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Boston/Welsh Steamed Brown Bread

Bread

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7 replies to this topic

#1 bethesdabakers

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 09:04 AM

I’m putting together a little series of Welsh breads. I’m not looking for “authenticity” – there don’t seem to be many sources of authentic recipes. I’m just taking what there is and if it’s yeasted, converting it to sourdough, if it’s cooked in a cast iron pot trying out versions that can be made in an oven, trying to work with local flours.

Anyway, I’m reading Bobby Freeman’s “First Catch Your Peacock” and she gives a recipe for Steamed Brown Bread from Caernarfonshire, now part of Gwynedd where I live, which she says comes from “Farmhouse Fare” 1966 edition, a compilation of recipes from Farmers Weekly magazine.

She says it was baked in stone marmalade jars which made me think of Boston Brown Bread being baked in coffee tins. So I dig out a recipe for Boston Brown Bread and …. the recipes are identical.

At first I think, “Wow, Boston Brown Bread must have come from this traditional Welsh recipe!”. But then I think, someone sent this recipe to a farmers’ periodical in 1966. Did they just happen to have an American recipe that they thought other people might like to make?

Can anyone cast light on the origins of Boston Brown Bread or about Welsh Steamed Brown Bread?
Mick Hartley
The PArtisan Baker
bethesdabakers
"I can give you more pep than that store bought yeast" - Evolution Mama (don't you make a monkey out of me)

#2 JBailey

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 10:12 AM

You have opened a very interesting thought about the anthropology of foods and recipes. At one time, people did not venture far from their home villages so recipes, ingredients and customs were all local. As countries and areas within countries progressed, commerce began to expand and ingredients, along with cooking implements from other areas were more readily available in larger sections. When there were great migrations, especially across the oceans, we know how people brought what they knew with them.

Steamed brown breads are likely also found in other areas of the British Isles and in other areas of the United States. Maybe as the Welsh and the English came to America they brought steamed brown with them. Maybe in America, Boston made the largest volume of this bread and gained the reputation and name. Then again, who knows there could have been a returnee who liked what they ate in Boston and reversed the flow of custom.
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#3 slkinsey

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 10:15 AM

Given the paucity of references to steamed brown bread from Wales, Caernarfonshire or Llanuwchllyn (where Freeman speculates the Caernarfonshire recipe might have originated), doesn't it seem more likely that this recipe was actually imported from New England where this style of bread is famous?
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#4 janeer

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 07:05 PM

Where is the Old Foodie when we need her? I know quite a bit about New England cooking and in general (and I emphasize that this is a generality) much of New England cooking hails from the Britain. Brown bread is steamed, common in Britain. But New England brown bread traditionally contains cornmeal--if the recipe you describe does also, then it probably did come from New England, as corn is an American Indian addition. Here is my recipe.

#5 bethesdabakers

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Posted 25 October 2011 - 01:50 PM

Thanks you for your contributions.

I'm no food historian but I've never heard of steamed bread in the UK. There is no cornmeal in the recipe - that's about the only difference.

Be interested to hear from someone with some historical knowledge.

Mick
Mick Hartley
The PArtisan Baker
bethesdabakers
"I can give you more pep than that store bought yeast" - Evolution Mama (don't you make a monkey out of me)

#6 slkinsey

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Posted 25 October 2011 - 02:29 PM

http://www.foodbuzz....ton-brown-bread
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#7 bethesdabakers

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Posted 26 October 2011 - 07:36 AM

Dearie me - I think I have a bit of homework to do.

Thanks for that link.

Mick
Mick Hartley
The PArtisan Baker
bethesdabakers
"I can give you more pep than that store bought yeast" - Evolution Mama (don't you make a monkey out of me)

#8 bethesdabakers

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 08:26 AM

Haven't made any progress on the historical side of matters.But a restaurant I supply bread to is having a New England week so I finally got round to trying Janeer's Boston Brown Bread recipe.

Boston b bread 01 small.jpg

This is a test bake. came out too small for the tin, is pale because I had to substitute golden syrup for molasses, but is quite delicious

The hardest part was, as usual, converting cups to metric weight. The final weights for a UK 250g coffee tin work out at:
Wholemeal Wheat Flour 99g
Cornmeal 40g
Wholemeal Rye 40g
Salt 2g
Baking Powder 2g
Egg 29g
Molasses 99g
Buttermilk 235g
Walnuts 29g
Raisins 58g (unsoaked)
Water (for soaking raisins) 47g + a splash of whiskey

Steaming time was about 2.5 hours

Thanks you Janeer
Mick Hartley
The PArtisan Baker
bethesdabakers
"I can give you more pep than that store bought yeast" - Evolution Mama (don't you make a monkey out of me)





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