I should learn by now to never, ever, never-ever tell anyone that it’s been forever since I’ve been sick because the minute those words come out of my mouth, I swear to you, I have instantly the worst cold in a decade. Healthy pride goeth before the fall, I suppose. That’s my reality this week. After seriously not being sick in forever (I can say it out loud now since I’m already miserable), I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus. And for some strange reason, my HR department isn’t answering my phone calls about my allotted sick days. Weird.
Today, in the midst of feeling like my pounding head was stuffed inside too-small pantyhose, I remembered that I had a loaf of this sweet molasses bread hidden in the depths of my freezer and the realization almost made everything better.
A quick defrost in the microwave, several slices, and a healthy dose of butter later, I decided that sometimes self-medicating with bread is the best way to go (that and going to bed at 8:23 p.m. for several nights in a row).
We are in love with this bread and have made it too many times to count over the last few months. Most of the remakes were in an attempt to get the perfect variation of ingredients – a slight hint of sweetness with the molasses and honey while keeping the beautiful dark color.
I’m not entirely sure why my kids go crazy for this bread but they do. The last two kids to celebrate birthdays have requested this bread as part of their birthday dinner and it’s their favorite thing to see in their lunch box. If you’ve ever dined out at a popular steakhouse chain (like Outback and others), the sweet molasses bread they serve is always the best part of the meal, in my opinion, and the homemade version is even more delicious.
I’ve included some helpful tips and information in the notes below the recipe title but rest assured that this dough is a dream to work with. I hope you love it as much as we do. Just don’t forget to slather on that butter. It’s kind of a must.
While you contemplate why, how, when and where you’ll make this amazing sweet molasses bread, I’m off to arm wrestle my kindergartener for the last piece of our loaf and try to convince him he should try his 6-year old hand at making sweet molasses bread for his sick, old mother because it’s the right thing to do (actually, now that I’m typing that out loud, I’m not sure the mess would be worth it; maybe we’ll just dig in the freezer and hope for the good luck to find another misplaced loaf).
I've used all sorts of different oil making this bread: olive, avocado, melted coconut. You could also use canola or vegetable oil.
The vital wheat gluten is optional but I highly recommend it if you want a really soft, light, chewy loaf of bread. Another alternative is to use bread flour in place of the white flour (and omit the gluten). Also, if you don't have wheat flour, you can make this with 100% white flour. I haven't tried making this with all whole wheat flour - if you experiment, I'd suggest increasing the kneading time by a few minutes to really develop that gluten and get a soft, light loaf.
The oats in the recipe are more for looks - and they tend to fall off while slicing but I like the look and texture of them so I've kept them along for the ride. You could easily omit them if they're not really you're thing.
This recipe transitions very well to rolls (about 12-14) or any size of loaves.
- 2 1/2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
- 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened, natural cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons oil (see note above)
- 1/3 cup honey
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten (optional - see note)
- 3 cups white whole wheat flour
- 3-4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2-3 tablespoons butter, melted
- Old-fashioned oats for sprinkling
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (or in a large bowl with a wooden spoon if powering through this by hand), combine the water, yeast, molasses, cocoa powder, oil, honey, salt, gluten (if using), and 2 cups of the whole wheat flour. Mix until combined.
- With the mixer running, slowly add the rest of the whole wheat flour. Start adding the white flour gradually until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Knead for 5-7 minutes (about 10-15 if kneading by hand). The dough should be soft and slightly tacky but shouldn't leave a lot of residue on your fingers if you grab a piece.
- Turn the dough into a large, lightly greased bowl, cover with greased plastic wrap or a light towel, and let rise until doubled, 1-2 hours.
- Lightly punch down the dough and divide into three equal pieces. Form into tight oval loaves and place on parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheets (I fit two loaves on one large, rimmed 11X17-inch baking sheet and the third loaf on another baking sheet). Lightly cover with greased plastic wrap or a light towel and let rise until puffy and doubled in size. Optional: right before baking, using a very sharp razor, knife or bread-slashing lame (I use this one from King Arthur Flour), cut three deep slashes in the top of each loaf.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the loaves for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and lightly brush with about a tablespoon of butter. Sprinkle with the oats and bake for another 5-7 minutes.
Recipe Source: inspired by this copycat recipe (sent to me by a longtime reader, Lien) and this recipe on Frieda’s site