This Sweet Brown Molasses Bread recipe is the most requested bread for sandwiches in my household. That’s because it’s a partial whole wheat bread, but it’s still soft and a little sweet, so everyone will love it.
Read on to learn about different types of molasses and all the tips and tricks for this molasses bread recipe. Or just grab your apron, hit that Jump to Recipe button, and let’s make a sweet brown bread!
A few years ago, a baking friend passed along a copycat sweet brown bread recipe from the Outback Steakhouse. It woke up some fond memories, but it was too sweet and soft. So I’ve adapted this sweet brown bread recipe for everyday eating.
It’s the favorite sandwich bread in my house. And we eat a LOT of sandwiches.
Molasses is the thick syrup by-product of sugar production. It comes in many forms – sulfured and unsulfured, light and dark. Read everything you need to know about molasses here.
An unsulfured light molasses works best in this molasses bread. If you only have a dark or blackstrap molasses, you might want to consider adding another tablespoon of your favorite sweetener to counteract the bitterness.
Whole wheat flour
Using some whole wheat flour in this recipe makes your sweet brown bread more nutritious while keeping it soft. You can use all bread flour if you want an even fluffier loaf, or increase the amount of whole wheat flour if you are an experienced bread baker.
This bread recipe calls for instant yeast, because that is the easiest to work with. You can use whatever yeast you’re most comfortable working with when making bread.
Also for convenience, the recipe calls for using a packet (just over 2 teaspoons) of that instant yeast, but you’re the one in control. Unless you’re in a hurry (e.g. you’re a contestant on the Great British Bake Off), you can nearly always use less yeast in your bread recipes.
Smaller amounts of yeast are great when you want a longer rising time or even a cold proof in the refrigerator. This molasses brown bread doesn’t need it, but you should definitely do a slow proof with bread recipes whose flavor depends only on its flour, yeast, and salt – like my overnight pizza dough.
Please see the recipe card below for complete information on ingredients and quantities.
Variations and substitutions
- If you don’t have molasses, substitute an equal amount of honey or dark brown sugar.
- Skip the cocoa or coffee powder. They’re in this sweet brown bread mostly for color anyway.
- Make a spiral loaf! Make half of the dough without cocoa and coffee powder, and use black cocoa in the other half. After the first rise, roll out the two doughs, spiral them together, and let the swirled bread loaf rise in the pan.
Recipe tips and tricks
For those of you thinking, “I love bread, but it fails every time,” I want you to hear this. Once upon a time, I had the same thoughts, and someone said this to me: try Jim Lahey’s No-Knead bread before you give up baking bread forever. Once you make that loaf a few times, this sweet molasses bread will be super easy.
If you’re not doing a cold proof, the best temperature for bread to rise is 75 to 80 degrees in a draft-free place. If your kitchen is cooler than this, you can put your bread in your oven that you turned on low for just a minute. Or put a cup of water in the microwave, heat it for a couple of minutes, then quickly open the door and put in your bread dough.
Step by step
This molasses bread has three stages – a sponge and two rises.
Step 1: Make the sponge. Mix half of the yeast with a cup and a quarter of whole wheat flour, coffee granules, cocoa, molasses, and water (Panel #1, below). The remaining flour and yeast is added (Panel #2), and you let it sit until it starts to bubble through (Panel #3).
Step 2: Mix and knead the dough and shape into a round for the first rise (Panel #4 above). You can obviously knead the dough by hand instead of in the mixer, but I’m too lazy for that.
Tip from the wise quacker: if you use a mixer to make bread, make sure you switch to the hook once your dough has come together. Otherwise you run the risk of burning out your motor (and I say this from experience!).
Step 3: Let your molasses bread rise until it has doubled in size.
Step 4: Once your molasses bread has doubled in size, shape it into a loaf and put it in a greased loaf pan for the final rise. Here’s a great video showing how to shape loaf bread.
Step 5: Cover the pan with plastic wrap and again let it rise. Preheat your oven when it has risen to about one inch over the edge of your loaf pan.
Step 6: Bake for about 30 minutes, until the internal temperature is 195 degrees Fahrenheit and it gives a hollow sound when thumped. Let cool at least an hour before slicing!
Basic yeast breads are cooked when the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit, and enriched breads like challah and brioche dough are cooked to a slightly higher temperature. All breads should make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.
What to serve with this sweet molasses bread
This sweet brown bread will work with your favorite sandwich, no matter the sandwich. Here are a few other ideas for this bread:
While both spellings are in use around the world, “sulfured” is the correct spelling. This was designated by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, based on its origin from Latin.
As it cools, your bread continues to firm up as the moisture redistributes throughout the loaf. Cooling retains this moisture and makes the bread loaf easier to slice.
This molasses bread is best stored in an airtight container or plastic bag at room temperature. It’s best in the day or two after it’s made, but it will keep for up to five days.
Yes, bread freezes well and is preferable to storing it in the refrigerator, where it will dry out. Simply wrap the bread whole, or cut the cooled bread into slices and freeze it in a freezer bag for up to three months.
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-heart 💜💜💜💜💜 rating in the recipe card below. Let me know how much you loved it, or any problems you had, in the comments section further down.
Sweet Brown Molasses Bread
- Stand mixer optional
- 1¼ cup 150 grams whole wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder or instant coffee or combination of both, for color
- ¾ teaspoons instant yeast
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1 cup lukewarm water plus more as needed
- 2½ cup 300 grams bread flour plus more as needed
- ¾ teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Make the sponge: by hand, combine the whole wheat flour, ¾ teaspoon yeast, molasses, and water in the bowl of your mixer.1¼ cup 150 grams whole wheat flour, 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder or instant coffee, ¾ teaspoons instant yeast, 2 tablespoons molasses, 1 cup lukewarm water
- Sprinkle the bread flour, ¾ teaspoon yeast, and butter or oil on top of the sponge.2½ cup 300 grams bread flour, ¾ teaspoon instant yeast, 1 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil
- Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 1 to 4 hours until the sponge is bubbling through the top layer.
- Mix in the mixer on low speed or by hand. When it starts to come together, move to the hook. It should be slightly sticky – add a sprinkle of more water or flour a bit at a time as needed.
- Add the salt and then mix on medium low speed for 8 minutes.1 teaspoon salt
- Cover the mixing bowl again with plastic wrap, put it in a cozy, warm place, and let molasses bread dough rise until doubled.
- Butter or oil a 9 by 5 loaf pan (I use butter because I find it’s easier to get the baked loaf to release). Shape into a loaf (see link below) and let rise in its happy place until the bread has risen about an inch over the side of the pan.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F
- Bake your sweet brown bread for 30 minutes, until the internal temp is 195℉ and a thump on the bottom of the loaf gives a hollow sound.
Are you an adventurous home cook looking for inspiration in your weeknight meals and weekend baking?