As a kid, it was a magical thing to watch my mom make this Boston Brown Bread. It was steamed in a coffee can or an old B&M Beans can (apparently, this is the ideal size, according to my mother). Sure, she could have bought an already-cooked bread in a can at the grocery store, but why would she do that when we could have the much-better, homemade version — chewy and dense, a deep molasses flavor, and bursting with sweet raisins?
So, on a recent dreary, rainy day in Florida (thank goodness we don’t get many of these), I spent the afternoon in my kitchen, armed with a list of favorite recipes. My husband was especially excited to try this bread, since he had never seen anything cooked in a can on the stove.
The recipe we’ve used in my New England family for decades is very easy. It’s a one-bowl project with just a little bit of prep time to boil the raisins in water, then let them cool before adding to the batter.
Here’s what it looks like in the steam pan (notice my “chic” can of chicory coffee from New Orleans!):
Before putting the lid on, I put a piece of foil over the can so steam didn’t make the top of the bread wet. After about 1.5 hours, I inserted a long bamboo skewer through the top. When it came out clean, I removed it from the pot and let it cool.
To remove the bread from the can, I simply used a can opener to open the other end and pushed the bread through using the bottom lid. This is what it looks like when you remove the bread from the can:
And here’s what it looks like when it’s sliced, topped with a slab of salted butter. A delicious treat that you might like to try if you’re looking for a new flavor sensation. P.S. it’s particularly good in the toaster the next morning (along with another slab of salted butter).
- 1 c. raisins
- 1½ tsp. baking soda
- 1 c. whole wheat flour
- 1 c. rye flour
- 1 c. yellow cornmeal
- 1½ tsp. salt
- 2 c. buttermilk
- ¾ c. molasses
- Wash out two coffee cans or baked beans cans (either works fine). No need to grease or coat the cans in any way.
- Fill a large soup pot with water to cover about half the height of your can. Cover and bring to a low boil.
- In a small sauce pan, mix water and raisins and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda. Allow to cool.
- Mix flours, cornmeal and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine.
- In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk and molasses and stir to combine.
- Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients, along with raisins AND water.
- Stir gently to combine, making sure the raisins are fully coated.
- Transfer batter to the cans and place a small piece of aluminum foil over each.
- Place cans in steaming water and cover with lid.
- Allow to simmer on LOW for up to 2 hours.
- After about 1.5 hours, check with a cake tester/bamboo skewer and when it comes out clean, they're done!
- Remove from water and allow to cool.
- Use a can opener to remove the bottom of the can and push the cake through with the lid.