Fall may not be my favourite season but I do appreciate how life slows down organically with the changing season. I like to think of it as a moment for rest and restoration before the earth moves into the darkest time of the year (and I mean Christmas season!). I’m learning to be purposefully unhurried with my time lately, like whole Sundays dedicated to making bread.
This past Sunday I tried a new recipe, a sweet potato loaf made with real mashed sweet potatoes and a touch of maple syrup, I’m devouring a thick slice slathered in peanut butter as write this. It’s soft and tender, and slightly sweet.
I feel like I’m an old hand at this sweet molasses brown bread, I’ve made twice in the last month, and too many times to count this year. It’s a little sweeter, with subtle yet deep warm accents of molasses and cocoa powder. I’m very much in love with this bread.
A few lifetimes ago, we used to do these Sunday evening get-togethers at the Cheesecake Factory. The dinners became customary; we usually sat in the same section, had the same waiter (Hi Chris!), and I always ordered the Louisiana chicken pasta. The most memorable thing about those dinners (besides the good company, of course), the thing I still remember from those moments, is tearing into the soft whole-wheat brown bread from the bread basket.
I was completely addicted to that bread, a sweet flavourful warm dark bread with flecks of oats; a slight obsession that never waned.
So years later when I found these recipes online purporting to be copycat versions of this bread that I once couldn’t get enough of, I had to at least try it.
I must say, since it’s been so long, I can’t really tell how close this bread is in taste and texture to the one from the Cheesecake Factory, but this has certainly become my favourite bread. I can easily eat a whole loaf in one sitting, especially right out of the oven.
Surprisingly, this is a relatively simple bread to make; it gets its deep colour from molasses and cocoa powder, none of which is noticeable in the bread. Instead, it melds together to create a beautifully unique flavour – I can’t quite describe it, but it’s really good. I opted not to use honey (most recipes do) and doubled the molasses, it gives it a deep rich taste with warm tones.
These loaves would be great at Thanksgiving or Christmas, or for some other special occasion. I want to make a batch for Christmas, perhaps as pull-apart dinner rolls; I think it’ll be comforting to have at the table.
- 1 1/2 cups almond milk (or some other non-diary milk or water), warmed
- 1/2 cup molasses (do not use fancy molasses)
- 4 tablespoons non-dairy butter or coconut oil, softened
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 2/3 cups white whole-wheat flour (or regular whole wheat flour)
- 2 – 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
- Old-fashioned rolled oats for sprinkling on top, optional
- If using a bread machine, add ingredients to the bucket of the bread machine in the suggested order per the machine’s instructions (e.g. wet ingredients first then dry ingredients or vice versa), select the dough or manual cycle to prepare dough.
- If using a stand mixer, mix wet ingredients, then add the dry ingredients; start with a flat beater on low and mix until dough starts to come together, then switch to dough hook
- If using your hand, combine dry ingredients including yeast, (if using instant yeast) in a large bowl, make a hole in the mixture. Add milk, molasses and butter and mix with a wooden spoon until dough becomes wet and shaggy, then knead with your hand until dough comes together roughly
- Whichever method you use, knead dough until it comes together comes completely, and becomes smooth and elastic
- Place dough in a large oiled bowl (or leave in bread machine bucket); cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour
- Turn dough onto a flour dusted work-surface, divide into 3 pieces and shape into loaves
- Place dough on a lightly greased (or parchment lined) baking sheet or place in greased loaf pans and sprinkle with oats
- Allow dough to rise, covered in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour, until almost doubled in size
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. towards the end of the rising time
- Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until the colour deepens and a toothpick or tester inserted in the center comes out clean
- Removes loaves from oven and cool on a rack
- Serve warm or at room temperature