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.

Discovering Sourdough Pizza

Do you want to improve the taste of your homemade pizza? Make it with sourdough! Start with a basic recipe and you will notice the difference in taste right away. Don’t know how to make a sourdough starter? Watch the video at the end of this post!

King Arthur has a sourdough pizza crust recipe that includes adding 1/2 tsp of commercial yeast. I began making sourdough pizza with this recipe and it makes a great pizza dough. The King Arthur Pizza Flavor listed in the recipe is full of unnecessary ingredients. Instead, I add a touch of honey and reserve the spices for a rich Italian tomato sauce topping.

More recently, I discovered another delicious sourdough pizza dough! It requires overnight refrigeration, which improves the taste. No commercial dry yeast is used. This recipe makes a thick pizza crust full of air pockets that are associated with fermented sourdough. This pizza has a flavorful soft layer beneath the sauce ( Trick: Don’t add oil directly to the dough before adding the sauce). I always bake my pizza on an oven stone (this makes a big difference in the crispiness of the bottom crust). Avoid the bitter flavor of burnt cheese topping by adding it during the last few minutes of baking.

These pizza photo toppings include crushed tomatoes, with added basil, 1 tbsp of capers & olive oil. Vegetables are sauteed onions, garlic, slightly pan-fried broccoli, romano cheese, and feta. Sprinkled oregano and pepper are added once out of the oven.

Try making your own sourdough pizza using the links below.

Mangia! — Carole

King Arthur Sourdough Pizza (with commercial dry yeast)

Sourdough Pizza Crust by Baking Sense

Don’t know how to make sourdough? Below is an entertaining fun video about how to make a sourdough starter. The kids and the dog are so cute!

How to Make Sourdough with homesteader Jill Winger