Best-Ever Molasses Brown Bread

published Nov 19, 2021
Brown Bread Recipe

This recipe is inspired by Irish wheaten bread and is best served sliced and slathered with salted butter.

Serves10

Makes1 loaf

Prep20 minutes

Cook50 minutes to 55 minutes

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a round loaf of freshly baked brown bread sliced on a cutting board
Credit: Tara Holland

This brown bread recipe is inspired by Irish wheaten bread (which is similar to soda bread) and brings back fond memories of my childhood in Ireland, where I visited my extended family every summer. It was always served sliced and slathered with salted Kerrygold butter (and sometimes jam), and usually alongside a cup of strong Barry’s Irish Breakfast Tea. I also remember eating it with soft-boiled eggs for breakfast. It has a slightly cake-like aroma and flavor similar to scones, with a crisp crust and crumbly, soft interior. This version is made with a mix of wheat and all-purpose flour, plus a few tablespoons of molasses for depth and sweetness (which is definitely not Irish, but I’m an American citizen now!). 

What Is Brown Bread?

There are many different types and forms of brown bread. This recipe is technically a quick bread, which means it’s not made with yeast. It has a light, crumbly texture that is much less dense than some other brown breads. Other popular versions are listed below.

  • Wheat bread: The ubiquitous loaf that’s sold in most grocery stores and bakeries.
  • Boston brown bread (aka New England brown bread): Dark in color and sweetened with molasses, this bread is traditionally steamed in a kettle and made with a mix of flours, usually including wheat (and sometimes rye) flour. Some variations include raisins and maple syrup.
  • British malt loaf: Although it is visually a form of brown bread, it’s actually made with all-purpose flour, dyed with black tea, and flavored with malt extract and black treacle (the U.K.’s answer to molasses).
  • Guinness brown bread: Contains (yes, you guessed it) Guinness! This loaf has a mix of wheat, all-purpose flour, and oats in the dough and is sweetened with dark brown sugar and flavored with vanilla extract. 
Credit: Tara Holland

How to Store Brown Bread 

This brown bread should be cooled thoroughly and stored at room temperature, either in a resealable plastic bag, foil, or an airtight container. It will last for four to five days and will freeze for up to three months. It can dry out quickly, so you must wrap it properly to extend its longevity. 

Do I Need Any Special Equipment to Make Brown Bread?

This recipe is made with a stand mixer for ease, using both the paddle and the dough hook. However, it could be mixed in a large bowl and kneaded by hand. 

What to Serve with This Brown Bread

  • Slathered with salted butter and topped with preserves or marmalade.
  • Served with any soup for dipping.
  • Lightly toasted, topped with cream cheese, and topped with smoked salmon.
  • Alongside a thick, hearty stew, such as Irish stew.
  • Buttered and served alongside shrimp cocktail.
  • Lightly toasted and spread with liver or duck paté and topped with pickled red onion.

Brown Bread Recipe

This recipe is inspired by Irish wheaten bread and is best served sliced and slathered with salted butter.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 50 minutes to 55 minutes

Makes 1 loaf

Serves 10

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1/2 stick

    (2 ounces) unsalted butter

  • 1 1/4 cups

    all-purpose flour, divided, plus more as needed

  • 3 1/4 cups

    whole-wheat flour

  • 2 tablespoons

    granulated sugar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    baking soda

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 2 cups

    buttermilk, plus 1 tablespoon, divided

  • 1/4 cup

    vegetable oil

  • 3 tablespoons

    molasses

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons

    old-fashioned oats, optional

Instructions

  1. Dice 1/2 stick unsalted butter. Let it sit on the counter at room temperature until softened, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

  2. Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400℉. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle a small handful of all-purpose flour in the center of the baking sheet.

  3. Place 3 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour, 1 cup of the all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed for a few seconds until combined. Add the softened butter, and continue to mix on medium-low until butter is incorporated and mixture looks sandy, about 2 minutes.

  4. Change attachment to the dough hook. Add 2 cups buttermilk, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, and 3 tablespoons molasses. Continue mixing on medium-low, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, until a shaggy, sticky dough has formed, about 2 minutes. If the dough still seems too wet, add the remaining 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, a tablespoon at a time, as needed.

  5. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead just until it forms a smooth ball, about 10 to 15 seconds, sprinkling lightly with flour if needed. Pat the dough into a round about 7 inches in diameter. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet using a bench scraper or spatula. (The dough will be very soft.) Brush top of loaf with remaining 1 tablespoon buttermilk and sprinkle with 1 1/2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats if using. Using a serrated knife or lame, cut a cross about 1/2-inch deep on the top of the loaf, leaving about an inch at the edges.

  6. Bake for 30 minutes. The loaf will spread and feel firm on top. Reduce oven heat to 375℉, rotate pan and bake until a deep golden-brown crust has formed, and a toothpick or skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes more.

  7. Transfer bread to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing, about 1 hour 30 minutes.

Recipe Notes

The dough: This is a soft, sticky dough to work with, so don’t be alarmed if it feels too soft when you transfer it to the work surface. It should come together after a quick knead, and you can sprinkle the dough, your hands, and/or the work surface with more flour as needed.

Substitutions: An equal amount of bread flour can be used in place of all-purpose flour.

Storage: Leftovers can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up 4 to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.