As mentioned in the previous post, when March approaches I get nostalgic. Much of this is brought on by St. Paddy’s Day, since I was raised outside of Boston. I recall it as a hugely anticipated day-long event packed with celebrations, all culminating with aromatic corned beef, cabbage, and all the trimmings.
Another much loved food from those days is irreplaceable Boston Brown Bread, a must have accompaniment with famed Boston Baked Beans. Whenever I see a brown bread recipe, I automatically save it. I’m not sure why I collect them, because there is nothing complicated about it: just a basic bread using baking soda for leavener, with a combination of hearty flours like rye and wheat—and of course cornmeal. Buttermilk is the standard liquid, and molasses is a key ingredient which supplies mild sweetness along with its signature flavor. Raisins or currants are negotiable.
Boston Brown Bread is a quirky boiled/steamed bread with a history that likely goes back centuries. In more recent times, the practice of using a coffee can as a cooking mold has become linked with its now characteristic round shape.
I must confess until this March I had never made Boston Brown Bread. I may have been caught up in its mystic, but the idea of boiling bread in a water bath for an hour just seemed a little too remote.
That is all pre-multi-cooker. Now, I am so smitten by the Instant Pot’s flexibility that I seek out challenges—and what a ride it gave me this past weekend. Most certainly the IP was created for Boston Brown Bread.
This is inspired by Jasper White’s Boston Brown Bread recipe, which I have adapted to the PC. The batter is divided between two 15 ounce pinto bean cans. It’s a good idea not to fill the tins any more than 2/3 full to allow for rising space. Cover them with foil and secure with twine. In 30 minutes, the loaves are ‘baked’ and beautiful.
I will not gush, but will simply state that this is a bread worth investing in a multi-cooker. It is just as good as I remembered! Brown bread is great warmed in the morning, spread with butter or cream cheese. It makes a great mid-day snack, an accompaniment to many entrees, and it is lip-smacking good as an ice cream sandwich.
Boston Brown Bread, PC
Adapted from Jasper White’s Boston Brown Bread
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup dark rye flour
½ cup medium grind corn meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup molasses or ¼ cup molasses + 2 tablespoons apple butter
1 cup buttermilk, or a half and half combo of milk + yogurt
½ cup raisins or currants
Accessories: 2 – 15-1/2 ounce cans top and labels removed and cleaned
- Grease the insides of two cans with butter or baker’s spray.
- In multi-cooker, insert trivet and pour in about 6 cups water. Set pot to Saute or Simmer to begin heating the water.
- Combine the dry ingredients with a whisk in a mixing bowl. Stir in the liquid, then fold in the raisins.
- Divide the batter between the molds. It should fill molds about 2/3s full. Secure the tops with foil and tie with twine.
- Place the cans into the pot, adding more water if necessary to fill ½ way up the sides of the cans. Do not fill the pot beyond maximum capacity mark. Set to High Pressure and cook for 30 minutes.
- Allow bread to rest in pot with lid sealed for 10 minutes then slowly release pressure. Test for doneness: a skewer inserted in center should come out clean. Transfer molds to cooling rack and remove the foil covers. Cool for about 45 minutes before unmolding. Yield: 2 loaves.