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Boston brown bread; a New England favorite (Video)

Boston brown bread; that delicious, sweet, moist brown bread that came in a can and tasted like a dessert. Often served with ice cream or whipped cream, it was a favorite rich, dense bread loved by everyone at the dinner table. The name brown bread was given to breads made with whole grain flour, and dark colored ingredients such as molasses or coffee.

Boston brown bread

This bread actually had is origins from England. Prior to the year 1845 in England, brown meal was considered a less desirable grain product, and priced less than fine flour bread. Poor people were able to obtain this bread, and it was often handed out to them since the rich desired the fine flour breads. In 1865, due to the recently discovered health benefits of bran, brown meal in London increased in price greater that that of fine flour.

In Colonial America, New England families did not own ovens, and the women cooked over an open fireplace. These women needed to be creative, and learned how to bake bread in the fireplace without having it burn up. This was the birth of our American Boston brown bread. Colonial New England women decided to bake the bread in a coffee can, by steaming it in water over the fireplace. The bread was dark, and got its sweet flavor from maple syrup and molasses. It was traditionally paired with Boston baked beans, a Colonial staple. This dark brown bread was made daily in the fireplace, and sliced with a sharp knife so the entire family could each get a piece.

We can enjoy the traditional flavor of this bread, and bake it in our own ovens for family and friends. Whether you serve it as a dessert bread or with meals, it is sure to become a favorite household recipe.

Boston brown bread


  • 1 cup of raisins
  • 1 tablespoon of applesauce
  • 2 cups of hot water
  • 1 cup of maple syrup
  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 cup of granola cereal
  • 3 tablespoons of molasses
  • non stick vegetable spray


  1. Mix the raisins with the applesauce and pour the hot water over them.
  2. Let the the raisin mixture cool to room temperature.
  3. Add the maple syrup, flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, mixing well.
  4. Mix in the granola and molasses.
  5. Grease a loaf pan with the non stick vegetable spray.
  6. Add the batter and bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Turn loaf onto a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes.
  8. Slice into sections with a sharp knife.


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