In today’s post: Love the soft brown bread at The Outback Steakhouse? Now you can make it at home with my Outback bread recipe.
My very favorite part of eating out at the Outback Steakhouse is the sweet dark brown bread they bring out before the meal. It’s soft and delicious, with hints of molasses and honey. A few years ago I tinkered with my best dinner rolls recipe to see if I could modify it to resemble the sweet molasses bread from the Outback. I got pretty close, but a few readers let me know their bread didn’t rise very well, so I’ve had another go it. This time it’s just about perfect (IMO): soft, tender, with hints of honey and molasses and a gorgeous brown color. I’m pretty sure you’re going to love my Outback bread recipe!
There’s just not much I love more than soft bread. I usually prefer white bread to wheat, but this brown bread recipe uses half whole wheat flour and it’s amazing! It’s mildly sweet with a lot of flavor from the honey and molasses in it. I could honestly skip the meal and just eat this bread.
This bread gets some color from the molasses and baking cocoa that are in it (don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like chocolate!) but if you want a nice deep brown you’ll want to add some coloring. Most commercial dark brown breads are made with caramel coloring, which is hard to find in your local grocery store. You can mix red/yellow/blue from your standard food colors to get a brown, or pick up some brown paste food coloring from the cake decorating section. You’ll need quite a lot of coloring to get the very dark brown color you see at the restaurant. I used just a bit of brown gel coloring.
Make sure you whip up some butter to serve with!
So before we get to the recipe, let me tell you a little secret: I like this bread even better made as rolls. Actually, I like just about ANY bread recipe better made as rolls. Why? Because they don’t have crust! Rolls don’t take as long to bake and so they stay soft and tender the whole way through. So I’ll show you how to make this bread in small loaves just like you get at The Outback, but then I’ll also show you how to make it as rolls, which is what I do almost exclusively.
Outback Bread Recipe
And here’s some extra explanation and photos to help you make gorgeous Outback brown bread:
You’ll start by placing the warm water, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of your mixer. The water should feel warm to the touch, but not hot. Give it about 10 minutes to let the yeast proof – it will get nice and puffy looking, like this:
Then you can start adding the other ingredients. First add the whole wheat flour, the butter, the egg, the molasses, and the honey. If you want to add food coloring, do so now. Using a dough hook, turn the mixer on to low and start letting everything combine.
Once that’s going add one and a half cups of bread flour, the baking cocoa, and the salt. Keep mixing until everything is incorporated.
At this point you may need to add 1/4 to 1/2 cup more bread flour. You want the dough to pull away from the sides of the mixer bowl, so add more flour as needed. If the dough is already pulling away from the mixer, you don’t need to add more. It should look like this:
You’re going to let the dough knead for about 10 minutes total to really build up a lot of gluten, which will help give it a nice rise. If it starts sticking to the bowl too much, you can add some more flour to keep it looking like it does in the photo above. After about ten minutes you should have a nice dough that’s smooth and very elastic. You can pinch off a piece and do the “window pane test” – if it’s ready you’ll be able to stretch the dough thin enough that you can see light through it without the dough tearing.
After kneading, turn the dough out and form it into a tight ball. I spray the inside of my mixer bowl and place my dough back inside it to rise. When I’m making this dough in the winter months I like to turn on my oven for a few minutes to warm it up and then turn it off and place the dough inside it to rise. If you do this, be sure you put it in a bowl with high sides and cover it with a damp towel to keep it from drying out.
Rise time will be 60-90 minutes depending on how warm it is. You want the dough to double in size.
Shaping + baking the Outback molasses bread recipe
Once the dough has risen, decide whether you’d like to make your Outback bread into small loaves or rolls. For small loaves, divide the dough into 6 equal sections. Gently press each section into a 6×6 inch square. Roll the square up into a log, pinching the seam at the bottom.
Place each log onto a greased cookie sheet pan. Spray gently with water and sprinkle with cornmeal. Cover with a dry towel and allow to rise until doubled again, about 50-60 minutes. The second rise won’t look as dramatic as the first rise, but you’re still looking for an increase in volume and a nice puffiness:
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until loaf sounds hollow when you tap on the bottom.
How to make Outback bread rolls
Once the dough has doubled in size, separate it into 16 sections and form into balls. Place them in a greased 9×13 pan and let them rise, covered, for another hour until the dough balls have grown in size enough that they touch one another. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes until cooked through. If you use food coloring, it can be hard to tell when the rolls are done, since they won’t get much browner than they already are. The easiest way to tell if they’re finished is to gently pull one roll away from the one next to it and check to make sure they look baked through. If in doubt, give them another minute or two. Better slightly overdone than doughy inside.
Here’s how I shape rolls. I cut the dough into 16 equal sections, then pick up one section in my right hand. I make a circle with the thumb and forefinger on my left hand, then gently push the dough piece through it, dusting it with flour if needed. Once I’ve pushed the entire piece through, I crimp it together at the bottom. That makes a nice tight ball.
Here’s what the whole process looks like if you’re making rolls:
Outback Bread recipe tips
Ok, I have a couple final tips to make sure your bread turns out amazing:
- Flour: This bread uses two types of flour – whole wheat flour and bread flour. I use white whole wheat flour whenever I’m baking wheat bread. It gives you a bit lighter finished product, but if you only have normal whole wheat flour you’ll be just fine. HOWEVER, you should definitely use bread flour and not all purpose flour. It has a much higher protein content which does a better job building gluten and will make sure you get a good rise on the bread.
- Cocoa: Yes, we use a bit of baking cocoa in the recipe. It adds color and a little depth of flavor, although the bread does not taste like chocolate. DO NOT use dutch process cocoa, as it’s extra acidic and can make it hard for the yeast to rise. Look for natural baking cocoa (like the Hershey’s brand). If you do not want to use cocoa, I’ve had readers recommend substituting instant coffee instead.
- If you need help with bread baking in general, you can click over to my Very best dinner roll recipe. That post includes a step by step video that walks you through the entire process.
Love bread? Give some of these recipes a try: