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An unusual quick bread flavored with molasses that was developed from the necessity of early New England settlers to make a hearty bread using their limited resources. The combination of cornmeal, rye, and wheat flours was a means to stretch the limited supply of wheat flour (corn and rye were more plentiful). Some of the colonial settlers did not have access to an oven so steaming became the preferred cooking method, although steaming the bread required more time than baking.
Today, Boston brown bread is still cooked with steam. The dough is usually cooked in heatproof containers placed inside a large covered pot of boiling water. Cylindrical metal or glass containers are used as molds with coffee cans being used perhaps more often than any other type of mold. After the bread is cooked, it is slid out of the mold and served warm, often as an accompaniment to Boston baked beans. Many commercial varieties are available, which are often packaged in a can. Some recipes omit rye flour and may call for whole-wheat flour or even cake flour.
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