Boston Brown Bread/Welsh Steamed Brown Bread

bethesdabakers's picture

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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?


316 users have voted.


mozzie 2011 October 31

This book has quite a few recipes for Welsh bread. Authentic? She usually did quite a bit of research, and the first half of the book is mostly history and includes reference to sources, but judge for yourself.

Includes a number of "pot bread" recipes from Wales, which sound like what you want. Also bakestone cakes (barley and oatmeal based), bara brith (fruit & spice bread), and potato cakes.

She also mentions the Farmhouse Fare, dating it from 1935, for a recipe for "Singing Hinnies".

bethesdabakers's picture
bethesdabakers 2011 November 10

Thanks for your suggestions. 

I have the Elizabeth David although I wouldn't mind finding time to revisit it. 

Someone else suggested Foodtimeline which I hadn't come across before. 

I'm not really interested in authenticity because I don't think there's any such thing unless, for instance, if you went to Italy and studied with Italian bakers using Italian flours. What happened in the past is more difficult because it wasn't really recorded, especially if it wasn't happening in a grand house. 

A lot of people seem to assume their forefathers were baking sourdough but, certainly in the UK, I think they were probably using beer barm. 

Maybe it's more interesting to make breads that reflect the place you are. 

Terri - I haven't made Boston Brown Bread for years, but basically you fill (traditionally) a coffee tin two thirds full of dough, stand it in a bain marie and cook for a couple of hours. 


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