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I have an old recipe handed down from my great great grandmother in law, for what she called brown bread. Unfortunately it has a few ingredients that I don't recognise. I did some searching on google and I thing I have figured out what different things are but I want to make sure.

The Recipe calls for:

  • Sour Milk : Is this butter milk?
  • Sweet Milk : Is this whole milk?
  • Graham Flour : This seems to be hard to find, but is still Graham flour.

Then baking is to be done in 4 metal vegetable cans. Can this be done in a loaf pan?

As Requested

1 Cup Sour Milk
1 Cup Sweet Milk
3 Cups Graham Flour
1/4 Cup sugar
1/4 Cup Molasses
1/2 Cup butter
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp soda (I am assuming Baking soda)
1 tsp BP (I am assuming baking powder)

Bake at 325 in 4 metal vegetable cans for one hour

I would assume it mixes like a cake, and to add the wet and dry ingredients seperatly, finally combining them. But this is all the recipe I have to go on. So I expect to have to experiment a bit.

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    I think for the sake of completeness, you should add the full recipe on here. Unless its a super secret "I'll have to kill you if I tell you" recipe. The context of the full recipe will often times illuminate answers that might otherwise be impossible to find. – Jay Dec 30 '15 at 17:58
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    Relate: cooking.stackexchange.com/q/43360/8305 – Jay Dec 30 '15 at 18:06
  • @jay, Yeah, I think it's whole milk too but it could be condensed milk. jet.com/product/detail/… – coteyr Dec 30 '15 at 18:08
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    With the amount of sugar and molasses already in the recipe, its highly doubtful its calling for sweetened condensed milk. Especially since its such an old recipe. – Jay Dec 30 '15 at 18:13
  • As a note, a substitute for buttermilk in many recipes is "soured milk"... which is whole milk with a small amount of acid in it... but I don't know that it's the same thing in this recipe. – Catija Dec 30 '15 at 18:29
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"Sweet milk" is indeed standard fresh milk. It is just how people used to talk about it, to distinguish it from "sour milk".

"Sour milk" is also "buttermilk". It seems that over the years, people stopped selling actual buttermilk (which is the whey left after removing the fat from the sour milk) and started using the name "buttermilk" for what used to be known as "sour milk".

If you can't find graham flour, whole flour of mid-coarse grind will be a good approximation.

Baking soda and baking powder are good guesses. You could go with the original amounts, but if the first batch comes out overleavened, try reducing it. In the decades since the recipe, producers have found out how to make baking powder which does not go stale too quickly, does not lose much of its action on touching the liquid, and so on. So maybe the amounts are better suited to weaker leavening. No way to know without trying.

The cans are not a good idea. I don't know about cans then, but the new ones could be lined with plastic (which will melt), or be rusty. The recipe is very obviously a cheap recipe from times of limitations, maybe Depression or WWII. Just use a baking pan. If you are afraid of bad leavening, using a wide one or two small ones is better than a single deep one.

Also, don't trust the "one hour" suggestion, not only because you're changing pans and because the ingredients might have changed in subtle ways over the years, but also because baking by time is always unreliable. Test them for doneness with a thermometer, or in the worst case with a toothpick.

  • Muffins might also be a good alternative, especially jumbo ones. – Cascabel Dec 30 '15 at 19:01
  • From a great-great grandmother, I'd guess this predates even the Great Depression. But more topically, quite right about substituting the cans as well -- straight-sided canning jars would get that cylindrical shape! – Erica Dec 30 '15 at 19:52
  • @erica I'm not sure I get the "that cylindrical shape" comment - is this a desirable thing when making old recipes, or something which was laughed at even then as "she can't afford a real pan"? – rumtscho Dec 30 '15 at 19:56
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    Boston brown bread is usually served in a cylinder -- see blog post with one variant recipe, and you can even buy it pre-baked in a can. (The New England region historically prided itself on frugality, so cooking in the can could be considered clever and resourceful rather than poor -- I doubt well-off families would be eating coarse brown bread anyway!) – Erica Dec 30 '15 at 20:00
  • Brown bread is a canned bread, that's why it's cylindrical. I am also not sure about the cans being lined with plastic. That plastic like coating is probably zein which is a corn product. – Escoce Dec 30 '15 at 20:24

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