New England or Boston brown bread is closely related to an earlier bread known as Rye and Indian (from the use of “Indian” cornmeal) or thirded bread from its use of rye, cornmeal, and wheat flours. Unlike modern Boston brown bread, thirded bread is generally yeast-raised and baked rather than steamed.
Boston Brown Bread
1 tablespoon unsalted butter for greasing
1-1/2 cups brown-bread flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup dark molasses or maple syrup
1 cup milk (alternative: Guinness or Newcastle Nut Brown Ale)
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
*A specialty of New England, brown-bread flour is a mixture of whole wheat, rye, and cornmeal or johnnycake meal. It can be purchased already mixed or made by simply combining equal parts of wheat flour, rye flour, and finely-ground cornmeal.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Generously grease a 1-quart pudding mold or 48-ounce BPA-free juice can. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl. Stir in the molasses and milk (or beer). Fold in the currants.
Fill the mold or coffee can with batter. It should only come up about two-thirds of the way. Cover the top with foil and tie securely with a string to make it airtight.
Place in a deep baking pan and fill the pan with boiling water, to come halfway up the side of the mold.
Place in the preheated oven and allow to steam for 2 hours, checking the water level after 1 hour. Add more boiling water if needed. Check by sticking a skewer into the bread; it will come out clean when done. Remove string and foil and allow to cool for 1 hour before unmolding.