There’s probably a few of you around here now privy to the fact that i love me an old-fashioned dessert. and i love me a steamed pudding. but there’s a little something else i’ve been playing around with as of late, and that’s steamed bread. if it was up to me, this technique would have never gone out of style. because you can use all manner of whole grain flours and still come away with a moist and tender crumb. just ripe for the slather, and chomp.
This version is one part rye flour, one part whole wheat bread flour and one part stone-ground cornmeal. aside from the heartiness and gentle tang of rye you would never guess it’s comprised of whole grain flours. it’s the steam that does it.
the good part? you may think that you need lotz of special equipment to get this result. not so! you need a 1.5 quart basin that can withstand a boil and then a gentle simmer and steam for 2 hours. that usually means heavy duty ceramic or stainless steel. these traditional steaming basins are easy to come by and economical. i love my patisse stainless mold and that’s what i used for this walnut bread, but you could even use a clean and empty coffee can as many a bostonian have been want to do. this bread is quite simply a riff on the brown bread that those very same bostonians have enjoyed for centuries, right along with those famous baked beans of theirs.
my steamed bread was not destined for such traditional fare. we chomped many a slice with a smart dollop of cultured butter and a good and hearty slather of lavender rhubarb jam (yes that is a whole lavender sprig in there, what can i say, i like rustic)!
steamed walnut bread
- 1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup whole wheat bread flour
1/2 cup stone-ground cornmeal, plus additional for dusting basin
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup yogurt
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup toasted walnut pieces*
butter for greasing basin
- 1.5 quart steaming basin or mold, plus a larger pot to fit the basin in and cover
preparing to steam
- place your basin inside the pot on top of a steaming rack, trivet, or folded up towel even, and fill pot with water until it reaches halfway up the side of the basin. remove basin and grease the inside of it entirely, dust with cornmeal generously. if you are using a mold with a top, grease and dust that also. if you’re using a basin without a top, cut a piece of parchment paper to fit inside and grease one side. also have ready a tea towel if you are using a basin without a top. set all aside.
- in a separate bowl mix together all of the dry ingredients. stir in honey and yogurt until combined. add toasted walnut pieces and stir to combine.
- fill the prepared basin, it should fill to approximately 2/3rds full. if it is less than that it’s ok. but much more than that and you will need a bigger basin.
- spread evenly, it won’t rise a ton during the steam, and it won’t change in shape too much. you’ll eventually flip it out so the top becomes the bottom when it is done. attention to spreading evenly now will result in an even bread when flipped.
- cover with the top of the steaming mold, or with a tea towel as in this technique here.
- place covered basin inside the pot on top of rack or trivet, bring water to the boil, turn down to a gentle simmer and cover the pot. steam for 2 hours.
- at 2 hours turn off the the heat, carefully take the lid off of your steaming pot and let the steam subside before lifting out the basin. lift out the basin and let cool for 5 minutes before taking the top off. gently release the bread upside down on a plate.
this bread is perfect with butter alone, and we enjoyed the last bit with a flight of 3 cheeses. but we enjoyed it best of all lightly toasted for breakfast as a base for jam. and that is good, because (yikes!) it’s almost rhubarb season again and my larder is still quite bursting at the seams!
*to toast walnuts, place in a small heavy bottomed frying pan – cast iron if you have – and heat on low. toss gently, they’re done when you can smell the wonderful aroma of walnuts and they are just a tad darker. be careful not to burn, it can happen quickly!