At What Stage of the Baking Should you Add the Add-Ins to Your Bread Dough?


So, you’ve mastered baking bread, or maybe you haven’t. Either way, you’re feeling adventurous and want to add a little je ne sais quois to up your bread game. Should you, can you just toss in whatever add-ins to your bread dough that your little heart desires? There are several things to consider when adding things like raisins, olives, seeds, and nuts to your bread dough. 

Add-ins can be a lot of fun in bread dough. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t add your add-ins until the bread dough has been properly developed and kneaded. Once you’ve added whatever nuts, seeds, or fruits you desire, you follow the fermentation process of the original recipe.

Knowing which are the choicest add-ins can’t hurt, and while it can be as simple as tossing whatever add-ins you like into your bread dough at the right time, there is a little more to it. Taking things like quantities, hydration, and possible recipe adjustments into consideration can make all the difference.

Recipe Adjustments When Using Add-ins

If you already have a favorite sourdough bread recipe and want to incorporate your add-ins to it, rather than working with an unfamiliar recipe, the problem is solved by using baker’s percentages. If you’re deep into making sourdough bread, then you’re likely familiar with bakers percentages. If you aren’t, here’s a quick explanation:

Baker’s Percentages (a.k.a., Baker’s Math) refers to the method of adjusting a sourdough bread recipe with ease, precision, and a single unit of measurement, such as grams. Using this method holds flour at 100%, and that all the rest of the ingredients are percentages of the weight of the flour. For example, if you’re using 500g of flour, and the recipe calls for a hydration level of 75%, then you will use 375g of water (500g x 75% = 375g).

Now that that’s explained, adding things like nuts, fruits, or whatever you like to your favorite basic sourdough recipe is relatively easy. It’s better to be conservative at the beginning and add if necessary, rather than going for the maximum and not being able to take it out afterward. Anywhere from 15 – 20% is a good place to start. So if, for instance, you want to add sundried tomatoes, and your recipe calls for 1000g of flour, you would add anywhere from 150 – 200g of sundried tomatoes to your bread dough. 

Using baker’s percentages works best with additions like dried fruits, olives, nuts, and the like. Herbs and spices, on the other hand, don’t require such precise adjustments, and adding a tablespoon or two at a time, should work just fine.

What about wet add-ins?

Do you need to make any adjustments to the hydration level of your sourdough bread recipe? You can try and reduce the hydration of the recipe by 2 to 5% if your wet add-ins are particularly wet and likely to impact the consistency of the dough.

What Can I Add to My Bread Dough?

It’s essential to keep in mind that adding any extra ingredients, such as nuts, seeds and dried fruits to your dough should be carried out carefully. Add-ins can be folded into the dough either using a mixer on a low setting or by hand at the end of the mixing process, once the bread dough is well developed and kneaded properly. 

Seeds

One exception to the rule of adding extra ingredients to your bread dough after properly developing and kneading is the addition of seeds. Adding seeds at the start of kneading will allow for the flavor of the seeds to be dispersed more effectively throughout the dough. The seeds get crushed during the kneading process, permitting the oils from the seeds and the seeds themselves to spread the flavor inside and out of the bread.

TIP: Roasting at 350°F (177.7°C) for about 15 minutes, and then cooling your seeds before mixing them into your bread dough brings out their flavor. 

Anise Seedstrong licorice flavor, known for health benefits – found in yeast and quick bread.
Caraway SeedsNormally added to rye and pumpernickel bread, though a nice addition to yeast bread.
ChiaA tendency to absorb a lot of moisture, so best to roast before adding to bread dough
FlaxRoast seeds to reduce moisture absorption. Grinding is recommended to gain health benefits. If not roasting, you can try replacing ½ cup of bread flour in the recipe with ½ cup of ground flax seeds.
PoppyCommonly decorate the tops of bread, or found as filling in yeasted doughs and cake-like bread.
PumpkinA great crunchy addition, worth roasting before adding, and doesn’t require any changes to the recipe.
SesameNutrient-dense with several health benefits often found decorating the tops of white bread and rolls – can be added raw or roasted.
SunflowerSimilar to flax, can be roasted or ground up and added to your bread replacing a portion of the flour with an equal amount of ground sunflower seed.

Dried Fruits

Dried fruits, like raisins and dried cranberries, are the go-to dried fruits we think of when it comes to bread. You can, of course, change things up and use other fruits like apricots, dates, plums, figs, and more. 

TIP: Dried fruit can wick away moisture from the bread dough, drying out the final product. To avoid this, soak the dried fruit in water, alcohol, or juice and then drain before adding them to the bread dough. This will not only ensure your loaf of bread stays moist, but it also helps intensify the flavor of the dried fruit.

Nuts

Nuts are a delicious and nutritious added ingredient to any bread dough. Whatever your choice, whether almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, etc., they’re sure to add great flavor and texture to your bread. Not only that, but nuts are fairly interchangeable in a recipe, so if your recipe calls for walnuts and you want pecans, the final product remains essentially the same. 

Nuts can be added raw or toasted, it’s really up to you though there are a couple of things to keep in mind. If adding them in raw, you’ll want to gently fold them at the end of mixing. Toasting boosts the flavor, so it’s a worthy extra step. To toast the nuts, heat them up for 5 to 10 minutes in a pan on low heat. Then you can press them into the bread dough gently. 

It’s important to note that some nuts, like walnuts, can pull moisture away. To counter this you can adjust the recipe and up the hydration by a percentage or two.

A Few Other Worthy Add-Ins

Herbs & Spices

Basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, and even chives are all amazing flavor additions to your bread. When it comes to herbs and spices, it’s best to follow the recipe – but generally, they’re added with the rest of the ingredients at the beginning. Though fresh herbs are a nice addition (and smell great during prep) the flavor doesn’t lend as well as their dried version. 

Spices; like cinnamon, ginger, and even tarragon (which is actually an herb) can be tricky due to their antimicrobial properties. Using these excessively can hinder fermentation, possibly stopping the dough from rising altogether. If you are making something like cinnamon raisin bread, the earliest you will want to add the cinnamon is just before the first fold. You can also add 40 – 60 minutes to the bulk proof to compensate for its effects on fermentation, 

The add-ins listed below should be incorporated into the dough once the gluten is well developed and before the bulk proof. If, while checking your hydration levels, you find the dough is sticky, you can try adding no more than a tablespoon at a time of flour to get the desired consistency.

Garlic

Ideally, garlic should be roasted with olive oil in the oven until it’s caramelized before being added to your dough. Once the garlic has cooled you can add it to the second folding stage. 

NOTE: Do not use garlic powder in your dough as it will inhibit the fermentation process and will cause the dough to spread out rather than rising.

Sundried Tomatoes

Drain as much liquid from the sundried tomatoes as possible (if using the dry kind, you may want to soak in warm water for about an hour).

TIP: The oil drained from the sundried tomatoes can be used in the recipe if it calls for oil. The oil, though, cannot replace the water (in addition to, not instead of) at the beginning.

Olives

Drain, rinse, and either air dry or pat the olives dry before you add them to your dough. You can also chop them up, which helps make sure there are no pits (it ain’t’ fun biting down on an olive pit!) and allows for better flavor dispersal. If you’re watching your salt, and the olives are particularly salty, you might want to reduce the salt in the recipe by one to two percent.

Onions

Fried onions are a delicious add-in option. You’ll want to drain the onions of any excess oil from frying before adding to your dough. You can also use dehydrated onions, just hydrate them (like you would dried fruits, with water), drain, and add to your dough once the dough has been well kneaded and the gluten is developed.

Winning combinations for your bread add-ins

Here are some great add-in combinations that I have used in the past

  • Kalamata olives with oregano or thyme. You can use any olives I just love Kalamata olives.
  • Sundried tomato’s and garlic
  • Walnuts and Raisins . You can substitute the walnuts to any other nut you may prefer but I personally think Walnuts taste best in bread.
  • A blend of seeds and oats always works great. I like to use Pumpkin seeds, oats, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and sesame. Make sure to toast your oats before adding to the dough. I use equal portions of each seed.
  • Cinnamon and raisins of course!
  • White onions (raw) and poppy seeds. This might sound like a strange one but it works! for every large onion use about a tablespoon of poppy seeds
  • Pistachio. That’s it, just pistachio. Ya, they teste amazing and I would just add them on their own. Make sure to roast them a a bit before adding them in.

Of course there are hundreds of other combinations you can go with. Just make sure you taste the combinations before adding them to your dough.

Just take the combination of ingrediants you would like to add to your dough and mix them up in the palm of your hand and taste them.

Better yet, if you have a bread on hand that is similar to the one you intend on making with these addons than take a piece of bread, through the addons on top and shove it in your mouth. 🙂

After all, you don’t want to put in so much effort to making your bread and have it come out not tastings so great because you added a combination of flavors that did not work.

Your Bread Maker & Add-ins

Nowadays, bread makers often come equipped with a fruit and nut setting, that either reminds you to add them in. Some bread makers come with dispensers that release the add-ins into the bread dough near the end of the kneading cycle to keep the add-ins as intact as possible. If neither of these options is available on your machine, you can add your add-ins toward the end of the kneading cycle.

If you happen to be in the market for a bread machine check out our recommended bread maker right here, although it does not have an automatic add-in feeder you can always add it manually as mentioned above. This is truly the best bread machine on the market today.

So, that’s it – the ins and outs of adding all the yummy add-ins you can think of, taking your loaf of bread to a whole new level of flavor.

Conclusion

It’s really quite simple, add in all your extra flavors at the end after you have kneaded the dough. This way you reduce the change of your add-ins breaking apart or crumbling in the dough. You will end up not only with a great tasting product but also a pretty looking one as well.

Amit

Hi, my name is Amit. I started baking at a young age at my father's bakery. I hope I can answer some of your questions and hopefully you will find some hidden gems to help you out with your home baking skills.

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