I’ve decided that I want to do a lot of cooking for gift giving this coming holiday season so I have begun looking through some of my old cookbooks for “new” old ideas. In my original Gift Giver’s Cookbook (written with my dear friend Jane Green and published in 1970) I found one of my mom’s most favorite breads for gift giving – Boston brown bread – or, at least her version of it. I made it for years but then, like many favorite dishes, it fell off my radar and had been forgotten. One of the reasons might have been my mom’s requirement that it be baked in gold-lined No. 303 cans. I rarely use commercially canned products so no longer had any cans in which to bake it. But I went on a scavenger hunt and came up with cans I thought would do but being of a cautious nature (well, sometimes) I also had some small loaf pans on hand when I made my first return batch. The photo should give you a good idea of my failure to find the right cans – but, since for some reason the bread tastes better baked in the can, I’m going to keep trying to find the correct No. 303 can. In the meantime, the loaves tasted pretty good, too. This recipe should be enough to make 6 No. 303 cans or about 5 small loaf pans.
8 ounces dark raisins
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
4 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
Place the raisins in a heat-proof bowl and cover with 2 cups of boiling water. Stir in the baking soda and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Combine the sugar, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle. Beat on low to lighten. Raise the speed to medium and beat until blended.
With the motor running, add the eggs, one at time, and beat to blend. When well-blended, add the flour and salt and beat until well-incorporated. Then, add the raisins along with their soaking water and beat to blend.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir in the nuts.
Carefully scoop the mixture into the cans, filling each one about half full. (If you are using loaf pans, either coat them with Baker’s Joy or butter and flour them).
Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until the breads begin to pull away from the sides of the cans.
Remove from the oven and place on wire racks for 10 minutes before removing the breads from the cans by running a small, sharp knife around the interior of the cans and then popping the breads out.
Serve warm or at room temperature with butter or cream cheese or alongside Boston Baked Beans.