Molasses Oatmeal Bread
Breads,  Vegetarian

Kathleen’s Oatmeal Molasses Bread, AKA Maritime Oatmeal Bread

This high-rising oatmeal bread features a smack of molasses for a deep color and bright flavor. Who’d guess that a multi-grain loaf could be this fluffy and taste so luscious? It dresses up a sandwich, makes gorgeous toast, and feels like an indulgence when spread with butter. 

We snapped up the recipe from our friend Julie’s mom, Kathleen, when we visited her decades ago in the historic seaside town of St. Andrews, New Brunswick. We always figured this bread was just another of Kathleen’s many specialties. Now we learn it’s a traditional bread from Canada’s Maritime region, often called Maritime Oatmeal Bread or Oatmeal Brown Bread. Rich in molasses and often eaten at Saturday suppers with baked beans, it sounds like Canada’s answer to Boston Brown Bread.

We should have just asked Julie. She says this recipe came from the Laura Secord Canadian Cookbook, a 1966 collection of classic Canadian recipes compiled by the Canadian Home Economics Association. The name honors Laura Secord, a Massachusetts expatriate who became a Canadian heroine during the War of 1812.

Unlike Canadian schoolkids, we’ve never heard of Laura Secord or the major Canadian candy company named after her. Fortunately, Julie has introduced us to the eponymous cookbook that defines Canadian cuisine.

 “The book has recipes from all over, including Arctic Steak (frozen whale meat), Roast Antelope, and Rupert’s Land Bear Stew, as well as Nanaimo Bars—now a national tradition—and Maple Sugar Cookies,” says Julie.

 “I think my mother was given the book by a friend who was keen on Maritime Oatmeal Bread, then commercially available all over the Maritimes. But the recipe from the book made a better loaf, and we both became addicted to it.”

Yes, it’s addictive. And it probably goes great with Rupert’s Land Bear Stew, if you like that kind of thing.

Also, be sure to check out Kathleen’s recipe for Tiny Tarts, another classic Canadian treat.

Kathleen’s Oatmeal Molasses Bread, AKA Maritime Oatmeal Bread

Makes two high loaves (8 ½” x 4 ½” pans)

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 2 ⅞ cups boiling water
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 4 ½ -5 cups bread flour (or all purpose) divided
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast (SAF Gold recommended for sweet dough)
  • ¼ cup nonfat dry milk (optional, for flavor and a more tender crumb)
  • Oil to grease pans
  1. In a large bowl, combine rolled oats, salt, butter and sugar. Pour 2 ⅞ cups boiling water over it. Let it sit 10 minutes, then allow to cool. (You can add a couple of ice cubes to speed cooling. Flour added later will take care of this small amount of liquid.)
  2. Stir ½ cup molasses into oat mixture.
  3. Beat in whole wheat flour, 2 cups bread flour (or all purpose flour), yeast and dry milk, using a dough whisk or electric mixer.
  4. Work in 2 ½ -3 cups more white flour as necessary to make a soft dough, using a dough whisk or your hands to work in the last of flour. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.
  5. Form dough into a ball and place into an oiled bowl, rotating dough to grease its surface. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise about 1½ hours, until doubled and light. In the meantime, grease two 8 ½” pans and preheat oven to 375º convection.
  6. Punch down dough and cut in half. Flatten each half into a rectangle about the length of a pan, then roll up and seal edges. Place into pans, flatten down the dough, and then let rise until doubled—nice and high above the pan rim—which may take as few as 20 minutes if the air is warm.
  7. Bake at 375º 30-35 minutes or until done (about 190º F internal temperature using an instant-read thermometer).
  8. Cool on rack before slicing. Loaves freeze well.
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