Seeds Add Elegance & Taste to Breads

Combined with the depth of sourdough, seeds, nuts, dried fruit, herbs – they can all transform a basic loaf into something undeniably delicious.”

– Amanda from Heartbeet Kitchen

Today as the sun is melting the snow off our roof, it is hard to believe that last week we had a nor’easter that dumped snow all over northern Vermont. My son, Dylan, took the Megabus from Boston the day before the storm. He wanted to spend some time with us before traveling to Indonesia to begin a year of Ph.D. research. While the snow piled outside, my husband and I spent time inside with him chatting, playing Rummy, and sharing meals. We were grateful to learn that he brought his snow boots so we could walk in the crunchy snow and that he was prepared to help us shovel the driveway.

After spending time in the snowy outdoors, it’s always great to come in for warm soup with homemade bread. My husband, son, and I enjoyed such a meal after being outside. I took several slices of my recently made sourdough bread from the freezer and toasted them slightly. This bread was topped with a generous layer of sesame and crushed anise seed. It tapped my baker’s curiosity to hear Dylan say, “Wow, mom, this bread is great! The seeds add so much flavor.”

This affirmation that topping the bread with seeds makes a difference in taste was interesting. I had begun experimenting more with flavorful spicy seeds in my bread baking. This addition seemed to make already delicious artisan bread truly special. Dylan’s compliment confirmed my thinking.

An assortment of seed toppings can add nutrition, crunch, and pizzazz to homemade bread. These include black and white sesame, fennel, flaxseed, sunflower, pepitas, anise (my favorite), poppy, and caraway. Topping bread with seeds is very easy. I read that to make them stick to the dough, you need to add egg wash beforehand, but I have not found this necessary. Spraying or brushing water on the dough, then adding the seeds before the bread rises works well.* There is no need to pre-toast seeds either because they heat from the oven will toast them perfectly.

It’s been fun to discover that blending the seeds into the dough makes terrific bread too. Amanda Paa @heartbeetkitchen has an Easy Seeded Sourdough recipe with sesame and pumpkin seeds. It has a crusty exterior with a flavorful nutty interior. My husband and I enjoy it toasted for breakfast with jelly!

Check out the links below that reference ideas in this post. Listed are some great sourdough recipes for using seed toppings.

Wishing you happy spring bread baking! — Carole

*Five ways to stick seeds to your bread dough so they don’t fall off – Bake with Jack

Topping Bread Dough — King Arthur Flour

Tested Sourdough Recipes for adding seeds)

Easy Seeded Sourdough Bread — Amanda Paa Heartbeet Kitchen

Sourdough Baguette (add your own seed choices) — @vindiskitchen Vindi

Sesame Sourdough Bread @everything.sourdough on Instagram – Deb

Celebrating 3 Years of Sourdough Baking

“…no one is born a great cook. One learns by doing.”– Julia Child

In March 2020, I discovered sourdough. As they say, good can come from the challenges we face. And, indeed, that is what happened to me.

While working at home during the Covid 19 pandemic, I could not locate dry yeast in the grocery stores, so I decided to see if I could grow my own. I began by reading everything I could about making wild yeast and discovered sourdough starters. The process of making my own yeast seemed overwhelming, but through experimentation, I applied what I read. My first starter began with starchy potatoes and flour. My second experiment was a mixture of flour and water. Since I was unsure what the starter should look like or when or how to use it, it took me a few weeks to understand how it all worked. Quite a few of my early baking attempts using my sourdough starter created baked goods that tasted and looked terrible.

Now I have improved greatly! Before baking, I begin to prepare the levain.* First, I take my oldest sourdough in the jar from the refrigerator and stir the hooch* back into the dough beneath it. The starter becomes very watery. Then I add and mix almost equal amounts of room temperature water (yes, I use Vermont tap water) and one and a half times the all-purpose white, wheat, or a combination of flour. More flour is added until I am stirring a thickish batter-like dough. I select the correct size glass jar for the amount of starter, and especially during the winter months, I warm up the jar with hot water and pour it out before adding the sourdough. A black sharpie marks the height of the sourdough. Over the next few hours, the sourdough gases intersperse the dough doubling its height. The texture is beautiful and is ready to use in your baking!

I use the levain that I need for the recipe and put the remaining portion back into the refrigerator.

Since those early days, I can’t believe how successful my sourdough starter has been. Three years later, I am still using that same sourdough starter by adding water and more flour. Bread, baked desserts, pizza dough, and pancakes have never tasted so delicious as they are with my homemade levain or discard sourdough starter. Of everything I have made, the most challenging has been crusty french baguettes. It has taken quite a long time to learn to make these look authentic. I am still working to improve them.

Crusty Overnight Sourdough Baguettes topped with black and white sesame seeds and a hint of anise seeds.

Finally, I should mention that experimenting with sourdough baking is both messy and fun. Flour and dried sourdough can often be found in my hair, between my fingers, stuck to my clothes, and hardened on kitchen cabinet doorknobs. Still, as I scramble around the kitchen measuring by grams, scooping, leveling, folding, and stretching the dough, I am joyously doing what I enjoy and sharing yummy food with my family too. — Carole

Below are some successful sourdough recipes referenced in this post. Good luck trying them out.

Sourdough Crackers Recipe — King Arthur

Grinder Rolls (soft) – Baking Sense

Crusty Overnight Sourdough Baguettes – Somebody Feed Seb

Terms Used:

*Levain is the portion of a sourdough starter prepared for a specific recipe.

*Hooch is the fermented liquid that separates from and collects on the top of your starter. The hooch should be somewhat clear and smell a bit pungent. It should not be moldy or black.

Anise & Apricots

This artisan apricot sourdough bread developed by Sophie MacKenzie is delightful yet has no sugar! I particularly enjoyed the unique subtle anise flavor created by adding anise seeds. Twice made, this recipe turned out to be fantastic sandwich bread or incredibly delicious sliced for snacking.

Any sourdough bread baker would find this bread easy and fun. Stretching and folding this well-hydrated dough* with lovely soft dried apricots has a light pleasing feel. I purchased Nature’s Garden Probiotic Apricots which were “irresistibly plump and succulent” and added chopped soaked pieces to the dough. I used my homemade sourdough starter which was bubbly and active.

By the second day of fermentation (a 2-day recipe), the dough was bursting from my banneton with live cultures. The final bread, baked in a dutch oven, had that crusty exterior we all look for in artisan bread and an airy interior with soft sweet apricots and anise seeds interspersed.

Be bold and try this naturally sweet fruity sourdough recipe!

Apricot Sourdough with Anise on Baked_the blog (the information and photos are excellent) About food developer Sophie McKenzie

* Used King Arthur Bread Flour & Nature’s Garden Probiotic Apricots