Mrs. Boland’s Walnut Brown Bread

For our inaugural post, I’m choosing a recipe from my husband’s grandmother, who hails from Minnesota.  I found this one amongst a stack of 3×5 cards with recipes for various cookies, desserts, and breads that his mother saved from the trash when they were cleaning out his grandmother’s house a few years back.  Kevin’s grandmother is a practical woman who grew up in South Dakota and spent most of her adult life in Minnesota.  Judging by the title, the recipe was given to her by a Mrs. Boland.

A few notes about three of the ingredients in this recipe: graham flour,  sweet milk, and sorghum molasses.  Graham flour is named after the nineteenth century health-food proponent, Sylvester Graham (who, by all indications, was an interesting character!).  Graham flour is a type of wheat flour made by grinding the wheat bran, germ, and endosperm separately (the typical portions are: 83% endosperm, 14.5% bran, 2.5% germ).  This is different than your typical white flour (which only uses the endosperm) and whole wheat flour (which grinds all three parts together) because in graham flour, the wheat bran and germ are more coarsely ground.  Although once common, graham flour was a bit of a challenge to find.  I checked our local ‘hippie’ market first and didn’t find any, much to my surprise.  Next up was the upscale market, where I scored some Bob’s Red Mill Graham Flour!  I also bought the components to make my own graham flour, which I might try doing at a later date.

The second ingredient that might need a little explanation is sweet milk.  This term originated as a way to differentiate whole milk from buttermilk, which was often called sour milk.

The last ingredient in my quest was sorghum syrup, which none of my neighborhood stores stocked, I’m sad to say.  I could have gotten some online, but quite honestly, I wanted to make bread!  So I fudged a little and bought some light molasses instead.

The bread turned out quite well, especially for a recipe that included substitutions and a lot of guess work!  Even though we made the bread late at night, we had to try a piece while it was still warm with just a bit of butter.  😉  I toasted up a piece for breakfast the next morning, and it was lovely.  It’s a hearty bread that’s just a little on the sweet side due to the molasses and raisins.  The best part?  It kept me going until I had a late lunch, which is unusual for just a piece of bread!  All in all, it’s definitely a recipe I’d make again.

Mrs. Boland’s Walnut Brown Bread

2 cups graham flour

1 ½ cup white flour

2 cups of sweet milk

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup molasses (sorghum preferred)

1 tsp salt

1 large tsp soda

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup raisins

  1. Mix all dry ingredients
  2. Add molasses and milk into dry ingredients
  3. Beat well until light.
  4. Bake in a moderate oven for 1 hour

My Cooking Notes:

  • The batter will be very runny.  I beat the dough by hand for a few minutes and decided it was ‘light’ enough.
  • I baked the bread in a buttered and floured loaf pan.
  • My husband’s grandmother was a little vague with the oven temperature, no?  We decided to bake the bread at 350 degrees (F) for an hour.  After an hour, it needed a little more time.  In the end, the bread baked for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  The next time we make the bread, we plan to try a 375 degree oven.


  1. Reply
    Jenn B February 25, 2010

    What ingredients did you buy to make graham flour later? I’m in a flour-buying moratorium but I’ve got all sorts of grains and bran in the house. That bread sounds delicious!

    • Reply
      alison February 25, 2010

      Hi Jenn,

      Regular white flour, wheat germ, and wheat bran! Let me know if you try it!

  2. Reply
    Jenn March 1, 2010

    I made this bread this afternoon using the metric instructions for graham flour from Wikipedia. Since I’m cooking from the pantry this week I used pecans and golden raisins instead of walnuts and raisins and I also used blackstrap molasses. Danny and I just shared the heel, buttered. I could probably have baked it a little longer, but it tasted good anyway!

    • Reply
      alison March 1, 2010

      Woohoo! I’m glad that you made it! I really liked how it turned out. I think it would make really good muffins too — a good on-the-go breakfast!

  3. Reply
    Margaret March 2, 2010

    Grandma would be so proud! Your photos are lovely and I hope the bread was worth your time and efforts!!

    • Reply
      alison March 2, 2010

      Hi Margaret —

      The bread was very yummy! Thanks for letting us use Grandma Marie’s recipe.

  4. Reply
    Genny March 2, 2010

    looks yummy. im always looking for a on the go breakfast. will try this weekend.
    kudos on the photos…do you have any other recipes that are Grandma Marie approved?

    • Reply
      alison March 2, 2010

      Thanks Genny! I definitely have a few more Grandma Marie recipes up my sleeve!

  5. Reply
    Karen March 12, 2010

    This bread sounds so good. I love vintage recipes and am enjoying your blog! Love your Etsy store, too 🙂

    • Reply
      alison March 12, 2010

      Hi Karen — Thanks for visiting! We’re having so much fun making the recipes and finding things for the store!

  6. Reply
    Susan @The Spice Garden March 15, 2010

    Alison! I am so glad you commented on the site! As I explore your site, I am so pleased to see old recipes being kept alive on the Net. I have my bag that I’ve collected for thirty years. I have been slowly getting them onto files and printed out for my children (those clippings, index cards, and cookbook favorites need to be consolidated). If you are ever in need of ‘old ones’ let me know, I have many… in the meantime, I will be checking in on you often! This blog is a wonderful idea! Keep at it!

    • Reply
      alison March 16, 2010

      @Susan thanks so much for stopping by! After hearing about so many culinary histories being lost, I wanted to do something to keep these old recipes kickin’!

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