Classic New England Steamed Brown Bread

November 30th, 2011 / Comments 3

flour c egbert Classic New England Steamed Brown Bread Making sour dough bread from scratch is a long process. Gathering wild yeast and cultivating a sour dough starter takes a week and then it takes another twenty-four hours to make the bread. Active dry yeast from the grocery store reduces the time to a more manageable three to four hours plus the extra half hour it takes to cleanup after kneading the dough and forming the loaves. Breads leavened with baking soda or baking powder, are quicker, but baking bread in the oven requires that I not stray far from the kitchen so that the bread can be taken out of the oven at precisely the right moment. If all these facts make you unwilling to make bread at home, consider the ease and freedom of steamed brown bread.

Steamed brown bread is leavened with baking soda and baking powder so there’s no wild yeast to gather. The soft dough, simply made in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon, is poured it into greased containers, covered and steamed. Steaming, a more gentle way of cooking, rather than baking has a more flexible cooking time. Brown bread steamed in a slow cooker is the least demanding bread I’ve ever made. Here’s how I did it:

Classic New England Steamed Brown Bread
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Recipe type: Bread
Author: Carol Egbert
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 2 hours
Total time: 2 hours 10 mins
Serves: 2 small loaves
Flavored with molasses, spices and orange rind, this batter bread is lovely smeared with cream cheese or butter. It can be served with a pot of tea for breakfast or with a bowl of chowder for supper.
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup currants
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
Instructions
  1. Whisk together whole wheat flour, rye flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, allspice, ginger and currants.
  2. Add molasses, milk, yogurt, vanilla and orange zest. Stir until well combined.
  3. Divide batter between prepared jars. Cover each jar tightly with two layers of aluminum foil.
  4. Put jars into slow cooker, add hot water to surround jars to a depth of 2 inches.
  5. Cover slow cooker, steam bread on high for 2 to 3 hours. Bread is cooked when a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  6. Cool bread for 15 minutes before removing from jars. Cool completely before cutting.
Notes

2 straight-sided, 1 pint canning jars sprayed with nonstick spray or greased with soften butter. Brown bread can also be cooked in tin cans, loaf pans or other molds set on a rack, in large pot with two inches of water. The molds should be well greased with either butter or non-stick spray and filled two-thirds full.
The bread can be steamed in a slow cooker large enough to accomodate jars or a large stock pot with a rack.
Chopped dates or dried apricots can be used in place of the raisins and the spices can be adjusted to suit your palate.

After I rinsed out the batter bowl, Charles and I took Gracie for a walk in the meadow. We met Susan who was walking with her dogs Emma and Mousse. We were enjoying walking, chatting and laughing, as the dogs tumbled and tussled over balls and sticks, and I forgot about the bread steaming in the slow cooker. When we got home, the timer was beeping. I removed the aluminum foil, and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf came out clean. It was perfectly cooked even though it had been steaming for an extra half hour. I cooled the bread for ten minutes before unmolding it, then cooled the bread completely on a wire rack before slicing and toasting it. I served it with a smear of cream cheese.

Steamed brown bread is a true American creation often served with baked beans for the Sunday meal. In the 17th century white flour was considered fancy and rye, whole wheat and cornmeal were plentiful and inexpensive. Steaming was an effective way to make bread without an oven. It can also be cooked in tin cans, loaf pans or other molds set on a rack, in large pot with two inches of water. The molds should be well greased with either butter or non-stick spray and filled two-thirds full. Chopped dates or dried apricots can be used in place of the raisins and the spices can be adjusted to suit your palate.

I think of this recipe as a ‘half recipe’, I leave it to you to figure out why. 

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• 3 Responses to “Classic New England Steamed Brown Bread”

  • Peter Moraitis says:

    Hi Carol,

    As a keen bread-baker I’m always interested in new recipes. I bake a sour dough loaf using a starter I keep in the fridge and I’ve never steamed bread. But I’d like to give it a go ( is that an Australian expression? ). so two questions
    1) how does the bread steam if the jar is sealed with foil? Or is it just the heat of the water that cooks the bread?
    2) Can I substitute a mix of wholemeal and white wheat flour instead of the rye etc?

    Hope you and Charles are both well and that Charles wows his Sicilian friends when he greets them early next year.

    Cheers
    peter

    • Carol says:

      Hello,
      Yes its the heat from the steam that cooks the bread and yes you certainly can substitute wheat flours for the rye. I also use the term ‘Give it a go’. Nice to hear from you.

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