Sunday, 14 June 2009

Steamed Corn Bread

I’m continuing my experiments with steamed bread. This time, I’m making steamed corn bread in a loaf pan using an interesting steaming vessel.

Steamed corn bread has the color and texture of Boston Brown Bread, but it's made with cornmeal and all-purpose flour rather than a blend of several flours. It's also made with molasses rather than maple syrup so of course, the flavor is different!

The neat thing about this steamed corn bread is that it can be prepared without an oven -- or stove for that matter. You can steam it over a campfire in a cloth sack (called a pain de mais en sac in France) by hanging it over boiling water in a pot. I've been looking for a bread that can be made easily while camping without having to lug a cast iron Dutch oven around. This recipe just might fit the bill.

I'll keep the cloth sack method of steaming the bread in mind for my next camping trip, however, for today, we're going to steam it in a loaf pan set in an oval crock pot. This is a test, we'll see how it works.

Steamed Corn Bread
Makes: 3 small loaves or 2 medium loaves

Adapted from Bernard Clayton's "
New Complete Book of Breads".

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups yellow or white cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons each salt and baking soda
  • 1/2 cup raisins (I used currants instead of raisins because that's what I had)

Equipment needed for steaming breads:

For this recipe, I wanted to test the crock pot method for steaming breads; however, my oval crock pot wasn't big enough to hold the 9-by-5-inch loaf pan so I used a 8 1/2 - by - 4 1/2 - inch loaf pan and steamed the other bread in a coffee can in a large Dutch oven. I wouldn't normally mess up two pans but this was a test so I decided to give it a try.

List of equipment used for the test: oval slow-cooker, large Dutch oven, trivets, loaf pan, coffee can, aluminum foil, rubber band, and greased parchment paper.

Mixing the Batter In a large mixing bowl or mixer bowl beat the eggs, buttermilk, and molasses with the mixer beater or a large wooden spoon until blended. Sift the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda into the liquid mixture, and stir until smooth. I started off mixing it with a spatula then, I switched to a big wooden spoon. Then I switched back to the whisk. It worked the best for this batter.

Add the raisins (or currants) and blend. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans and/or cans, about two-thirds full.

Preparing the loaves for steaming:

Cover the loaf pan tightly with a piece of aluminum foil and fasten with a rubber band to prevent steam from leaking into the containers and adding unwanted moisture. For the cans, I just used the plastic lid to keep the steam in.

To steam the loaf pan in the slow cooker, place a trivet on the bottom of the slow-cooker and put the loaf pan on the trivet. Poor enough boiling water into the slow-cooker to come halfway up the sides of the pan.

Cover the slow-cooker and using the high setting, steam the bread for about 3 hours.

Remove the pan from the slow-cooker, peel back the aluminum foil and test for doneness using a wooden skewer inserted into the middle. If the skewer comes out clean, the bread is done. If it doesn't come out clean, then return the loaf pan to the slow-cooker and cook for another 10 minutes or so, then remove it and test again.

I tested this bread and put it back in for a little it longer. It took about 2 hours & 45 minutes.

If you're steaming the bread in in a coffee can(s), place the trivet in the bottom of the Dutch oven or large pot, then place the covered cans on the trivets and pour enough boiling water into the pot to come halfway up the sides of the cans.

Then, cover the pot and steam for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Test the bread with a skewer to make sure it's done completely. If it's not done, recover it and continue steaming. Then check again after about 20 minutes.

Both loaves took about 2 hours & 45 minutes to steam.


Drying the Loaves:

The breads finished steaming so I set them on a rack while I preheated the oven to 400 degrees.

After the breads finish steaming, place the pans in a 400 degrees oven for 10 minutes to partially dry the loaves.

Cooling the steamed loaves:

Let the loaves cool in the can(s) and/or loaf pan on a metal cooling rack for 15 minutes before you turn the bread out.

You may need to loosen the loaves by running a knife carefully around the inside edge of the can.

Cool the loaves on a wire rack.

Now it's time to slice the bread and enjoy! I put some cream cheese on mine and served it with strawberries. It was good!

This bread doesn't taste like any cornbread I've ever had. It's definitely different...not bad, just different. I like mine with cream cheese. My taste tester tried it with a little honey and liked it. I sent some home with him. He didn't mind...he never does although he says I'm making him fat. Well I never!

Note: The bread made in the slow-cooker is a little dense even though it is moist. I think next time I'll use a lighter-flavored molasses or even honey. If you decide to try this bread, let me know what you think and what enhancements you would make, if any.

Happy Baking!

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