Boston brown bread

    2 hours 45 min

    Being steamed rather than baked, this mixed-grain bread has a soft crust and close texture. It gets its dark, rich colour and flavour from molasses. It was created by American settlers in the days before most homes had ovens.

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    Serves: 12 

    • 225 g (8 oz) self-raising wholemeal flour
    • 225 g (8 oz) rye flour
    • 225 g (8 oz) cornmeal or polenta
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • 200 g (7 oz) raisins
    • 150 ml (5 fl oz) blackstrap molasses
    • 600 ml (1 pint) buttermilk
    • 4 tbsp semi-skimmed milk

    Prep:30min  ›  Cook:2hr15min  ›  Ready in:2hr45min 

    1. To make this bread, you need a tall cylindrical tin with a solid base, or a clean, empty coffee can about 15 cm (6 in) in diameter and at least 18 cm (7 in) tall. It should have a capacity of at least 2.2 litres (4 pints). If using a coffee can, you may find the top has a lip, which would make it difficult to remove the bread after cooking. Either cut it off with a sharp tin opener; or cut off the base, cover the sharp edges with masking tape, and use the lidded end as the base. Lightly grease your tin and line the bottom with baking parchment.
    2. Put the wholemeal and rye flours, cornmeal, salt, bicarbonate of soda and raisins in a bowl. Mix thoroughly, and make a well in the centre.
    3. Combine the molasses, buttermilk and milk in a saucepan and heat, stirring, until barely warm. Pour into the well in the flour mixture and quickly stir together. Spoon into the prepared tin. Cover the top of the tin with a pleated piece of oiled greaseproof paper, then with a pleated piece of foil, and tie them on tightly with string.
    4. Place the tin on a trivet in a large pan and pour in enough boiling water to come three-quarters of the way up the side of the tin. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid (if you don’t have a pan that is deep enough, use a dome of foil to cover the pan instead of a lid). Steam for 2 1/4 hours – the water should be just bubbling very gently. Check from time to time, and top up with more boiling water if needed.
    5. Remove the tin from the water and allow the bread to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
    6. To serve, cut across into rounds, then cut each round into halves or quarters, if liked. The bread can be kept, wrapped in greaseproof paper and then in foil, in a cool place for up to 4 days.

    Each slice provides

    B6 * B1, B2, niacin, copper, iron, potassium, selenium, zinc

    Plus points

    Blackstrap molasses is the most nutritious type of molasses. A by-product of sugar refining, it contains iron, calcium, copper, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and zinc. * Rye is an important cereal crop in parts of Central Europe, such as Russia and Germany, and in Scandinavia, and is the basis for those countries’ traditional breads. Nutritious rye flour offers B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, copper, zinc and fibre.

    Another idea

    Make Chicago pumpernickel bread, also known as black bread (the recipe was taken from Germany to America’s Mid-West in the 19th century). You need 2 clean, empty 400 g fruit cans. Grease the cans and line the bottom with baking parchment. Mix together 55 g (2 oz) plain flour, 55 g (2 oz) rye flour, 55 g (2 oz) fine semolina, ¼ tsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp ground mixed spice. Gently warm 4 tbsp blackstrap molasses with 240 ml (8 fl oz) buttermilk until combined. Add to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Divide the mixture between the cans, then cover and steam for 2 hours.

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