Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Give him ramen noodles, and you don’t have to teach him anything.
- Lawrence Downes
Bless Mark Bittman. He solved a riddle of many years for me, and doesn't even know it. You see, I am enamored for more than just nostalgic reasons of B&M Brown Bread, which comes in a can. It's a New England thing; you're supposed to eat it with baked beans. I know, I know, not exactly high cuisine, but it's also really good the next day, sliced - it's actually sort of fun to slice it from the can - and toasted, with butter or cream cheese.
I have looked for a recipe for years that would come close to the B&M stuff. Back in grad school, I found one and tried it, but it was pale (not enough molasses), overly healthy-tasting, and really rather a pain to make, because you had to organize coffee cans in a water bath and tie a cover on them, etc. So when they didn't come out to my liking, I was unwilling to risk that kind of effort a second time.
Anyway, back to Bittman. In today's New York Times, he has a recipe for Quick Whole Wheat Molasses Bread. I have adapted it to my preferences, and I renamed it by shuffling the words around, as you can see. Except for the clabbering of the milk that Bittman does, it's one of the simplest, most non-technical recipes I can imagine, so I'm not entirely sure why there's a video, except that it seems there's now a Bittman video every week. (And that's fine with me, because, well, the guy is kind of growing on me, ever since the life-changing No-Knead Bread.
This quick bread is delicious. It is dead easy to make. And while a lot of people won't be impressed by this, it really comes pretty close to the taste of B&M. (Please, Mark, if you read this, don't be offended till you try it.)
Oil or butter for greasing pan
1 2/3 cups plain yogurt, or 1 1/2 cups milk and 2 tablespoons white vinegar (see Step 2)
2 1/2 cups (about 12 ounces) white whole wheat or regular whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup raisins (optional, but recommended)
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-by-4-inch or 9-by 5-inch loaf pan, preferably nonstick.
2. If using yogurt, ignore this step. Make soured milk: warm milk gently — 1 minute in the microwave is sufficient, just enough to take the chill off — and add vinegar. Set aside.
3. Mix together dry ingredients. Stir molasses into buttermilk, yogurt or soured milk. Stir liquid into dry ingredients (just enough to combine) then pour into loaf pan. Bake until firm and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing from pan.
Yield: 1 loaf. Serve with butter or cream cheese, on its own for breakfast or alongside baked beans for lunch.