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Feb 12, 2011 09:04 AM

Can I substitute honey for molasses?

Some time ago I posted, saying that I made Boston brown bread but didn't care for the very gritty cornmeal in it. Recently found a finely ground cornmeal and made it again--perfect! Except that now I've decided I really don't like the molasses--a bit too strong for my delicate stomach.

I know it won't be Boston brown bread anymore--guess I'll call it Birmingham golden bread-- but was wondering if I could replace the molasses for honey. Would it bake up the same? (Actually, it's steamed, not baked.)

Thanks for the help!

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  1. Brown sugar would be closer. I think brown sugar is sweeter than molasses, though

    2 Replies
    1. re: jaykayen

      Would I use the same amount i.e. 1/2 c brown sugar for 1/2 c molasses?

      The BBB recipe calls for no sugar at all. It's kind of a strange bread because it's chock full of nuts and raisins, but no sweetness to it. Think it's traditionally eaten with Boston baked beans (for a BBB-BBB meal). But I have to admit, I'd like some sweetness to it since I'm just eating it by itself.

    2. you can, measure for measure, but I would keep a small portion of the molasses for the flavor, myself. You can also sub real maple syrup for all or part of it.

      4 Replies
      1. re: magiesmom

        Oh, I've got that! That will probably give it a more traditional flavor...Vermont Brown Bread (or Burlington Brown Bread to keep with the theme)

        1. re: Birmingham

          Maple syrup is a lot thinner than molasses, so it may change the texture. Maybe boil down the maple syrup a little?

          1. re: rworange

            I haven't found a need to do that, but you could , I am sure.

            1. re: rworange

              Being a lazy person, I didn't do that. It's steaming right now and has about 3 hours to go. I'll let you know how it turns out.

        2. Just to update: made the Boston Brown Bread with 1/2 c maple syrup instead of molasses and it came out fine--but with no detectable maple flavor, really. It's easier to eat without that strong molasses flavor and probably a bit sweeter, but it's still not what you'd call a sweet bread so could stand in for BBB for those who like it but can't take the molasses (I saw there was another thread on B&M brown bread and people mentioned not being able to eat more than 1 or 2 slices at a time).

          Because of the expense of maple syrup and it not being noticeable in the finished product, I'll probably try brown sugar next time.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Birmingham

            Thanks for the update. I grew up in New Englnd and LOVE baked beans. However, I've never been a fan of the brown bread, even in Boston. IMO, it is a bread that tastes of poverty and necessity ... it tastes ... Pilgrim ... and we know what a fun group they were.

            Here is some of what is written about it in the Food Timeline link

            "American Cooking: New England," Jonathan Norton Leonard, Time Life Books, (p. 35+) devotes an entire chapter to 17th Century Puritan/Pilgrim grain cookery. This book explains why the Puritans did not use white flour (too expensive & fancy; rye, wheat & corn flours were plentiful & cheap). As for why this brown bread was steamed rather than baked, this book notes that the first New England homes were very crude thatched huts and few had ovens. Cooking was generally done over an open fire. Steaming was an effective way to make bread without an oven. After time, this cooking method established itself as the traditional way to prepare brown bread (oft served as a Sunday meal with baked beans). Other theories suggest that steaming was employed because Puritans were forbidden to cook on the Sabbath. "

            1. re: rworange

              That's interesting. I make a baked recipe which I always felt was cheating. that uses the flours
              ( which we are now returning to as whole grains!) and molasses, But I like it better and it is easier, if you actually have an oven.
              and I had no idea that puritans kept sabbath in that particular way, as did my orthodox Jewish ancestors.

              1. re: magiesmom

                The bread, if nothing else, reeks of history.

                Once the Erie Canal opened up and made wheat from the west more available, people dropped brown bread like ... a hot loaf of bread.

                Then in the Victorian age along comes health-nut Sylvester Graham and "nostalgia becan to ennoble "the old brown bread" that had previously been mostly tolerated."

                Yeah ... Boston brown bread not only tastes Pilgrim, it tastes healthy ... not in a good way.

                Intersting in the brown bread link is this info I never read before was that once more ovens were available and regular loaves of bread were made ...

                "In the earliest colonial period, when pans and other cooking utensils were expensive to import and forges for making local wares were few, this food's advantage was its convenience. The dome-shaped loaves could be baked without pans, directly on the oven floor or atop a bed of oak or cabbage leaves spread across the bottom of the oven. The leaves were said to impart a distinctive flavor to the bread"

                I wonder what bread baked on top of cabbage leaves tastes like.I've never read anything like that before. Probably not good as the practice hasn't carried over to modern times."

                Anyway, I'll be interested to see if brown sugar peps up the flavor of Boston brown bread. I never liked the molasses in it either.

                Still ... being of Polish ancestry and eating lots of cabbage ... I wonder if rye bread baked on cabbage leaves would taste good.

                1. re: rworange

                  the molasses flavor is pleasing to me since I found the particular one I use ( wholesome something) so I wouldn't change that, personally. I don't like Karo, but I know lots of people who are very happy with it.
                  I bet rye bread baked on cabbage sounds great, actually.

          2. I've occasionally had recipes that called for either molasses or honey, but I didn't want their flavor. I've successfully used Karo.