Maine Brewer's Guild

Brown Bread

Brown Bread

Back when I owned a seaside restaurant in Rockport, I faced the challenge of pleasing two clienteles: those passing through in the summer months, usually with money to spend, and those who lived in the area year-round, who tended to be a bit more discerning with their disposable income. Come Columbus Day, we’d alter our menu, making it more familiar and affordable for folks who weren’t headed south for the off-season. Winter offerings included slow-cooked molasses baked beans, smoked haddock fillets, steamer clams in salt water, and New England–style brown bread.

Our head chef spent hours testing a recipe for brown bread. Classically, it’s cake-y and sweeter than table breads, relying on wheat and rye flours and cornmeal (the colonial recipe predates refined white flour), along with (sometimes) raisins and molasses. Once he perfected his recipe, he insisted I sign a non-disclosure agreement. The kitchen steamed the brown bread in cleaned, recycled cans and served it with soft, salted butter on a hand-hewn cutting board. Leave it to a fine-dining restaurant to take the humblest of dishes, deconstruct it, and turn it into a piece of conceptual culinary art.

When the chef told me he was running out of cans, I found myself at Hannaford, loading up on $1.29 cans of B&M brown bread. It was delicious, and it made for some excellent staff meals, rendering the cans usable for the “authentic” presentation of our menu variety. Precious though it may have been, I’d be lying if I said ours wasn’t the best brown bread I have ever had. As a woman of my word, I will never reveal the recipe. — ANNEMARIE AHEARN

Annemarie Ahearn runs Rockport’s Salt Water Farm Cooking School and is Down East‘s recurring recipe columnist. She’s the author of the cookbook Full Moon Suppers at Salt Water Farm.

Brown Bread

Back when I owned a seaside restaurant in Rockport, I faced the challenge of pleasing two clienteles: those passing through in the summer months, usually with money to spend, and those who lived in the area year-round, who tended to be a bit more discerning with their disposable income. Come Columbus Day, we’d alter our menu, making it more familiar and affordable for folks who weren’t headed south for the off-season. Winter offerings included slow-cooked molasses baked beans, smoked haddock fillets, steamer clams in salt water, and New England–style brown bread.

Our head chef spent hours testing a recipe for brown bread. Classically, it’s cake-y and sweeter than table breads, relying on wheat and rye flours and cornmeal (the colonial recipe predates refined white flour), along with (sometimes) raisins and molasses. Once he perfected his recipe, he insisted I sign a non-disclosure agreement. The kitchen steamed the brown bread in cleaned, recycled cans and served it with soft, salted butter on a hand-hewn cutting board. Leave it to a fine-dining restaurant to take the humblest of dishes, deconstruct it, and turn it into a piece of conceptual culinary art.

When the chef told me he was running out of cans, I found myself at Hannaford, loading up on $1.29 cans of B&M brown bread. It was delicious, and it made for some excellent staff meals, rendering the cans usable for the “authentic” presentation of our menu variety. Precious though it may have been, I’d be lying if I said ours wasn’t the best brown bread I have ever had. As a woman of my word, I will never reveal the recipe. — ANNEMARIE AHEARN

Annemarie Ahearn runs Rockport’s Salt Water Farm Cooking School and is Down East‘s recurring recipe columnist. She’s the author of the cookbook Full Moon Suppers at Salt Water Farm.

Brown Bread