bread loaf sliced

Restaurant Brown Bread Dinner Rolls

Whole Grain, Dark, Soft Restaurant Copy Cat Brown Bread Dinner Rolls |

It’s been a while since I’ve been at a steakhouse that serves those adorable little dark and soft brown bread dinner roll loaves of bread on a wooden board.

A goodly long while. Taking a family of 10 to a high-priced restaurant would break the bank. But I do have fond memories of enjoying them.

Thumbing through the Whole Grain Baking cookbook, I bookmarked this copycat gem when I saw it. They looked simple enough to prepare and were worth trying to be sure! Since it’s been a while, I won’t say these are an identical knock-off, but I will say they are incredibly soft and delicious and that my children loved their “chocolate” bread. (Not that it tastes like chocolate at all. There is just enough cocoa powder to color the bread.) 

And I will say that I plan to make them again. And that I love butter. Especially on top of warm bread fresh from the oven. It’s nice to have a recipe like this in my arsenal and give my family a special treat, adding a little variety to the bread I’m serving with meals. These little rolls would be perfect for any holiday meal you are planning to serve.  I hope you try them and like them as much as we do!

Whole Grain, Dark, Soft Restaurant Copy Cat Brown Bread Dinner Rolls |

Restaurant Brown Bread Dinner Rolls

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bread loaf sliced

Restaurant Brown Bread Dinner Rolls

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  • 1 cup warm water
  • ⅓ cup orange juice
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 2 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¾ t. salt
  • 3 Tablespoons evaporated cane juice, or sugar (Buy cane juice here.)
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 ½ teaspoons instant yeast (or 3 teaspoons active dry yeast)


  1. Add all of the ingredients to the mixer or bread machine (in order according to manufacturer’s instructions) or mix by hand until the dough is soft and smooth- about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Cover and allow to rise until puffy (it doesn’t have to be doubled), about 1-2 hours.
  3. Gently punch down the dough and on a lightly greased surface, divide into 10 pieces and shape into oval loaves, about 5″ x 2″.
  4. Place on a greased cookie sheet, cover, and rise for about 2 hours.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
  7. Transfer to a cooling rack.
  • Author: Reformation Acres
King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking: Delicious Recipes Using…
  • King Arthur Baking Company (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 640 Pages – 10/06/2014 (Publication Date) – Countryman Press (Publisher)

If you’re needing more of a whole grain baking fix than I’ve been giving you with the Double Fudge Brownies and Wheat Thins, I can’t suggest strongly enough that you pick yourself up a copy of Whole Grain Baking. You’ll love it!

Other baked bread goods from Whole Grain Baking:

Cornmeal & Maple Biscuits

Cornmeal and Maple Biscuits.
A quick substitute for cornbread. My husband was mad when he saw I didn’t make the real deal… until he tried one. And then he apologized for being mad because they are just as good. And that’s enough of a review for me.

Maple Oat Sourdough Bread

Maple Oat Sourdough Bread.
Made for a pretty sandwich loaf. Sourdough sandwich bread makes the best-toasted sandwiches in my most humble opinion.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Cinnamon Swirl Bread.
These were made with a yeasty pre-ferment and I thought they had a bit of a sourdough-like taste to them as a result. Made for some complexity between the sweet and sour. I was heartily thanked for breakfast that morning.

Maple Walnut Quick Bread

Maple Walnut Quick Bread.
A nice, basic quick bread. Beautiful, but without a lot of bells and whistles.


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  1. Hi Quinn,

    . . .not sure what’s going on as the comments seem to be from 2013? i was wondering if you could use einkorn flour in the brown bread dinner roll recipe.

    thank you

    1. When you have an older blog, it’s common practice to refresh the publish date to bring an older post to the attention of new readers, especially rss/email subscribers.. It was a crazy week last week (so muddy the cement block delivery had to be dropped at the end of our ¼ mile driveway and we had to load and unload them on and off a trailer and into the basement one block at a time. That and I lost a whole slew of images on the blog and needed to find which posts and needed to fix that. I didn’t get a chance to finish my post so I opted to serve some bread. 😀

  2. Did you know that recent research done at Harvard suggested that people who eat whole grains (instead of white flour) live longer? I had to laugh at that. It seems so obvious! Anyway, these rolls look yummy. I might try white whole wheat flour, for a lighter roll, if this one seems too heavy (as a commenter suggested).

    1. So that’s what the brightest minds in the country are working on? Hmmm…

      Great idea with the white whole wheat- I passed it along. Thanks Amy!!

  3. My bread turned out very hard. Seems like there’s too much flour and not enough liquid. The taste was good but didn’t raise much. I’m going to try this again and soak the yeast to raise up first some. I love the Orange juice in it and can’t even taste the cocoa. Love the dark brown look though. Did anyone else have struggles?

    1. I’m sorry you had troubles with it Terrie.

      I’m wondering if it could even be something like a difference in flours. Like Amy there mentioned, you could try white whole wheat. We haven’t because my son has an allergy to it, but that might work. I’m not sure from your comment if your using whole wheat from the store or if it’s freshly milled. Mine is the latter and it’s definitely lighter and seems almost sifted compared to the settling that happens in bagged flour.

      At any rate, if you do try them again and find the dough to be tough again, you could slowly incorporate small amounts of water into the dough and work it in until it gets to a good texture without having any adverse effect. I’ve had to do that far too often when I delegate bread to one of my children and they get lazy and don’t lighten up the flour first 🙂

  4. I had seen this knock-off or one very much like it at some point and lost track of where it was. Yippee, now I just have to come back here to find it again. I come back every day so as not to miss out on any new posting. Thanks.

  5. These baked goods look delicious! Having tried the paleo/primal diet and also having experienced success with weight loss by loosely following those principles, I was wondering if your family had noticed any weight loss or gain since you began eating mostly whole grains?

    1. I’ve gotten several comments in regard to the paleo diet recently and I think I’m going to head over to my editor and draft up a post. But in a nutshell, I can report without a doubt that *for me and my husband* we both gained weight on a high protein, low carb diet. That’s not so surprising for me but it’s the first time in 15 years my husband has ever had to go up a pants size. Since adding more grains back in he’s lost all that weight. Keep your eye out for that post 🙂

  6. How serendipitous. Tomorrow I host Christmas Eve and on the menu are lasagnas and rolls of some sort. I knew there would be bread, I just didn’t know what KIND. But I am thinking…..THESE. Yes, absolutely. Along with a braided wreath bread, of course. 😉 Merry Christmas, Quinn!

  7. I’ve made whole wheat rolls for years and never thought to put cocoa powder in them, how does that affect the flavor? I love mine just the way they are, but is it possible that there is something better?

    1. Well the kids thought they tasted it, but they knew the cocoa powder was in it so I think it was more the power of suggestion because I didn’t think the cocoa did more than give it the lovely color.

      1. Well, if you try them, I hope you love them! 🙂 And I hope you have yourself a lovely day and a blessed time with your family! 🙂