Homemade Maritime Brown Bread

Article by P Valentine Haggerty of Fifty Shades of Grains

The recipe that follows is an adaptation of my Maritime Brown Bread (which was designed to fit a standard 13x4x4 Pullman pan). This recipe is designed to fit the smaller version of this style of pan, 9x4x4. You can also use a standard 9×5 bread pan. Double the recipe if you want two loaves.

“Brown bread” means one thing to New Englanders – a wheat, rye, and corn bread enriched with molasses and milk, steamed in a cylindrical can. The version I remember growing up with is from B&M. I’ve also learned to appreciate Maritime brown bread (sometimes just Canadian brown bread). 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, but as I developed as a bread baker I found it lacking consistency and depth of flavor.

Pullman Loaf Pan

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.

One note on the recipe before we begin. I strongly recommend weighing your ingredients. A basic kitchen scale is a worthwhile $10-20 investment, but if you still prefer volume I’ve listed approximations. When measuring flour, pour/sprinkle the flour into your measuring cup. Scooping from the bag packs the flour, which can make for dry, dense bread.

Sourdough Maritime Brown Bread


Yield: One 9”x4”x4” Pullman Loaf (or one standard loaf) Ingredient List (Total Weight 800g)
240g Bread Flour (2 cups)
80g Whole wheat flour (scant ¾ cup)
80g Whole rye flour (¾ cup + 1 tsp)
64g Water (generous ¼ c)
216g Brewed coffee, strong and black (scant 1 cup)
40g Molasses (2 Tbsp)
32g Melted butter (2 Tbsp + 1 tsp)
8g Dark cocoa powder (1 Tbsp)
8g Salt (1¼ tsp)
32g Sourdough culture (heaping 2 Tbsp) (Alternatively, a pinch of yeast, see below)
2g Yeast (¾ tsp)

Rye Sourdough
80g Whole rye flour (¾ cup + 1 tsp)
64g Water (generous ¼ c)
32g Sourdough culture (heaping 2 Tbsp) (or a pinch of yeast)

Final Dough
240g Bread Flour (2 cups)
80g Whole wheat flour (scant ¾ cup)
216g Brewed coffee, strong and black (scant 1 cup)
40g Molasses (2 Tbsp)
32g Melted butter (2 Tbsp + 1 tsp)
8g Dark cocoa powder (1 Tbsp)
8g Salt (1¼ tsp)
2g Yeast (¾ tsp)

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. The result should be a small clay-like mass.

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. The dough will appear to be on the wet side – resist your instinct to add flour!

Bulk rise for 3 hours, degassing and 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 (or regular pan) well. After 10 – 15 minutes bench rest, shape your tube into a loaf and gently place in the pan, seam side down. There should be plenty of space for the dough to rise. Slide the lid on (or cover with plastic) 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 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for 5 more minutes or until the interior of the bread reads 190F. If you are not baking in a Pullman pan ignore the lid instructions and bake for 35-45 minutes, until the interior reads 190F. Cool completely before slicing, please.

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