Boston Brown Bread

Total Time:
2 hr 30 min
15 min
1 hr
1 hr 15 min

2 (4-inch) loaves

  • Nonstick spray
  • Boiling water
  • 2 1/2 ounces whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 ounces rye flour
  • 2 1/2 ounces cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground allspice
  • 6 ounces molasses, by weight
  • 8 1/2 ounces buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • Special equipment: 2 empty (26.5-ounce) metal cans

  • Move a rack to the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 325 degrees F.

  • Spray the insides of the cans with nonstick spray and place set a deep 3-quart oven-safe pot. Begin heating enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the cans when poured into the pot.

  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the wheat flour, rye flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, salt and allspice. Add the molasses, buttermilk, vanilla and zest and whisk to combine. Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared cans. Cover the top with a double thickness of aluminum foil and tie securely with string. Pour the boiling water into the pot. Carefully place in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the edges of the bread begin to pull away from the sides of the cans. Remove the cans from the pot of water, uncover, place on a cooling rack and cool 1 hour before removing bread from the cans. Serve with baked beans or slice, toast and serve with cream cheese.

View All

Cooking Tips
More Recipes and Ideas
3.9 12
Very easy to make. I added 1/4 cup raisins. For those who have had trouble with this recipe, here are a couple suggestions: 1. While American cooks use dry measurements, weighing the flour is common in most other countries. The 2-1/2 ounces of corn meal, whole wheat and rye flours the recipe calls for are approximately 1/2 cup of each flour. Likewise, the 6 ounces of molasses measures out to almost 1/2 cup. (I used refiner's molasses, blackstrap (treacle is a little thicker, so I would try 1/3 cup. 2. Several people also complained the bread was underdone or "gooey" in the center. Someone suggested using a smaller diameter can. Traditionally, this bread was baked in a 2 lb. coffee can, which most roasters have replaced with plastic. A 2-lb bean can works equally well. I would also add testing with a straw, like you would a cake. Or use an instant read thermometer and bake until the internal temperature reaches 206 degrees Fahrenheit (96 degrees Celsius item not reviewed by moderator and published
I only had one can to use, forgot that it required a second one so I used a loaf pan on other. Both came out good. Not quite good enough to make it into my cookbook, a collection of recipes but certainly would recommend trying it if you never had Boston Brown Bread like I have. item not reviewed by moderator and published
Kudos to Alton for a delicious recipe! I just made this bread to go with our St. Patrick's dinner and I was very surprised how delicious it was! So was my husband! My mother always bought the B&M brown bread in a can when we were kids and that was good, but this recipe is even tastier. Great texture, great flavor and nice and moist! I will definitely be making it again! item not reviewed by moderator and published
Well that's 2 hours of my life I can't get back. This is a terribly inaccurate recipe. Mine, along with the majority of the viewers, came out mushy and uncooked. I suspect there was not enough flour in the batter after compared to other recipes. It makes no sense of ratio to can. Also giving measurements in ounces for dry ingredients is ridiculous. Who measures in ounces and ounces by weight? Booooooooooo. I wish I had read the reviews first. I've made brown bread many times in the past and this recipe should be illegal. Seriously. item not reviewed by moderator and published
I've ALWAYS wanted to make Boston Brown bread. AB's recipe and one other stood out in Google. Several other reviewers had trouble finding the right size tin can. I did,too. Til, I found Peppridge Farm's PIROUETTE rolled tin wafers. Perfect can size. I used cornbread mix instead, and added 1/2tsp cinnamon,1/4c demerara sugar & 1/2c currants. I, also, used dried orange peel instead. This can has it's own lid, so it keeps the mixture airtight. I used an asparagus steamer and baked it for 1hr. 45min. This bread came out SOOO moist, sweet, and DELICIOUS!! Thanks, Alton, for a simple and classic recipe! MUUAAAH! item not reviewed by moderator and published
Excellent recipe! Simple & delicious. For those that are having problems with "gooiness", it's your can shape. Do not use a wide can, the dough will not cook through. You need a taller, thinner one. I used Royal Dansk Luxury Wafer tins, & they worked perfectly. As an added bonus, they come with lids, so there's no need for all of the foil & string. Just sprayed generously with cooking spray, poured the dough in, popped the lids on, & placed in the water bath. Perfect results! item not reviewed by moderator and published
The flavor was excellent, but it was underdone and mushy in the center, I think a longer baking time is needed for sure. It was also very crumbly and fell apart when I tried to slice it. Like I said though, it was VERY delicious, so I decided to make bread crumbs out of it to use elsewhere. Not quite sure what I'll be breading with it because of that distinct sweet flavor, but I'll come up with something! Waste not, want not! Thanks A! item not reviewed by moderator and published
I made some minor adjustments to this recipe. Used 1 part rye, 1 part corn meal then half part wheat and half part all purpose. Omitted the vanilla and used 1/8 tsp. allspice then steamed bread in a scalloped mold on a rack on top of the stove in a large pot for 3 hours. The bread was AWESOME! I wish my grandmother could have been here to try it. It was better than what I remembered as a kid, the pinch of allspice and slight amount of orange zest may not be traditional but in my opionion, made it the ultimate brown bread. Thanks Alton! item not reviewed by moderator and published
Not having Rye flour in my pantry, I substituted 1 part Wheat flour, 1 part All Purpose flour and 1 part Bread flour, also added a scoop of flax seeds and golden raisins. I sprinkled Demerara cane sugar on top and baked the bread in a spring form pan. item not reviewed by moderator and published
My husband watched this episode with me and had to try this. I found the measuring of dry ingredients a bit confusing since it is listed in ounces and while you have to guess it is dry measurements, you are not really sure. The bread never cooked completely. The top couple of inches was very moist and very tasteful, however the bottom was nothing short of gummy batter. Try two batches and the second one was cooked longer, but still got the same results. Will keep working on this though since I think it will be worth the effort once it is perfected. item not reviewed by moderator and published
I tried this recipe with a standard diced tomato can (28oz, and squat) and a "family size" tomato soup can (28oz but tall and skinnier). The diced tomato can bread was much gummier--the soup can gave a much better texture. I gave this 4-stars because the orange zest wasn't very authentic--gave a strange bright flavor to the bread. I'll definitely make this again, but this time with 2 soup cans, and no orange zest--maybe some blackstrap for a stronger molasses flavor. Great way to get some whole grains into a very tasty bread! item not reviewed by moderator and published
I tried this as listed, and it never cooked through at the bottom- even after 95 minutes at 325 degrees F. What was cooked (the top) was very tasty and worth a little experimenting and fine-tuning. Next time I will try slightly hotter oven or smaller can - probably hotter oven first. BTW, my oven is accurate and I have an oven thermometer. Measuring molasses by weight is great. Solves all the messy problems of using measuring cups. I weigh it right into the final bowl. I know that goes against AB's mise en place - organization thing, but in this case it is much easier and more accurate to measure into the final mixing bowl. You only have one shot to do it right. You go over, you are bailing out molasses. Once I get this dialed in, It's this and the Once and Future Beans together! Yum. item not reviewed by moderator and published
For the record professional bakers measure in ounces and pounds not cups and spoons it is more accurate and results in better baked goods item not reviewed by moderator and published

This recipe is featured in:

Ultimate Baking Guide