[Sourdough] Dark Molasses & Honey Bread

[Sourdough] Dark Molasses & Honey Bread

This no-knead sourdough loaf is modeled after the dark, sweet, grainy rye breads I became accustomed to encountering in sandwich shops when I lived in southern California. They usually called it squaw bread (I wonder if they still do…) and it makes an excellent foundation for the veggie-loaded sandwiches they do so well down there.

Let’s take a moment to talk about molasses, and how it comes to be. When fresh sugar cane is harvested, it is pressed to yield a juice with about 15% sugar by weight. This cane juice is evaporated, and as water is lost, the solution passes its saturation point and sugars start to crystallize. The syrup is spun in a centrifuge to separate the crystals, which undergo further refinement on their way to becoming white sugar. The dark syrup that remains is molasses, and its darkness is a reflection of the complex products of the sugar cane’s plant biochemistry. Among the “impurities” fractionated into molasses from refined sugar are a significant amount of B vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, potassium and selenium.

[Sourdough] Dark Molasses & Honey Bread

Different grades of molasses can be produced in sequential steps of evaporation/extraction. The first batches yield lighter, sweeter syrups. As more sugars are crystallized out, the molasses becomes more dark, bitter and concentrated. Blackstrap molasses is the last stop; after 3 rounds of evaporation, it becomes economically inefficient to extract any more sugar. Blackstrap molasses is the most robustly flavored, lowest in sugar and richest in micronutrients. I love the deeply bittersweet taste, and the bonus nutrition it can bring to baked goods. 

[Sourdough] Dark Molasses & Honey Bread

My dark bread is made with a blend of rye and wheat flours. I add 1/4 cup per loaf each of molasses and honey, and for even more bitter darkness, I replace half of the water with brewed coffee.

[Sourdough] Dark Molasses & Honey Bread

I was compelled to make this bake happen because my household has been suffering nostalgic cravings for San Diego’s legendary Board and Brew – their Veggie Deluxe sandwich was always the absolute veggiest. I’m pleased to report that the bread made my sandwich taste quite authentic, although I still need to prefect my secret orange sauce (anybody out there have theories to share??)

Outside of sandwiches, this bread is also excellent served warm with butter at dinnertime, steakhouse style. You’ll enjoy it toasted at breakfast, and it makes a pretty cool french toast too!

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[Sourdough] Dark Molasses & Honey Bread

[Sourdough] Dark Molassses & Honey Bread

5 from 7 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Rising Time 1 day
Total Time 1 day 1 hour
Servings 2 loaves


  • 200 grams sourdough starter recently fed & bubbly
  • 180 grams (1/2 cup) blackstrap molasses
  • 180 grams (1/2 cup) honey
  • 240 grams (1 cup) brewed coffee
  • 240 grams (1 cup) water
  • 400 grams dark rye flour
  • 400 grams whole wheat flour
  • 100 grams all-purpose flour
  • 10 grams (about 1 1/2 teaspoons) salt
  • 25 grams (1/4 cup) rolled oats


  • Combine the sourdough starter, molasses, honey, coffee, and water in a large bowl or lidded container. Add the flours and salt, and mix until it forms a thick, sticky dough. Cover the container loosely with its lid, plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, and allow it to rise at room temperature for approximately 12-24 hours (depending on ambient temperature and culture vigor), until roughly doubled in size.
  • When you’re ready to bake, prepare a surface for working with the dough by lightly dusting it with all-purpose or whole-wheat flour. Preheat oven to 400 If you have a baking stone, place it on the middle rack. Even though the next steps take some time, start the preheat now anyway; give the oven plenty of time to get the stone really hot.
  • To shape the dough, begin by evenly dividing the dough into two halves. Pick up each piece, dust the dough with a handful of all-purpose flour and use your hands to shape it into a ball, creating gentle surface tension by stretching each of the four sides of the dough down to the bottom of the ball (the “gluten coat” technique). Shape the dough-ball by patting the dough into an approximately 1.5″ thick rectangle, folding/pressing one edge to the center, rolling the rest of the way, tucking under each of the two ends, and pinching the seam.
  • Place the shaped loaves on a piece of floured parchment paper placed on a large cutting board (or pizza peel, or other sturdy, rimless platter). If you won’t be using a baking stone, place the parchment onto a large sheet pan instead. Brush the loaves lightly with water, and sprinkle with oats. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and rise in a warm place for about 30-45 minutes, until the loaves have begun to plump.
  • Use a sharp knife to score the proofed bread, slicing into each loaf with 2-3 shallow cuts (approximately 0.5″ deptat a 45 degree angle. Open the oven and carefully slide the loaves along with their parchment liner onto the baking stone (or transfer the sheet pan). Bake the loaves for about 40-50 minutes until they are deeply browned; doneness can be tested by knocking the loaves bottoms to listen for a hollow sound, or measuring an internal temperature of at least 190 Let the loaves cool on a wire rack, and wait until they are fully cool before slicing or storing in any kind of container; paper bags recommended for storage.
[Sourdough] Dark Rye Molasses Bread

36 thoughts on “[Sourdough] Dark Molasses & Honey Bread”

  1. Mary … I am trying to convert 200 grams of sourdough starter to cups … I’m having a hard time finding it … can you help? Julia

    1. Hi Julia, it can vary quite a lot depending on how active the starter is (active yeast = more air bubbles = less density). But when I stir mine down before measuring, I get about 240g per cup, so that would roughly be a heaping 3/4 cup for 200 grams.

  2. So I am New to the sourdough started – I purchased Some from a grocery store but when you say recently fed and bubbly what does that mean?
    Or do I just add what I purchased With all the ingredients and it will Rise?


    1. Welcome to sourdough! That’s a great question. I’ve never tried the storebought packets, but is it right that you’re using something like this? I believe that stuff is designed to mix straight into dough, but because it contains instant yeast along with dried sourdough culture, it will rise much faster than this recipe calls for. If the stuff you bought seems way different, let me know what you got? My starter lives in a jar in my fridge, so it needs to be given a handful of flour once or twice before it wakes up and gets bubbly. My post about that style of starter is here if you want to read! Happy baking!

  3. 5 stars
    This looks AMAZING! Working on Day 3 of my first sourdough starter, I hope to make this soon!
    Can this be halved for making just one loaf?
    Also, I’m allergic to rye. Do you think this will work with whole wheat and all purpose flours?

    1. Congrats on your new pet! (: Not a problem at all to halve the recipe. I suspect you’ll have good results if you swap the rye flour for more whole wheat… Rye actually poses a couple of challenges in bread baking, so you may find you have a more supple dough or even a little faster/higher rise with that modification. My advice would be to compare your dough to the pre-rise photo I included to check if the moisture looks right – you may need to add a bit of extra water/coffee or a bit of extra flour to get the right balance. Good luck!!

  4. I have been searching for a squaw bread recipe using sourdough and of course I found one on KAF. Unfortunately I do not have any rye but I do have some oat flour. Could I incorporate that into this recipe? Thanks for all KAF is doing to work with bakeries across the country to help feed people and support our healthcare workers!

    1. I can’t say for sure how well it would perform with oat flour… the amount of gluten would be lower, so I would worry there’s a risk of loss of structure. Maybe it would be OK if you used a higher ratio of whole wheat with less oat flour. If you try, please let us know what happens!

  5. Hi I made this today and it tastes delicious. The dough doubled but not much of a rise in the oven. Is it supposed to be a heavy dense loaf?

    1. I tend to get a decent oven spring, but I do think I’d call it a little denser than most other loaves I make (no airy open crumb).

  6. Hi! I usually bake boules in my Dutch oven and don’t have baking stone. Would this work for that? I was thinking of just trying with the same baking time, half lidded and half not lidded.

    1. I haven’t tried this recipe in a Dutch oven yet, but I agree that sounds like a good strategy! Do let us know if you try, good luck!!

  7. Hi,
    I tried doing this recipe — it more than doubled in less than 24hours, is that normal? I thus immediately baked it per recipe.
    Also, it was extremely sticky prior to baking — I had a hard time shaping it so I put it in the fridge for a little bit of time just so it could “hold”.
    The end result was good but I am wondering if I all of the above was expected/correct.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi! I live in a pretty cold place, so I’m not surprised if many will see a faster rise (I’ll update the recipe notes about that). I’d say this dough is not especially stiff, fairly slack… I like the results that this level of hydration produces in long sourdough rises, and the rye flour also has an effect on the dough structure. If you found it too sloppy to get used to working with, you could experiment with a little less liquid and see where that takes you! Happy baking!!

      1. Thank you for the feedback 🙂
        The end result was delicious despite my wonderings. I was also surprised that you did not ask for a series of stretches and folds — is there a reason behind it?
        I did the recipe exactly as you wrote it and the result was truly delicious. Thank you!

        1. I’m glad it worked out for you! About the stretching and folding – you know, the only reason is that I had been winging it through casual sourdough baking experiments for a couple years before I ever learned about that technique, and I haven’t felt motivated enough yet to test the results against my usual lazy hands-off rises! Although it might not be a bad idea if you’re available to handle the dough while it ferments, especially as a measure against the trouble you had with slackness in this dough. As far as I know, the reason for stretching/folding is to boost gluten development and stiffen structure, so it might be worth a try next time. Because there’s so much rye flour in this recipe, the impact may not be as palpable in this case compared to wheatier breads using the same technique, but there’s enough wheat flour that I think it could still make a difference. If you try it, please let us know!

  8. Just a note for the recipe: my ambient kitchen temp was around 78-79f and the dough only took 12 hours to double in size. Just letting everyone know 🙂

    1. Thank you for the note! Appreciated, I will update the recipe notes to cover that range. It’s been a little tricky to get a handle on what’s normal after moving around different climates – makes me miss warmer kitchens, ha!

    2. 5 stars
      I’ve made this recipe several times, only change is using buckwheat honey, since it blends well with the molasses. Since making it several people have asked where the recipe came from.

  9. 5 stars
    So I majorly messed up and mixed together a half recipe of the dough but forgot the water! When the dough was super stiff I double checked the recipe and realized my error, but it was hard to incorporate the remaining water. I let it sit a few times and ended up throwing it in the mixer to better incorporate. Still seemed a bit lumpy, but went for the overnight rise anyway. It actually seemed to do ok! My starter is pretty active and its very warm, so the dough was ready in 12hours. Was a little tricky to shape due to the somewhat slack dough, but the loaf came out beautiful, tastes delicious and I’ll have to try the recipe again properly 🙂

  10. I just mixed the dough….a half recipe, as I didn’t have enough fed starter to make two loaves. I may do a stretch and fold, after reading the comments above. I usually do at least one stretch and fold, however, I’m also inclined to be lazy and hands off. I like to mix my dough before bed, for morning shaping and baking.

    I will update how the bake goes!

    1. I love a good overnight rise too! Hope it worked out well for you, always nice to get some crowdsourced sourdough notes so we can learn from shared experience 🙂

  11. I’m about to put the loaves in the oven and I’m glad I read the comments as I’ll use my DO after all. I searched for a squaw recipe and couldn’t really find one. This sounds so promising. Would you consider it a “Squaw?” It’s my first time trying a different kind of bread with my starter as I’ve just done the basic country loaf. I hope it hits all the notes of the squaw breads I had for sandwiches in CA.

    1. Yes, I was going for a “squaw” style bread! Bittersweet/dark was my takeaway from most of the specimens I tried in CA, and this is the closest I’ve gotten to recreating that experience so far. Can I ask your thoughts? Is there anything you would change next time to make it more like your ideal squaw bread?

  12. 5 stars
    This is delicious. My daughter calls it Crack bread since she can’t stay out of it. I add chopped dates and lots of walnuts.

  13. I halved the recipe, and followed everything exactly as written. I let it sit out for 24 hours to proof, but it’s still hasn’t risen even a little. It’s about 68°F in my kitchen. I’ve been baking sourdough for years without any rising issues, so I have no idea what went wrong. Should I just let it keep proofing until there’s some rise?

  14. 5 stars
    This is a fantastic recipe. I have triedbwith various ratios of the different flours and it always turns out. I think the oven spring will depend on the strength of your starter. I boost mine before making this bread. I added 15g salt instead to elevate the sweetness. Thank you for sharing this with everyone!

  15. 5 stars
    Any suggestions for making this into baguettes? Im wanting to use it for dessert appetisers, toasted and topped with a strawberry or apple compote. Since these will be passed at an event, they need to be small instead of a big loaf.

    1. That sounds delicious! I have not tried baguetting this recipe, but I don’t think it would be a problem, as long as you are comfortable working with a slack dough and shaping it tightly. I would bake at the same temp, just for a shorter time.

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