Maritime Brown Bread

Maritime Brown Bread

“Brown bread” can mean a variety of things depending on whom you ask.

Some people are confused - “I guess bread that’s colored brown?” Others use it to differentiate whole wheat bread from white bread. If you’re from New England like me, brown bread refers to a wheat, rye, and corn bread enriched with molasses and milk. It is steamed in a cylindrical can. The version I remember growing up with is B&M. You eat it with sliced hot dogs and baked beans.

Another version I’ve learned to appreciate is Maritime brown bread (sometimes just Canadian brown bread, but I think that’s confusing because brown bread is just whole wheat to some Canadians). The distinctive ingredients of this bread are molasses, coffee, and cocoa. A few years ago before I was baking sourdough breads, I got a recipe for this type of bread from a recipe swap. It was very popular with people around me. As I developed as a bread baker, though, I found it lacking consistency and depth of flavor.

I dabbled on and off with a sourdough version but obtained mixed results. The breakthrough for me was using a Pullman loaf pan and treating the bread more like pain de mie. Baking with the Pullman pan isn’t quite the same as steaming in the cylindrical can, but it feels like an appropriate homage to my New England style brown bread.

Get ready for a surprisingly soft and light bread with a flavor that starts sweet, turns to coffee, and leaves you with dark chocolate.

Sourdough Maritime Brown Bread

Yield: One 13”x4”x4” Pullman Loaf

Ingredient List (Total Weight 1200g)
359g Bread Flour (60%)
120g Whole wheat flour (20%)
120g Whole rye flour (20%)
96g Water (16%)
324g Brewed coffee, strong and black (54%)
60g Molasses (10%)
48g Melted butter (8%)
12g Dark cocoa powder (2%)
12g Salt (2%)
48g Sourdough culture (8%)
2g Yeast (0.3%)

Rye Sourdough
120g Rye flour
96g Water
48g Sourdough culture

Final Dough
359g Bread Flour (60%)
120g Whole wheat flour (20%)
324g Brewed coffee, strong and black (54%)
60g Molasses (10%)
48g Melted butter (8%)
12g Cocoa (2%)
12g Salt (2%)
2g Yeast (0.3%)

Twelve to sixteen hours before you want to build the final dough, assemble the sourdough levain, dissolving the sourdough starter in the water before adding the flour.

A short time before you are ready to bake, brew the coffee as usual. You’ll need to actively cool the coffee down or wait for it to cool to an acceptable temperature for the yeast, around 100F. While the coffee is cooling, mix the remaining dry ingredients (excluding yeast if using dry active). Once the coffee is an appropriate temperature, activate the yeast if needed and pour the rest of the coffee into the levain and dissolve. Add the yeast, then add this to the flour, salt, and cocoa. Add the molasses and butter. Mix until you get a shaggy mass.

Bulk rise for 3 hours, folding after 15/30/45/60/120 minutes. After the third hour, turn out of the bowl and preshape the dough as a tube.

 
 

Grease your Pullman pan well. After 10 - 15 minutes bench rest, shape your tube into a loaf and gently place in the pan. There should be plenty of space for the dough to rise. Slide the lid on and proof for at least an hour, possibly an hour and a half. Near the end of the proof, preheat your oven to 350F.

Bake with the lid on for 35 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for 10 more minutes. Cool completely before slicing, please, or you risk squashing the bread and/or getting a craggy crumb.

~Valentine