Tag Archives: Baking

Boston Brown Bread

Boston Brown Bread

Boston brown bread is one of those dishes that to me, a non-native New Englander, has always been a little bit strange.  The idea of steaming a loaf of bread rather than baking it is just weird.  To be fair, most of the Boston brown bread I have been served came from a can.  That really never seemed very appetizing to me.  My husband, a dyed-in-the-wool Bostonian, holds a very different opinion about brown bread and he kept urging me to give it a chance.

Ready to bake, er... steam

I gave in one night when we were having pork chops and baked beans for dinner.  How could I say no to brown bread with a meal like that?  Turns out, my prejudices were unfounded.  Made fresh, Boston brown bread is a delicious mix of whole grain flours with some dark molasses for a hint of sweetness and has a surprisingly light and springy texture.  Between the two of us (plus Thing 1) we manged to eat nearly the whole loaf during dinner.

The cooking setup

This recipe makes a small loaf (a little smaller than an average loaf pan) which is good because it has to be cooked on the stove top and, yes, steamed in a small amount of boiling water.  That means you need to have a pot large enough to fit a loaf pan inside.  Luckily, if you use the size loaf pan called for in the recipe, it will fit in a standard 5-quart Dutch oven.  This loaf is the perfect side for a Sunday winter dinner in New England (or anywhere else you don’t mind having the stove on for a couple of hours).

Fresh from a 2 hour steam bath

Boston Brown Bread

Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Garden New Cook Book, 12th Edition


1/2 cup stone ground cornmeal

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup rye flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (see note)

1/3 cup molasses (we prefer strong flavored molasses such as black strap)

2 tbls brown sugar

1 tbls cooking oil

To Make:

Grease 7 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 2 inch loaf pan well, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl whisk the cornmeal, whole wheat flour, rye flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to combine.

In another bowl stir together the buttermilk, molasses, brown sugar, and oil.  Gradually add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until combined.  Don’t over mix or the bread will be tough.  Pour batter into the prepared pan.  Grease a piece of foil and place it, greased side down, over the loaf pan.  Press the foil around the edges to seal.

Place loaf pan on a rack in a Dutch oven or any other pot which is large enough to hold the loaf pan.  Pour hot water into the Dutch oven around loaf pan until the water comes up about 1 inch high on the loaf pan.  Bring the water to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 2 to 2 1/4 hours or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center of the bread comes out clean.  Add additional boiling water to the Dutch oven as needed to keep the water level the same.

Remove the loaf pan from the Dutch oven and let stand 10 minutes.  Remove bread from pan. 

To Serve:

Slice the bread and serve warm, slathered with butter or cream cheese if desired.

Note:  Making Sour Milk – If you don’t have buttermilk on hand when preparing baked goods, substitute sour milk in the same amount.  For each cup of sour milk needed, place 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar in a glass measuring cup.  Add enough milk to make 1 cup total liquid; stir.  Let mixture stand for 5 minutes before using.


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Filed under Baked goods, Bread, Recipes

Gougeres (aka French Cheese and Bacon Puffs)

Gougeres (aka French Cheese and Bacon Puffs)

The weekend is almost here.  Do you have any big plans?  If you are doing any entertaining and need something that is both easy and impressive, look no further than these delicious appetizers.  

Golden and delicious butter

These cheesy, crispy puffs are French so they add instant panache to your appetizer spread.  Plus, they have bacon and everything is better with bacon.  They are light and airy with fluffy insides and, the best part, they are really easy to pull together.

Dough ball

Boil (yes, boil) some butter and water, stir in flour until you get a dough ball that somewhat resembles a thick roux, and then beat in eggs until you get the most beautiful and glossy batter you have ever seen.  Fold in grated Gruyere cheese and crispy hunks of  bacon and you are nearing appetizer nirvana.

Batter after beating the eggs in

Once these beauties come out of oven, all golden and crispy, do your best to wait until your guests arrive before you devour them.

Unbaked puffs

Gougeres (aka French Cheese and Bacon Puffs)

Adapted from The Bacon Cookbook


1 cup water

8 tbls (1 stick) butter

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 large eggs

1/2 pound slab bacon, rind removed, finely diced

1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

To Make:

In a heavy saucepan, combine the water, butter, and salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, add the flour, and beat with a wooden spoon till a ball of dough forms.  Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and add the eggs one at a time, beating with an electric mixer on high speed till the batter is just thick enough to hold soft peaks.  Transfer the batter to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill briefly.

In a large skillet, fry the bacon dice over moderate heat till crisp and drain on paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Butter a large baking dish.  Fold the cheese and bacon into the prepared batter till well blended, then drop by tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet.  Bake the puffs for 30 minutes, turn off the heat, and let the stand till they are golden and crisp, about 10 minutes.  Serve the puffs warm.

To Serve:

Makes about 36 puffs.  Serves 8-10 as appetizers (or 2 people who can’t stop eating the bacon-y deliciousness).

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Filed under Appetizers, Baked goods, Recipes

Sweet Potato Muffins

Sweet Potato Muffins

Do you know the Muffin Man?  No, I don’t either.  Personally I am somewhat ambivalent about muffins.  I think that many times, they try to be too much – cake, breakfast pastry, quick bread – but end up not being particularly good at any of it.  The monstrous muffins that are routinely served at coffee shops are too often dry or crumbly or dense without much flavor.  When I eat a muffin, I like it to be moist and tender with a light sweetness that doesn’t overpower my tea.  

Mashed sweet potato

Muffin batter






When I came across this recipe for sweet potato muffins, I knew that I needed to try them.  In addition to being really simple to make, the sweet potato adds moistness and flavor while the mix of white and wheat flours and flax seed meal adds a nice nuttiness.  Plus, since we are heading out on a (long) road trip for Thanksgiving, I wanted to have some easy and delicious road food to keep us all full and happy.  These muffins fit the bill nicely.

Ready for the oven

The texture of these is great.  They are light and springy, not dense and dry.  They are sweet enough that Thing 1 loves them, especially the mini ones which she refers to as “baby muffins”, but not too sweet for me or Marc.  So if you are boiling up some sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving, boil one extra and make these muffins for the morning after. 

Mmm, freshly baked

Sweet Potato Muffins

Adapted from this recipe


1 large sweet potato (about 1 1/3 cups mashed)

1 stick of butter (salted or unsalted), softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup flax seed meal

1 tbls wheat bran

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated is preferable)

1 tsp salt (use only if you are using unsalted butter, otherwise omit)

cooking spray or muffin papers

4 tsp sugar mixed with 1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon for topping (optional)

To Make:

Peel and cube the sweet potato.  Place in boiling water to cover and simmer until tender when poked with a knife, about 15 minutes.  Drain and mash.  You should have about 1 and 1/3 cups of mashed potato.  Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, flax seed meal, wheat bran, baking soda, spices, and salt (if using).

In the bowl of your mixer, beat the butter until light in color.  Add the sugars and cream until light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated.  Next add the milk, vanilla, and sweet potato and mix until well combined.  The batter will look slightly curdled.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined.

Fill prepared muffin tins about three-quarters full.  Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar if desired.  Bake in the 350 degree oven until a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean, about 14 minutes for mini muffins and 18 minutes for regular ones.  Let the muffins cool in the tin for 5 minutes then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

To Serve:

These muffins are great as breakfast or as a snack.  They are particularly nice for kids because they taste yummy but at least hint at healthiness.  The original recipe says it makes 12 muffins but they must be the huge ones you get in coffee shops because I made 12 regular muffins and 12 mini muffins from the same amount of batter.

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Filed under Baked goods, Breakfast, Recipes, Vegetarian

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Quick, what do these things have in common: Halloween, October, harvest, November, Thanksgiving.  Give up?  The answer is pumpkin… pumpkin is associated in some way with all of these different times of the year.  In honor of October and Halloween just passing, the arrival of November, and looking forward to Thanksgiving, I want to share the recipe for one of my all time favorite cookies. 

Getting ready to fold in the chocolate chips

My mom used to make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for us kids every year around pumpkin season.  So in addition to being delicious, these cookies are steeped in fond memories of Halloween and family Thanksgivings.  I have kept her original recipe pretty much intact.  I made a few tweaks to the spices (reduced the cinnamon, added some vanilla) and swapped out the vegetable shortening in favor of a mixture of butter and lard (fake fats scare me).  Otherwise, these cookies are just like I remember them… moist, cakey, and loaded with chocolate chips. 

Cookies ready for the oven

Make sure that you don’t over bake them.  They are supposed to be very moist and soft.  Bake them until they feel just set when you touch them gently with your finger.  They keep well, though they get a little sticky on top if they are in a closed container.  They are easy to put together so make sure to bake lots of them.  They are a real crowd pleaser during this time of year.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies


2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp cloves

1/8 tsp allspice

5 tbls lard (you can use vegetable shortening)

3 tbls butter

1 1/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 15 oz can solid pack pumpkin (or about 1 lb fresh pumpkin, steamed until tender and pureed)

1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

To Make:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and spices and whisk well to combine.  In a large bowl (or in your stand mixer) cream the butter, lard, and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and beat until light in color.  Beat in the vanilla and the pumpkin.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three batches, mixing until each batch is incorporated before adding the next (make sure to scrape down the work bowl occasionally).  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake in the 350 degree oven until just set, about 12-15 minutes.  Let the baked cookies sit on the sheet for 3-5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

To Serve:

These cookies are tasty warm out of the oven but I think they are even better completely cooled because the chocolate chips provide a nice texture contrast to the rest of the cookie.  Store in a covered container at room temperature for about 3 days (if they make it that long).  Makes about 3 dozen.


Filed under Baked goods, Cookies, Dessert, Recipes, Vegetarian