Delicious sliced warm and served with fresh butter, or used as sandwich bread the next day, this sweet molasses brown bread made with whole wheat, molasses and honey is one of our family favorites!

Delicious sliced warm and served with fresh butter, or used as sandwich bread the next day, this sweet molasses brown bread made with whole wheat, molasses and honey is one of our family favorites!

Sweet Molasses Brown Bread

Don’t get me wrong, when I say “sweet”, this isn’t a super sweet bread like a breakfast bread or dessert roll or something.  It’s just a wonderful, mild sweetness from the molasses and a little honey.  It’s noticeable, but not overpowering.

If you have ever been to the Outback restaurant, this recipe is very close to their mini-loaves of brown bread that they bring out.  The ones which we always devour instantly before pushing the cutting board that it was brought out on to the front of the booth and fixing our server with sad puppy dog eyes until he takes pity and brings us more.

We are the same way with these loaves of sweet molasses brown bread, which is why it’s a good idea to shape it into 3 loaves that get baked on a baking sheet.  It usually means I have one loaf leftover for the freezer (this bread freezes beautifully), one loaf for sandwiches the next day, and one loaf for eating immediately while still warm!

A loaf of homemade brown bread sprinkled with oats, fresh from the oven.A sliced loaf of homemade brown bread, slightly sweetened and perfect for sandwiches.A slice of buttered bread made with whole wheat, with a whole loaf of fresh homemade bread behind it.

How to Make Sweet Molasses Brown bread

  1. First, combine the water, yeast, molasses, cocoa powder, oil, and honey in a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hoook attachment along with 2 cups of the whole wheat flour and mix until combined.  There is no need to proof the yeast if using instant yeast.  If you only have active dry yeast, just proof it first in the warm water.
  2. Add the remaining whole wheat and bread flour a cup at a time, until the dough starts to pull away from the bowl, then knead for 5-7 minutes using the dough hook attachment.  You can knead by hand if you don’t have a mixer with a dough hook, but it will take a bit longer to develop the gluten, more like 10-12 minutes of hand kneading.
  3. Let the dough rise for an hour or two before punching down and shaping into loaves, then placing the loaves on a parchment lined baking sheet, making sure they have room to rise and bake without touching.
  4. Let the shaped loaves rise again for 45-60 minutes, then slash with a sharp knife or bread lame just before baking.
  5. Bake the loaves at 375 degrees for 25 minutes until starting to brown, then brush them each with a melted butter and sprinkle with oats before baking the last 5-7 minutes, until cooked through and a nice brown on top.

Mixing ingredients together for sweet molasses brown bread in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment.Whole wheat bread dough ready for a first rise.Fully risen bread dough for sweet molasses brown bread.Three loaves of sweet brown bread, just like Outback Steakhouse serves, ready to rise before going into the oven.

Tips and Tricks for Making Homemade Brown Bread

  • Yes there is cocoa powder in these loaves, but no, they do not taste at all like chocolate.  It’s a small amount, but it add both color and depth of flavor to the bread without making it even remotely “chocolatey”.
  • Use bread flour along with the whole wheat flour for the best texture.
  • If you want a more steakhouse experience by making mini-loaves or rolls, shape the dough into smaller mini loaves (I probably wouldn’t go smaller than 9 mini-loves total) and bake for 18-22 minutes.
  • To freeze a loaf of the bread, let it cool completely, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.  This sweet molasses brown bread freezes well.  Just pull it out of the freezer and allow it to thaw on the counter overnight before slicing and serving.

Two loaves of copycat Outback brown bread on a baking sheet.

Sweet Molasses Brown Bread
Yield: 36 slices

Sweet Molasses Brown Bread

Delicious sliced warm and served with fresh butter, or used as sandwich bread the next day, this sweet molasses brown bread made with whole wheat, molasses and honey is one of our family favorites!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3-4 cups bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Old-fashioned oats, for sprinkling on top

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the water, yeast, molasses, cocoa powder, oil, honey, salt, and 2 cups of the whole wheat flour. Mix until combined.
  2. With the mixer running, gradually add the rest of the flour starting with the whole wheat, then adding the bread flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl (you may not need the last cup of flour). Knead for 5-7 minutes. The dough should be soft and slightly tacky.
  3. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl, then cover with a sheet of plastic wrap lightly sprayed with cooking spray, or cover with a light dish towel.  Let rise until doubled in size, 1-2 hours.
  4. Punch down the dough and divide into two or three evenly-sized pieces (depending on how large you want your loaves).  Shape into tight oval loaves and place onto parchment-lined baking sheets, making sure they have space to rise without touching each other. Lightly cover with plastic wrap lightly sprayed with cooking spray or a light dish towel and let rise again until puffy and doubled in size (another 45-60 minutes).  Right before baking, you can use a very sharp razor, knife or bread-slashing lame to cut three slashes across the top of each loaf, if desired.  
  5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Bake the loaves for 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and lightly brush with the melted butter, then sprinkle with the oats and bake for another 5-7 minutes, until browned and cooked through.  Cool before slicing.

Notes

The oats are more for appearance and texture, but they do tend to fall off when slicing the bread.  I keep them anyway because I enjoy the look and texture they give to the loaves.

If desired, the dough could be shaped into 12-14 rolls or 6-8 mini-loaves instead of larger loaves, just decrease the baking time depending on the size you are shaping the bread.

Recipe only slightly adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

36

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 110 Cholesterol: 2mg Sodium: 11mg Carbohydrates: 19g Fiber: 1g Sugar: 4g Protein: 2g