Good News! Boston Brown Bread is Back on My Plate!

Traditional Boston Brown Bread, a childhood favorite of mine! I’m so excited that I’ve been able to create a gluten and dairy-free version!

I haven’t thought about Brown Bread in years, but it happened to make its way into my mind on one of those occasions when a thought comes and just keeps evolving, like a ripple effect. A few months ago I happened to see on the news that it was opening day for this year’s baseball season.

That got me thinking of the Red Sox…….the Red Sox naturally remind me of my dad because as a Boston boy he was an avid fan!

I began remembering how my dad used to take me to Red Sox games during the summer. We had so much fun! We were able to get great box seats because my cousin golfed with a player on the team who’d give him tickets. We were close enough to really see the action, have a few balls come our way, and have a non-stop parade of vendors selling hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream, Cracker Jax, and a variety of souvenirs.

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Since it was just the two of us, my dad would purchase two of each snack that came our way, one for each of us. He’d also treat me to a variety of souvenirs, I even still have the cute little Red Sox insignia baseball bat he bought me one year!

Thoughts of my dad and the Red Sox somehow evolved into memories of my dad cooking Boston Brown Bread in my Nana’s old cast iron skillet. He’d slice them thick, spread a little butter on them, fry them on each side so they were a little crispy on the outside and soft and warm on the inside. Then he’d slather them with more butter! They were amazing! Our family would have them with our weekly Saturday dinner; hot dogs, beans and “Kraft Dinner” (boxes macaroni and cheese). I honestly haven’t thought about brown bread in years. I find it fascinating how our mind can store memories from long ago and they rise to the surface when least expected.

I wondered if I could recreate it, but make it gluten and dairy-free, and thought I’d give it a go! My mom used to buy the canned version so I wanted to make mine as authentic as possible by having it be cylinder-shaped.

For two loaves I used 2-16oz cans (3 1/2” h X 6”w). I lightly greased each can. I traced the bottom of each can on a large piece of parchment paper, cut out the circles of parchment paper and placed them in the bottom of each can. I cut out another piece of parchment paper to wrap around the inside of each can, pressing them up against the sides of each lightly greased can.

I played around with the ingredients for the batter and steamed it in a large pot of simmering water. It was such a nice surprise to see the bread I remembered when I removed them from the cans! To make my memory complete, I fried mine up in ghee in my Nana’s old cast iron pan. The taste, texture and smell was just like I remembered and transported me right back into the kitchen I grew up in!

Gluten & Dairyfree Boston Brown Bread

This sweet bread is dense, moist and stuffed with plump raisins. Reminiscent of the traditional canned version I used to enjoy growing up!

Ingredients for 2 loaves:
1 cup gluten-free all purpose flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1/4 cup cornmeal (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp white vinegar
2/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup raisins

Directions:
Lightly grease 2, 16oz cans (about 3 1/2” w X 6” h) and line bottom and sides with parchment paper. Set aside.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix together. Add almond milk, vinegar and molasses and stir into a smooth batter. Stir in raisins.

Divide batter evenly between the two prepared cans. The batter will not go all the way to the top of the cans. Cover each can with a piece of foil and secure each with a rubber band to hold it in place.

Set cans in a large, tall sauce pot and fill with enough water to reach at least halfway up the sides of the cans. Make sure the pot is at least 2 inches taller than the cans.

Cover pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once the water starts boiling, turn the heat to low and simmer, covered about 35-40 minutes or until bread is set and pulling away from the sides of the cans. The cans may bob around a bit, just keep checking and pushing them down. If this happens, the bread may come out a little lopsided, but cooks fine and still tastes delicious.

Carefully remove cans from pot and place on a rack to cool. When completely cool, gently run a knife between the parchment paper and the sides of the cans. Carefully guide the bread out of the can with the knife. This bread is best when allowed to rest overnight before cutting into it.

To serve, lay bread on its side and slice into 1/2-3/4” slices. I like to fry mine in a little ghee, until crisply on the outside, in my Nana’s cast iron pan. To keep it dairy-free and vegan, if frying the sliced bread spread it with a vegan buttery-spread such as Earth Balance.

Notes: This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and vegan.

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