Justin Walker’s Brown Bread

By Yankee Magazine

Apr 02 2020


Justin Walker’s Brown Bread

Photo Credit : Amy Traverso

It’s the nature of a top chef like Justin Walker to be a hard worker. But he and his wife and business partner, Danielle Johnson Walker, take the Yankee work ethic to the limit. Consider that in addition to running Walkers Maine, their fine-dining restaurant in Cape Neddick, Maine, and raising their son, Jackson, they also manage a farm that has been in Danielle’s family for two centuries, where they grow vegetables and care for a menagerie of horses, goats, chickens, and other animals.

Consider also that on the day the Weekends with Yankee crew arrived at the farm to film a classic Maine bean-hole supper, the couple had just returned from cooking at a charity dinner in Manhattan. And yet there was Justin, digging a pit deep enough to sink a cast-iron pot that Danielle had sourced from a local antiques shop. He built a fire in the pit, let the wood burn down to coals, added stones to conduct the fire’s heat, then laid the pot in the pit and sealed it before covering it with a layer of dirt and a tarp, as has been done at Maine lumber camps since the 1800s.

Justin put his own spin on the bean-hole dinner menu, adding fire-roasted pumpkin and corn (a nod to the staple foods of the region’s indigenous people), cedar -plank salmon, and a delicious loaf of steamed brown bread with salted butter. You can find recipes for bean-hole beans on our site, and Justin was kind enough to share his brown bread recipe below. —Amy Traverso


8 servings


Butter, for greasing pan
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup rye flour
½ cup cornmeal
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ cup molasses
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


You can make brown bread the traditional way, in an old-fashioned coffee can with the top removed (but the bottom intact), or you can make it in a standard 9-by-5-inch bread pan. Either way, grease the inside generously with butter.

In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, rye flour, cornmeal, baking soda, salt, and allspice. In a small bowl, whisk together the molasses, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Add wet ingredients to the dry, and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared pan.

Butter a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover the top and sides of your pan. Lay it over the pan, press down around the sides, and tie a piece of kitchen twine around the upper part of the pan to secure the foil.

Place the pan in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the loaf pan. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer, checking the water level several times, until the loaf is cooked through and a toothpick comes out clean, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Carefully remove the pan from the pot, and remove the foil. Cool for a few minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack. Let cool slightly before serving.

Serve warm or at room temperature, with plenty of salted butter.