New England Brown Bread

This yeast-free quick bread is popular in New England, hence its name. It is similar to Irish soda bread but the addition of cornmeal and the fact that it is steamed rather than baked suggests a native American influence. Traditionally it is made with whole wheat flour, rye flour, and cornmeal; a mixture known in New England as simply brown bread flour. I replaced the whole wheat with another New England favorite, white buckwheat flour, making it suitable for most people who avoid wheat. Note, though, that it is not gluten-free because the rye flour does contain a small amount of gluten. It is sweetened with molasses or sometimes maple syrup and usually contains raisins, dried currants, or dried cranberries. Most recipes call for milk or buttermilk but I had neither on hand so I substituted watered-down yoghurt.

The hardest part of this recipe is finding a suitable metal coffee can because so many are now plastic and the metal ones tend to be only 10 ounces. Chock-Full-O-Nuts still comes in 12-ounce metal cans. It comes with a peel-off foil inner lid so use a can opener to remove the rim.



Butter for greasing

As needed


Rye flour

3 ounces (½ cup)

85 grams

White buckwheat flour

3 ounces (½ cup)

85 grams

Cornmeal, white or yellow

3 ounces (½ cup)

85 grams

Baking soda

1 teaspoon

5 grams (5 ml)

Baking powder

½ teaspoon

2 grams (2 ml)

Plain yoghurt

2 tablespoons

30 ml

Cold water

About 1 cup

About 250 ml

Dark molasses

4 ounces (⅓ cup)

115 grams

Dried cranberries or raisins

½ cup, approx.

50 grams


Place a trivet into the bottom of stock pot and add water to come about half way up the can. Bring to a boil as you prepare the batter.

Grease the inside of the can with butter. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Put the yoghurt into a measuring cup and add water to make 1 cup (250 ml). Add the molasses to the liquid and mix well. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, beating gently. Fold in the dried fruit then turn the batter into the can. Cover with a square of aluminum foil and secure with a rubber band.

Place the can of batter onto the trivet in the boiling water in the stock pot. Cover and either steam over heat just high enough to maintain a gentle boil or place into a 250°F (120°C) oven. (The latter is especially good if you are making baked beans with which to serve the brown bread.) Cook for about 1 hour and 15 minutes then check for doneness with a toothpick. Allow to stand for a few minutes before inverting the can and gently tapping out the bread. Serve hot with butter.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: