Boston Brown Bread
Boston Brown Bread

Classic Boston Brown Bread spiked with raisins and steamed in a coffee tin.

Holy North End Batman, this molasses dense brown bread from Hank is good. We’ve done it four times in the last month. Yummy! ~ Elise

Brown bread was part of my mother’s weekly change and was always served with baked beans with plenty of salt beef in them and hot dogs, which like the bread were also fried in butter.

Healthy right? Maybe not, but it hits the spot on a cold Saturday night.

Brown bread is usually steamed in a hot water bath, not baked. You can do this two ways, in the oven or on the stovetop. This bread will take some time to bake. Slow steaming will help soften the cornmeal.

Traditionally brown bread is made in an old coffee pot, but it can be made in any small loaf pan. Black bread is dense, so you don’t need too much to fill you up. I recommend only making one batch at a time, I’ve found it works better than doubling a batch.

In addition to accompanying baked beans and sausage, we ate brown bread for breakfast—again deep fried in butter—drizzled with maple syrup. I have no idea how else to eat Boston Brown Bread.

Boston brown bread

preparation time
20 minutes

cooking time
2 hrs 15 mins

total time
2 hrs 35 mins

up to 6 servings

Do your best to find the rye flour. It adds a lot to the flavor of the finished bread.


  • Butter for greasing loaf pans or coffee cans

  • 1/2 cup (heaping) all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup (heaping) rye flour

  • 1/2 cup (heaping) finely ground cornmeal (must be finely ground)

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice

  • 1/2 cup molasses (any kind)

  • 1 cup buttermilk

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)

  • A metal coffee can that is 6 inches high and 4 inches in diameter, or a 4×8 loaf pan


  1. Prepare for either stovetop or oven methods

    You can either prepare the bread with a coffee pot on the stove or with a coffee pot or loaf pan in the oven.

    stovetop: If using the stovetop method, place the steamer rack in a tall stock pot and fill the pot with enough water to reach 1/3 the height of the sides of your coffee can. Turn the burner on to medium while you work.

    Oven: If using the oven method, preheat the oven to 325°F and bring a large pot of water to a boil.

  2. Grease pan

    Grease a coffee tin or small loaf pan with butter.

  3. Mix dry ingredients

    In a large bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, rye flour, cornmeal, baking powder and soda, salt, and allspice. Add the raisins if using.

  4. Mix wet ingredients, combine with dry

    In another bowl, combine buttermilk and vanilla extract, if using. Stir in molasses.

    Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well with a spoon.

  5. Pour the batter into a tin or pan and cover with foil

    Pour the batter into the coffee tin or loaf pan, making sure the batter doesn’t go higher than 2/3 the sides of the container.

    Cover the loaf pan or coffee tin tightly with foil.

  6. Prepare a steam environment on the stove or oven

    stovetop: If using the stovetop method, place the can in the pot on the steamer rack. Make sure there is enough water in the pitcher to come up 1/3 the side of your coffee can or loaf pan. Cover the pot and turn the heat up to high.

    Oven: If you’re using the oven method, find a high-sided roasting pan that can hold the coffee can or loaf pan. Pour the boiling water into the skillet until it reaches a third of the rim of the coffee can or loaf pan. Place the skillet in the 325°F oven.

  7. Steam the bread

    Steam the bread on the stovetop or in the oven for at least 2 hours and 15 minutes.

    Check if the bread is done by sticking a toothpick in it. If the toothpick comes out clean, you’re all set. If not, cover the pan again and cook for up to another 45 minutes.

  8. Let the bread cool down

    Remove from stove or oven and let cool for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack. Let the bread cool for 1 hour before turning it out of the container.

    Cut into slices and eat on their own or roast in a little butter in a frying pan.


Boston Brown Bread Ice Cream – by David Lebovitz

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Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!