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Deconstructing Boston

Monday, August 15, 2011

At the risk of being accused of blasphemy, I am paraphrasing a line from the Bible:

Man (or woman) shall not live by (other people's) bread (recipes) alone, 
but by the work of their own doing.

(Needs work.)

I've had an almost full bag of dark rye flour sitting in the fridge for a while now and I've been looking for ways to use it up. Boston Brown Bread of course uses the flour and I've wanted to make it for awhile. However, lack of proper equipment has prevented me from doing so. It's steamed and I don't have any vessel big enough for it. But I should also admit that I don't want to keep the gas fire on for two hours or more. Also BBB is a baking powder and soda bread and they're okay, but I like yeasted breads.

So, I was looking at Tom Jaine's BBB recipe from his Making Bread At Home, and saw that it uses the same amount of rye, cornmeal and wholemeal flours. I started with that ratio and then added white bread flour and enough liquid to get a wet but pliable dough. The Brown Bread I made has Three Grains and is Baked in a Can. The name doesn't roll off the tongue as easily as the alliterative Boston Brown Bread, but it turned out edible.

On its own, though, it is not an easy bread to eat because it is so stodgy. But put it together with Boston Baked Beans and you get that Bogart-Hepburn sync that peanut butter and jelly have, or bagels and cream cheese, or rum and raisin. I wonder if the people who first put them together knew how wonderful the combination would be!
With homemade baked beans and a fried egg
The baked beans are homemade and were cooked in a crock pot. The taste is what you would expect of good baked beans but without the undesirable metallic taste. Now if they look a little dark, yes, I burned them. I didn't realise there wasn't enough water covering them when I left them overnight to stew and the next morning, while the aroma was quite lovely, the beans had blackened. However, the beans were still a little firm, so I topped up the water and left them to cook in the pot for a couple more hours, and this time, I checked from time to time. Despite the colour, they didn't taste burned, and the beans were al dente, not mushy soft.

I checked out some recipes to get an idea of the ingredients, but I just went with taste when making the sauce. It has molasses, brown sugar, ground mustard and hotdog mustard (the mustard is supposed to be Dijon), salt, cider vinegar and water. I used dried pinto beans that had been soaked overnight.

For my own purposes, I have recorded the recipe for the bread here, but it definitely needs tweaking. I think whether steamed or baked, bread with these low-gluten flours will be dense, even with the addition of white bread flour.
1. The ingredients; 2. the slurry; 3. white bread flour added; 4. the proofed dough 
For this Three-Grain Brown Bread in a Can,

Step 1: Mix together 90g each rye flour, cornmeal and fine wholemeal flour (pic 1 above; L-R in plate). Stir in 1 tbsp malt flour, ½ tsp instant yeast and ½ tsp salt. Add 50ml molasses and 200ml milk and mix into a slurry (pic 2). Leave to rest for 30 minutes. The mixture will smooth out and flatten in the bowl.

Step 2: Add 120g strong white bread flour to the slurry and stir to combine. The dough should come together into a wet ball. Use a plastic dough scraper to fold the dough over itself a few times until smooth. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes, then repeat folding. Repeat resting and folding one more time (pic 3). Place bowl in a large plastic bag and place in the refrigerator overnight.

Step 3: Remove dough from fridge. It will have doubled in size. Punch down and fold over itself a few times with a plastic dough scraper. Divide dough into two. To one portion, I folded in two large pinches of caraway seeds;  I left the other portion plain. Place into two greased and lined coffee cans or large fruit tins. Cover and leave to rise until doubled in size (pic 4).

Step 4: Preheat the oven at 250°C for 30 minutes while the dough is proofing in the tin. As soon as the dough goes into the oven, turn it down to 180°C. Bake for 30-35 minutes until top is brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Cool before slicing.

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