What Is the History of Boston Brown Bread?

Boston brown bread was developed by early colonists who preferred wheat bread, but had better access to corn and rye flours, so they made a heavy brown bread with a mixture of the three grains. Because ovens were also scarce, the bread was baked in a can-like container, and steamed over the fire without yeast for leavening. Native Americans taught this cooking method to the colonists.

Dark molasses sweetens the modern versions of Boston brown bread and raisins are usually added to the mixture. Metal coffee cans or other tins serve as steaming containers, and the cooking process takes place in the oven or in a large pot on the stove. Boston baked beans, also sweetened with molasses, are the traditional accompaniment to the bread.

Another early colonial bread was rye and Indian bread, the Indian referring to the cornmeal, which the Native Americans taught colonists how to make and use. This bread also contained cornmeal, wheat flour and rye flour but had yeast added as a rising agent. The cook baked the dough in a cast iron pot surrounded by coals to supply a consistent heat source from every direction.

Irish brown bread is another whole wheat brown bread made without yeast.