Long before closed ovens took their place in the average home, people used to cook on cast iron stove tops and over open fires (picture bubbling caldrons). Breads and puddings were steamed in pans of hot water rather than baked. This highly forgiving method is still useful today, as bread can cook long past its finishing time without substantially changing, whereas oven-baked bread will go from perfect to scorched in the blink of an eye. This same principle applies to custards and cheesecakes baked in a Bain Marie—the water surrounding the item being steamed boils at 212°F, much lower than the 350°F commonly used for baked goods.
This fabulous recipe for Steamed Harvest Bread from King Arthur Baking makes use of apples, pumpkins, squash and other abundant autumn produce. It contains no fat (other than the eggs) and provides a filling, energy and vitamin-rich snack with a minimum of calories. Steamed bread is wonderful for a quick breakfast, an afternoon nosh or a side for soup or salad. Choose spices to enhance the flavour of the vegetable or fruit—cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg all work, as does a pinch of pepper.
I’m a huge fan of steamed, round bread: Boston Brown Bread, Date & Nut Loaf, and now this Harvest Bread. Coffee cans are often used, but I wanted something more durable. Imagine my delight when I found these cylindrical metal Bain Marie pans on Amazon at a fabulous price. Three of them fit in my multi-use water bath pot acquired years ago from Williams Sonoma, which comes with a very useful rack for lifting the jars or cylindrical Bain Marie pots out of the water. I’ve been steaming up a storm since acquiring the pans and trying out all kinds of delicious combinations.Print
- 177 g or 1½ c unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 170 g or 1½ c whole wheat flour
- 10 ml or 2 tsp baking powder
- 5 ml or 1 tsp baking soda
- 5 ml or 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp or 12g total spice (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves or allspice)
- 227 g or 1 c non-fat yoghurt, buttermilk or sour milk
- 3 large eggs
- 200 to 300 g or 1–1½ c light or dark brown sugar, packed
- 300 g or 1½ c cooked, mashed apple, pumpkin, carrots, squash, cranberries, or cranberry sauce or 227 g or 2 c grated raw carrot, chopped apple, pear, etc.
- Grease two 1¼-quart stainless steel cylindrical Bain Marie pans or one 2-quart pudding mould*. Bring a teakettle of water to a boil.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, soda, salt and spices.
- In another medium bowl, beat the yoghurt, eggs, and sugar with the vegetable(s) or fruit(s). Blend this mixture into the dry ingredients.
- Fill the mould(s) about two-thirds full with the batter and cover with a double square of parchment paper or foil, held tightly in place with a strong elastic band or kitchen twine.
- Place the mould d(s) in a water bath pot, kettle or saucepan on top of a rack or crinkled tin foil to prevent the bottom of the moulds from being directly on the heat. The pan should be deep enough so its lid can cover the pudding mould.
- Fill the pan with boiling water two-thirds of the way up the mould.
- Cover, bring the water back to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Steam the pudding mould(s) for about 2 hours, adding water if necessary.
Note: If you use the 2-quart pudding basin, you will have leftover batter, enough to fill a couple of ramekins or soup cans, which can steam right alongside your pudding basin. You might want to take them out a little earlier, but they’ll come to no harm waiting for the big dish to finish cooking.
Adapted from King Arthur Bakery Steamed Harvest Bread.