fading American tradition rarely found outside of New England today. Thanks to its shape, it’s also known as coffee tin bread. Traditionally, folks made it in tall, skinny canisters — and later on, in tin coffee cans.
Boston brown bread is soft, moist, and dense. Baking soda historically serves as its leavening agent and molasses lends it a dark hue. It’s made from the same whole grains — wheat, rye, and corn — that were so abundant during the early American colonies through the late 19th century.
Real ovens were a luxury back then, therefore brown bread was steamed in a pot of water over an open fire, yielding its heavy, moist texture.
Personally, I love Boston brown bread with goat cheese. In New England, it’s still popular served with baked beans, franks, and clam bakes. I can attest that it is delicious with butter, cream cheese, or any sweet jams.
However you enjoy it, know that you’re eating real, nourishing, unprocessed food!
Makes 1 loaf.
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- ⅔ cup milk, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons active sourdough starter (or 2 teaspoons dry yeast)
- ½ cup molasses
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- ¾ cup whole ground rye flour
- ¾ cup whole ground wheat flour (I used spelt in the photo)
- ¾ cup fine cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup raisins
- Whisk buttermilk, milk, and sourdough starter together.
- Add molasses and butter, whisking well to combine.
- Stir in flours and salt.
- Then fold in raisins.
- Cover, then leave at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours, or overnight.
- When ready to bake, add 4 cups water and trivet (with handles up) to insert pot of pressure cooker.
- Butter sides of baking dish (I use this souffle dish), or line with parchment paper.
- Transfer dough into baking dish, then carefully lower dish into cooker.
- Then put on the lid of your cooker, checking that the seals and all components are in good shape, including being in the sealing position.
- If using an electric cooker, set to high for 50 minutes. Or if using a stove-top cooker, bring to high pressure and maintain pressure for a cook time of 50 minutes.
- Once cycle is complete, quick release pressure.
- Remove baking dish by holding trivet handles.
- Finally, let bread cool completely in dish before removing and serving. Enjoy!
Since it’s important to retain moisture when baking Boston brown bread, pressure cooking is just perfect! Instead of taking 3+ hours to bake, it’s done in about an hour.
In my version, I tossed the ingredients with sourdough starter instead of baking soda. However, if you wind up over-fermenting the dough until it’s too sour, feel free to add some baking soda to reduce the sourness.
I changed the traditional loaf shape for the sake of convenience, but you can use any vessel that fits in your pressure cooker. I used this 2-quart porcelain souffle dish.
Have you ever heard of Boston brown bread? Will you try it?
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