It’s been a long time since I’ve baked bread, but this week I needed the therapeutic ritual to help slow my mind. I decided to make a variation on basic dinner rolls because turkey day is coming up and it’s just never too early to start testing recipes for the big day (especially if you’re a food blogger). These Sweet Molasses Dinner Rolls are going to be my new Thanksgiving classic. Not only are they pretty to look at, but their subtle earthy sweetness pairs so well with fall flavors like roasted squash, mushrooms, and turkey.
Want more Thanksgiving recipes? Check out our Holiday Recipe Archives.
The Subtle Sweetness of Molasses
I hope you won’t be frightened away by the word “sweet” in the title. These rolls are not super sweet, but rather just sweet enough. I’d say they’re slightly less sweet than a store bought Hawaiian roll. The earthiness of the molasses and slight bitterness of cocoa powder help mitigate the sweetness and keep the flavors balanced.
Speaking of cocoa, despite the inclusion of unsweetened cocoa powder in the dough, these rolls DO NOT taste like chocolate. Pinky swear. The cocoa is mainly added for color, but I found that it also added just a touch of depth to the flavor without being chocolatey.
Can I Use Whole Wheat Flour?
I often like to use a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flour because it adds flavor and texture while maintaining a light fluffy texture. You can change the ratio of whole wheat to all-purpose flour in this recipe to fit your needs, just know that if you do it will affect the amount of flour you’ll need to add while kneading, and it will also affect the final texture of the roll.
What Type of Molasses Should I Use
Use regular molasses, NOT black strap molasses. Be aware that black strap molasses is less sweet and more bitter than the molasses I used and definitely will affect the outcome of the recipe.
Sweet Molasses Dinner Rolls
- Combine the yeast, brown sugar, and warm water in a bowl and stir to dissolve the yeast and sugar. Let the yeast mixture sit for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture becomes frothy on top.
- While waiting for the yeast to bloom, Add the whole wheat flour, salt, melted butter, cocoa powder, and molasses to a large bowl (no need to stir them together just yet).
- Once the yeast mixture is frothy, pour it into the bowl with the flour and other ingredients, and stir until a smooth mixture forms.
- Begin stirring in all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a ball of dough forms and you can no longer stir it with a spoon. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for five minutes, slowly adding more flour as you knead to prevent the dough from sticking.
- After kneading for five minutes, you should have a soft, buoyant ball of dough that no longer sticks to your hands. You should have used between 1.5 and 2 cups of all-purpose flour total. Place the dough back in the mixing bowl, cover loosely with plastic, and allow it to rise for one hour, or until it is double in volume (rise time will depend on the ambient temperature).
- When the dough has risen, sprinkle a little flour on top to keep your hand from sticking, then punch it down to deflate. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into four equal sized pieces, then cut each of the quarters into three smaller pieces.
- Shape each piece of dough into a ball, then place it in a baking dish coated in non-stick spray, oil, or butter. Allow the shaped rolls to rise for another 45 minutes to an hour, or until double in size again.
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Add the egg to a small bowl along with a splash of water. Whisk the egg until smooth, then carefully brush it over the surface of the rolls (this creates a dark glossy finish to the rolls and is optional).
- Bake the rolls in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until they are deep brown and sound hollow when tapped. Allow the rolls to cool slightly, then serve.
See how we calculate recipe costs here.
Scroll down for the step by step photos!
This white enamel baking dish is made by Crow Canyon.
How to Make Molasses Dinner Rolls – Step by Step Photos
Combine 1 cup warm water with 2 tsp instant or rapid rise yeast, and 1 tsp brown sugar. Stir to dissolve the yeast and sugar, then let it sit for about five minutes, or until it becomes foamy on top. (I actually borrowed this photo from another recipe, which is why it looks like less than 8oz/1 cup in the measuring cup.)
While waiting on the yeast, add 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 Tbsp melted butter, 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1/3 cup molasses to a large bowl. No need to stir them together just yet.
This is the molasses I used, which I think can be found in most major grocery stores. Take note that this is NOT black strap molasses, which is less sweet and more bitter. If you use black strap molasses, your recipe will turn out differently.
Add the foamy yeast water THEN stir everything together until it’s a smooth mixture.
Begin adding all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until you can no longer stir with a spoon and a shaggy ball of dough has formed (this was after about 1 cup of all-purpose flour for me).
Turn the dough out onto a clean, floured surface, and knead for five minutes, adding small amounts of flour as you go. After five minutes, the dough should be soft and buoyant (it kind of bounces back if you poke it), and no longer sticky. I ended up adding about 1/2 cup more flour while kneading, or a total of 1.5 cups of all-purpose flour.
Place the dough back in the mixing bowl, cover loosely with plastic, and let it rise until it is double in volume (about one hour, depending on the room temperature).
Punch the dough down, scrape it out of the bowl, and onto a floured surface. Cut the dough into four equal pieces, then cut each of the quarters into three more pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a ball and place them in a baking dish coated with no-stick spray, oil, or butter.
Let the shaped rolls rise until double in size again. Begin preheating the oven to 375ºF. Whisk a large egg in a small bowl with a splash of water. Once the egg is smooth and fluid, carefully brush it onto the risen rolls (mine deflated a bit from the brush, but they puffed back up in the oven).
When the oven is preheated, bake the rolls for about 25 minutes, or until they are deep brown and sound hollow when you tap them. Let them cool for a few minutes before serving.
While I like to let the Sweet Molasses Dinner Rolls cool a few minutes before serving, I do enjoy them while they are still warm enough to melt the butter! ;)