How Do I Choose the Best Boston Brown Bread?

Melanie Greenwood

Boston brown bread is a type of traditional American bread that was a staple of early New England cuisine. Thanks to a mobile society and growing interest in food culture, this tasty bread has come to be enjoyed all over the world. Not all Boston brown bread is the same, however. The best is made with a short list of natural ingredients, has a soft texture and high moisture content and is shaped like a cylinder. Keeping these things in mind can ensure that you get your money's worth.


The most important aspect of Boston brown bread is the ingredients used to make it. Traditional ingredients that you should see on the label include whole wheat flour, rye flour, natural cane sugar and molasses. If you don't like the taste of rye, it's fine to look for Boston brown bread that contains only wheat flour. A list of ingredients that sound like they came from an industrial plant, however, means that you should walk away. Chemical-based ingredients usually impart a stale flavor that not quite right.

Another thing to look for in Boston brown bread is a soft texture. Unlike French bread or the artisan breads that can be found in bakeries and higher-end supermarkets, this bread should not have a hard crust. Instead, it should give easily when squeezed. An easy way to tell is to tap the bread with your knuckles. You should not hear a tapping sound, and if you do, it's a sign of advanced age, not skilled baking.

Quality Boston brown bread also should have a high moisture content, which is a natural result of the traditional method of steaming it during baking. Although you should not see visible moisture on the surface of bread, which can lead to mold, the bread should have a tight, uniform crumb structure. It also should look fresh and not crumble easily. A soft loaf also is a good sign, because all breads become harder as they lose moisture and age.

Although not as important as the ingredients, the texture and the moisture content, the actual shape of the loaf does still matter. The traditional method of making Boston brown bread is oven-steaming in round, narrow cans. This is why traditionally made bread will have an unusual cylindrical shape, although bakers might also use larger, flatter pans that produce a boule-shaped loaf. If you're not sure, buy from a bakery that makes the bread on site, so you can ask how the bread is made.

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