If you’ve ever eaten there, you know; the Cheesecake Factory brown bread is everyone’s favourite. Delivered to the tables warm with little packets of butter, the five of us always fight over who gets the last slice while we wait for more to come. For years I just knew that I liked it, and didn’t even bother thinking about why. It wasn’t until I started trying to make it at home that I realized I liked it because of all the layers of flavour. And it just tastes damn amazing!
Molasses, honey, cocoa, espresso, whole wheat. The ingredient list made me scratch my head a few times while working on this one, but in the end, once I got it right, everything somehow made perfect sense. You’re going to have to trust me.
Cheesecake Factory Brown Bread, aka Chocolate Bread.
Or how to get kids to try it the first time.
I’ve been making this Cheesecake Factory brown bread almost monthly for 2 years now. You can see my first post about it here. The kids call it chocolate bread, but I just call it my favourite. I could eat all 6 loafs by myself. I don’t let myself, but I totally could.
I’ve learned a few things making this so many times. Like, even though all that research in the beginning told me they added a caramel colouring to their dough, that’s a step we don’t need to take. It looks great without it. You also don’t NEED to add the cornmeal to the bottom, or the oats to the top. Those just make it look so much nicer though, so I keep doing it. I’ll leave that step up to you.
I’m sure you could also make two big loaves, instead of the six smaller ones, but I like the little ones. I like to pretend that eating 10 little slices is WAY better for you then 3 or four big ones. I also like to pretend I’m Pink in the shower. We do what we have to to get by.
I’m not going to lie to you. My Cheesecake Factory brown bread isn’t the quickest, or the easiest bread to make. If you’re nervous about making bread (I only say this because I was), I’ve got a three step process for you to build up your confidence. Before I started making my own bread regularly I was terrified about screwing it up. I promise it’s not nearly as difficult as you may worry it is.
Step 1 – Crusty, Rustic, No Knead Bread
Start off with this one, my crusty, rustic, no-knead bread. It’s a super easy no-knead bread that you mix together with a wooden spoon in a big bowl. No mixer and no fancy shaping either. It’s what everyone calls “Artisan” bread.
Step 2 – Sweet Dinner Rolls
After that, give my dinner rolls a shot. This gets you using the mixer, and learning how to shape rolls. This dough is super easy to work with, and once you make these, you’ll feel like a bread making god. At least I did.
Step 3 – Cheesecake Factory Brown Bread
Time to make my Cheesecake Factory brown bread. Don’t think that you can’t make this if you’ve never made any other bread. You totally can! Just don’t treat the dough too preciously. It’s just dough. It’s just bread. You’ve got this.
Trust your gut when you’re making it, even if you haven’t made bread before. If you think that the dough is too sticky to handle, add a little more flour to the mixer. If you think it’s way too dry, just add a little bit of water (like a teaspoon at a time). You’ll find lots of extra information at the bottom of my recipe to help you out here.
And most importantly – don’t forget the butter for it when it’s warm out of the oven! We usually have a couple of extra loaves left over. When they’re completely cool, wrap them up in plastic wrap, or put them in a zip-lock bag, and enjoy them the next night!
- 1½ cups warm water (105ºF)
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2¼ tsp instant dry yeast (1 package)
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1¾ cups whole wheat flour
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 2 tsp espresso powder (or coffee)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp butter, softened
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 tbsp molasses
- ¼ cup cornmeal, for dusting the bottom of the shaped (not baked) loafs (optional)
- oats, for dusting the top of the shaped (not baked) loafs (optional)
- In a medium bowl, mix together the warm water, sugar, and yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes to proof (it will become foamy on top).
- Using the paddle attachment in your stand mixer, whisk together the bread flour, whole wheat flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt. Add the yeast mixture, butter, honey, and molasses. Mix on medium-low speed until combined. The dough will be fairly thick and a little tacky.
- Swap out to the dough hook, and knead on medium speed for 8 to 10 minutes. This dough is thicker than your standard white bread, so it will be a little tacky, but will not pull or stick to the bottom of the bowl while kneading. If it feels too sticky, like it would stick to your fingers when trying to shape, add a bit more flour (see notes for more info).
- Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise is a warm spot for two hours, until doubled in size.
- Divide the dough into 6 equal sized pieces, and shape into mini-baguette style logs, roughly 6" long and 2" wide. See below notes for directions on this.
- Place the cornmeal on a plate (if using), and set the loafs in it to lightly coat the bottom. Place the loafs on a lined baking sheet, with lots of space between them. Lightly wet the top of the loafs with your hand and some water, then sprinkle on a light dusting of oats. Spray the tops of the loafs with Pam (to keep the wrap from sticking), then cover VERY loosely with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place and let rise for another 60 to 90 minutes, until nearly doubled in size again.
- Bake in a 350ºF oven for 25 to 35 minutes. The crust will be soft and squishy to the tough. Bread is cooked when the internal temperature is 190ºF, so feel free to use an instant read thermometer to check if you're not sure.
- Let cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. If baking ahead of time, store tightly wrapped in plastic wrap once completely cooled, for up to 2 days, though it's best eaten the day baked. Gently warm in the oven before serving.
With the flour - Some days I find that I need to use more flour (probably depending on the weather, or how packed my cups are). the key is to have the dough feel tacky, but NOT sticky - none of it should stick to your fingers when you give it a squeeze.
For shaping mini-baguettes:
Use your fingertips to pat the dough into a rectangle, about 4" across. Fold the top 1/3 down, like a letter, and press the seam into the dough with your fingertips. You'll see that you're creating some friction at the top, this is good!
Fold the bottom up over the top, tightly, and press to seal again.
Here's a great video that shows this. Skip to the 1:15 mark for the shaping to start. Note that she's making true mini baguettes, that are more than double the size of these, so she needs to do a lot more folds. These loafs are just fine with only two.
Without a stand mixer:
Whisk together the bread flour, whole wheat flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture, butter, honey, and molasses. Knead for about 10 minutes until combined. The dough will be fairly thick and a little tacky, but pieces shouldn't stick to your hands.
Continue with the recipe at step 4.