The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Honey-Molasses Wheat Bread

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Honey-Molasses Wheat Bread

-- Recipe revised on July 7, 2009 | Shaping technique revised on July 7, 2009 --

I have been developing this recipe for about 4 months now, and it has become one of those breads that's always around the kitchen. I use to make it solely for hearty dinners like stews, roasts, etc. I started off making one dinner sized submarine style loaf and freezing the rest. That worked great, but then I started making clover dinner rolls, and those were great too. This last time, I was rushed, so I just made one large hybrid boule/batard and hoped for the best. It turned out well for the roast we had that night, and lived on the next day in the form of morning toast and afternoon tuna sandwiches. The nuttines of the Whole Wheat really compliments tuna for some reason... very good stuff! Anyways, using only honey and molasses for the sweeteners keeps this bread pretty honest, and allows for the bread flavor to remain dominant.

 - Keith

-- Recipe revised on Jul 7, 2009

-- Edited on Jun 29, 2009 to include recipe

Recipe for Honey-Molasses Whole Wheat Bread (a work in progress!)

Disclaimer: As of right now, I do not use any machines in processing my bread dough. I use a combination of autolyse, frisage (see Technique Notes below recipe), classic stretch and fold, Bertinet stretch and fold, and good old fashioned kneading to get to the proofing stage. Which combinations I use depends on the recipe and time constraints. I will try to define gluten development as light, medium, or heavy so that those of you who do use machines can use your own due diligence and experience with your particular machine.

For this particular loaf, time was of the essence (dinner), so I needed to get from mix to bulk fermentation as fast as possible. To that extent, I used some Bertinet folding for quick gluten strengthening, then some regular kneading before rounding into bulk fermentation. The rest of it, up to baking, was pretty standard fare.

RECIPE INGREDIENTS (Baker's percentages provided)


Ingredient Final Dough
  % Grams
Whole Wheat Flour 57.71% 160.42g
All Purpose Flour 42.29% 117.58g
Water (110° F) 67% 186.26g
Salt 1% 2.78g
Butter (unsalted, softened) 9.3% 25.85g
Honey 13.89% 38.61g
Molasses 6.9% 19.18g
Active Dry Yeast 1.15% 3.2g
Totals 199.24% 553.88g


Notes: This recipe was revised to reduce hydration. After experimenting over the last week with several loaves, I found what I feel is the best starting point for the intial hydration in relation to the type of shape for the end product. You will still need some bench flour during the final kneading, but probably less than 1/4 cup. Please keep in mind that this dough has honey, as well as molasses in it, therefore it will be sticky. Judging when the dough is perfect takes a few times working with it. For me, this 'sweet spot' during the final knead is, it does not stick to my work surface (but I am working with it quickly.. if left to sit more than about 5 seconds, it -will- stick). It will slightly stick to my hands, but I keep them lightly floured.

If you are unfamiliar with scaling recipes using baker's numbers, please just ask and I'd be happy to scale for any amount of dough you need. ~550g of final dough was a perfect size for this particular loaf.

Ok, so onto -


[Added Jul 7, 2009 - Summer is here, and it is over 80° F in my kitchen and work area. I have therefore dropped my target liquid temperature from 110° F to 90° F. My bulk fermentation has dropped from 90 mins to 60 mins, and final proofing dropped from 40 mins to 20 mins. These temperatures and times are using Active Dry Yeast.]

Add flours and salt to a mixing bowl, whisk briskly. Combine water, honey and molasses to micro-safe container and heat in micro to about 120° F. Add butter to liquids. Whisk, and once it has melted in, water mixture should have dropped to about 110° or so (exact temp not real critical here - +/- 5° is fine). Add yeast and allow to work about 5 mins, or if you have used instant yeast, add that to flour instead and skip this step. Make a slight well in flour bowl and add water mixture to the well. Begin incorporating flour into water mixture by stirring from inside the well towards the wall of the mixing bowl. Do as best you can until you cannot mix further. Dump onto work area (no extra flour at this time). Perform Frisage (see note below). Put back into mixing bowl and let autolyse (rest) for about 30 minutes (20 mins during summer heat). After autolyse, return to work surface and begin Bertinet folding. Do this type of folding for about 10-15 minutes. Use windowpane test to check for medium to heavy gluten development. If you use this dough in some sort of a pan, less gluten is necessary. If you intend to make a freeform loaf (as is pictured), lean toward the heavy end. If you are doing this by hand like me, it is very difficult to overwork dough. Once you have a well-developed dough that is also smooth, round it (watch the very end of the Bertinet video) and return to a lightly oiled (I used veg oil, but canola or olive should be fine) bowl for bulk fermenting. Bulk fermenting should take 1 hour to 90 minutes, depending on temperature. Use a floured-finger poke test if you're unsure. Lightly turn back out onto work surface, this time with some bench flour on it (I also use Wondra for my bench work). Shape however you want.

Expert dough handlers: This next section is to walk novice shapers through the process of creating internal dough pressure and external dough tightening. You can skip all of it, and I'll just say, this shape is initially a boule, super-tightened, and then rolled on its side to elongate. The end shape is a batard middle section with a bull nose on each end. The middle section, after final proofing, should be a decent sandwich loaf width.

[Updated shaping technique added July 7, 2009 - For this loaf, I used my fingers to press out a rectangle, with the long edge running top to bottom. Use firm finger pressure to degas while flattening. Roll edge furthest from you towards you, overlapping the dough by about 1/2" to 1". Press down firmly all along the inside of this overlap, building tension on the outside skin. This technique is commonly used for making French loaves, and you are doing two things: building up inside dough pressure while degassing. Continue rolling towards you and pressing each seam. You will do this 7 or 8 times before reaching the edge nearest you. Lightly pinch together final seam along bottom. You should now have a nice French loaf type log. Fold left side 1/3 of the log over the middle, from left to right. Fold right side 1/3 over onto the left side, creating a 3 layer log. Flip upside down, and flatten firmly (but do not smash it). Pick up entire dough ball, and start tucking all of the bottom edge down and force into underside middle. We are now forming a quick and dirty boule. Move the dough ball around in a circle in your hands as you continue tucking under. Watch the surface area on top as the skin tightens. We already tightened once while rolling up the log, we are super-tightening it now. Once you have a nice tight boule, pinch together bottom seam area where all the edge dough gathered. It is -important- to thoroughly seal this seam, or the boule tension will release slightly. Set boule on the work surface, seam side down. It should sit up nice and tight. Very lightly dust your work surface. Now roll the boule back and forth (away from you, then back towards you) over the seam area. Do this fairly quickly, and apply slight pressure to the middle section. Your goal is to elongate the boule a bit, almost to the shape of a large batard. How much you do this last step actually determines the final loaf shape. Doing very little pressure here results on a very fat loaf which more resembles a boule. Using quite a bit of pressure and elongating it farther results in the shape pictured above, which is more of a sandwich loaf with a bull nose. The bull nose is the result of the intial boule shape. You have built up massive internal pressure, and now a super tight outside skin. Effectively, you have created a nice little hand grenade! This is going to maximize your oven spring, and provide for the nice bloom in the middle section. Handle carefully from here on out...]

Transfer to parchment paper or baking sheet for final proof, seam side down (I use an Airbake cookie sheet, which bypasses the need for using parchment paper and provides me with a perfect bottom crust). Final proof is about 25-40 minutes, so begin preheating the oven to 350° F now, or even a bit earlier if yours needs more time. Again use a poke test if you need to determine when the final proof is ready to load into the oven. Lean towards a slight underproof if you like good oven spring. On the loaf pictured, the timing was just about perfect. The batard rose nicely in the heat, but didn't literally explode out the top. I spritzed the proofed loaf with a fine spray of plain water and slashed. The slash was a straight line lengthwise, with a slight angle on the blade. Drizzle about 1 Tbsp melted butter down the slash. This is optional. I omitted the melted butter on two loaves, and ended up with a nice smooth grigne on top. The melted butter loaves keep the slash area very moist and allows for the ear and bloom in the middle (if you like that rustic look).

Bake for about 40-50 minutes, or until a digital thermometer reads 205° F or more (insert on underside, and make sure probe goes to middle of the loaf). When finished baking, turn off oven and let the loaf stay on the slightly pulled out rack to dry (about 5-10 minutes). Retire loaf to an actual cooling rack. You can slice into it within about 15-20 mins or so if, like us, you need it immediately. As with most breads, this loaf cuts best once completely cool (90-120 mins).

I would rate this recipe as Easy to Moderately difficult, the moderate part due to handling a sticky dough with honey and molasses. Anyone with some baking experience should be able to get reasonable results without much hassle. The honey and molasses content also creates a very nice dark golden brown crust without the need for any type of wash. You can experiment with any seeds or additional grains (like oats) for crust toppings. I've done the oats for a very nice result.

Techinique Notes:

Video of Richard Bertinet performing his stretching technique to develop gluten without the aid of a machine:


Frisage is a french term for massaging the dough on the work surface in order to crush and hydrate any dry bits of flour after the intial mix. This, in effect, does by hand what a mixer would do. Although it looks messy, it really isn't that bad, and only takes about 2 minutes to do an entire load of dough. I have found that by doing this, and then following it with an autolyse period, leaves me with a dough that already has a light gluten formation. This makes for less kneading for the next phase. A video demonstrating this is available at the PBS Julia Child video library, where her guest chef is Danielle Forestier. The technique is performed several minutes into the video, right after she is finished combining the flour and water. The difference between what she does and what I do prior to the frisage is, she creates the well in the flour right on the work surface, where I use a mixing bowl. I do not have enough work surface space for that big of a mess! hehe Anyways, video link is HERE.


weavershouse's picture

And looks delicious. What recipe did you use?


Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Thanks! Recipe has been included in an update : )

- Keith

xaipete's picture

Looks real nice, Keith!


ques2008's picture

yes, i'll echo the others' questions:  what's the recipe?

jleung's picture

Sounds like a flexible recipe too.

- Jackie

Nomadcruiser53's picture

Looks to be a winner. Dave

photojess's picture

I'm much to tired to read through this whole post, but I'll be back tomorrow night to read through it!

Looks like one I will want to try.  thanks for adding the recipe

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin


Being an 'easy' type recipe, I figured a few novices would like to try out a definite crowd pleaser. With that in mind, I provided detailed instructions on how to do it with the most basic set of tools one could use... your hands! : )

The short version of instructions are:

1. Combine dry, except ADY.

2. Combine wet, warm to 110° F. Add ADY.

3. Add wet to dry, combine.

4. Develop gluten (whatever works best for you).

5. Round and do bulk fermentation in lightly oiled bowl (doubled).

6. Remove from bowl, shape as desired, prepare shape(s) on baking surface, final proof (almost doubled again).

7. Slash as desired and bake at 350° F for 40-50 mins (internal temp minimum of 205° F).

8. Allow crust to dry out on edge of oven rack 5-10 mins. Cool on rack. Serve.

- Keith

subfuscpersona's picture

I'm surprised that the loaf holds it shape when put in the oven and that you get good oven spring only baking at 350F (especially at this hydration). Most recipes for freeform loaves that I've seen call for 450F.

Any reason you chose the lower temp?

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

You might have missed where I said the hydration was too high, and that you'd need to add more flour in the knead stage or use less water up front (preferred) to achieve a dough that 'feels' right. This is a very versatile dough, and since there's so many different ways you can shape (or present) it, your ending hydration (the 'feel' part of it) kind of finds its own level depending on what you'll do with it. This was the first time I went for a full-sized freeform loaf, and it held up remarkably well.

I have been through quite a few recipes that use 350°, although most of my lean doughs are in the 400 - 450 area. I don't know... what I do know is that this temperature makes for a crust that perfectly compliments this particular dough (in my opinion anyways). You could bake it at 450°, and I really don't think it would matter much, as long as you watch your internal temp and be prepared with a foil tent if the honey and molasses start carmelizing too quickly.

- Keith

Aprea's picture

I like the looks of this bread - I usually use a starter, but this is prompting me to try so I can have a simple whole wheat sandwich bread (PB&J).  Have you ever tried this in a loaf pan?  I am also considering using my oblong LaCloche, without the lid so that I can achieve the soft crust.

I was also wondering if you ever fermented it overnight - I would think the high hydration would work well for that.