piece of bread with whole seeds
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The beauty of baking lies in the endless number of options. You can play with the dough and customize it until you find a perfect combination using the ingredients you like. While baking is regarded as a science, it is also art at the same time because it allows you to be imaginative and experiment with different tastes. 

Baking is everything but dull. Whether you’re baking whole wheat bread or sweet loaves such as banana bread or raisin bread, it’s those add-ins that really elevate the dough and give it a mouth-watering taste. 

Adding a variety of add-ins to your bread dough can transform a basic loaf into a flavorsome and healthy breakfast. 

In this post, we will talk about some of the things you can add to a loaf of bread along with tips on how to do it successfully. 

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What Can You Add to the Dough?

There is really no limit as to what you can to the dough to improve its taste. It really depends on your tastes and whether you’re making a sweet loaf or classic bread. 

When it comes to sweet loaves, dried raisins and cranberries are frequently used but you can experiment with other types of fruit too. When making bread (both white and whole wheat), we often top the loves with various seeds such as sunflower seeds. We can also incorporate the seeds into the dough whether you’re making the dough in a bread machine or not. 

As we already said, you can add pretty much anything you like but we find that the most commonly added ingredients include whole grain seeds, fruit, and nuts. 

Which Whole Grains and Seeds Can You Use for Your Dough? 

The answer is whichever whole grains and seeds you enjoy the most. All seeds can easily be incorporated into the dough or used as toppings. Plus, they are very nutritious and healthy. 

Seeds are praised as having numerous health benefits. They are an excellent source of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals. When consumed on a regular basis, whole grains and seeds can significantly improve your health and reduce blood sugar and cholesterol. 

Oats for health breakfast

Oats are an inevitable part of a healthy, balanced breakfast. They are nutritious and low in calories which makes them ideal for those trying to lose or maintain their weight. Oats are full of various vitamins, fiber, and protein. 

They are also very easily incorporated into a loaf and they can be used in desserts as well.

OatsProteinFiberVitamins
per 100g16.9g10.6gVitamin B1, Iron, Manganese, Copper, Zinc, Selenium,Phosphorus

Flax Seed

Flax seed is often referred to as super seed due to its countless health benefits. These seeds contain high levels of protein and fiber, and they are also rich in vitamins essential for our health. Flax seeds are also rich in omega-3 fats.

You can use them whole but they are more easily digested when ground.

Flax seedsProteinFiberVitamins
per 100g19g28gVitamin B1, Copper, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Molybdenum

Black Chia Seeds

If added to your diet, chia seeds can help improve your health. These small black seeds are low in calories but provide great amounts of energy which is why they are a perfect way to start the day. You can add them to your oatmeal, your sweets, and your baked goods. 

Nowadays, chia seeds are known as a superfood due to their various beneficial properties. They are rich in antioxidants, amino acids, and especially fiber. In fact, if you want to add more fiber to your diet, chia seeds are considered to be one of the best foods for that purpose.

Chia seedsProteinFiberVitamins
per 100g17g34gVitamin D, Iron, Potassium

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are packed with healthy nutrients, fats, and vitamins. They are perfect to snack on or add to your multigrain loaf of bread. These seeds are high in protein and several vitamins especially Vitamin E which is known for its antioxidant properties. 

One way of incorporating sunflower seeds in your diet is by adding them to the dough when making whole-wheat bread.

Sunflower seedsProteinFiberVitamins
per 100g21g9gVitamin B1, Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, Magnesium, Manganese, Selenium

Rye Berries rich with fiber

Rye is high in fiber and contains an abundance of vitamins and other healthy nutrients. Additionally, rye has been known to aid in weight loss. Rye helps reduce insulin response and thus regulates one’s appetite and improves blood sugar. Simply put, rye keeps you full longer.

Additionally, rye has been praised for lowering Diabetes Type 2 risk. 

If you want to incorporate rye into your diet, you can use whole grain rye flour instead or mixed with all-purpose flour. Another way is to add rye berries to your loaf.

Rye berriesProteinFiberVitamins
Per 100g10g15gVItamin B1, VItamin B11, VItamin D

Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds have gained popularity recently due to their proven health benefits. Hemp seeds come from Cannabis Sativa, the hemp plant, and they are considered to be a superfood. They are rich in fatty acids and very nutritious. 

These seeds, also known as hemp hearts, contain a very high protein level and they are also a great source of vitamins. Hemp seeds are used to make hemp oil that is known to aid in reducing the symptoms of many diseases.

You can add hemp seeds to your loaf by simply folding them into the dough. You can also consume roasted or cooked hemp seeds.

Hemp seedsProteinFiberVitamins
per 100g32g4gVitamin D, Iron, Potassium

How Do You Add Seeds? 

There is more than one way of adding seeds to the dough, depending on the type of bread you’re making and your personal preference. Seeds tend to be oily and they can also be quite hard and therefore difficult to chew. Others tend to soak up a lot of water from the dough. But it depends on whether you’re topping the loaf with seeds or adding them to the dough.

Basically, there are 4 ways you can incorporate whole-grain seeds into a loaf:

Raw

We usually add raw, unprocessed seeds to the dough if we are aiming for nice aesthetics. We can top the loaf with various seeds such as pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, etc. We can also gently fold them into the dough just before baking. However, some seeds remain hard even after you bake the bread so you should consider this factor prior to adding raw seeds.

Step 1. Mix the ingredients and knead the dough.

Step 2. Once the dough has risen, gently fold in the seeds just before shaping the loaf.

Step 3. Bake.

Of course, you can also add the seeds right after mixing and kneading (towards the end of the kneading process). But you want the gluten to develop in the dough so we recommend the first method. 

Tip: When using raw seeds to top the loaf, make sure the broil element on your oven is not turned on in order to prevent burning. You should also lower the temperature towards the end of baking.

Is blending the seeds healthier?

Blending is another way you can add seeds to a dough. Blending the seeds releases the nutrients and helps make them more digestive. Since the seeds are so tiny (think of flax seeds, for example), they can just pass through our system without being digested at all. 

Breaking the seeds up using a blender helps us get to all those lovely nutrients and vitamins found inside. 

Step 1. Pulse the seeds in a blender.

Step 2. Add the blended seeds to the flour mixture and knead the dough.

Soaked

This is a frequently applied method of adding seeds to a loaf. Soaking and draining the seeds prior to adding them to the dough helps soften them. The seeds that tend to remain hard after baking will not taste good and you risk breaking a tooth. Additionally, if you use them to top the loaf before baking, they tend to burn.

This is why soaking seeds and grains is an excellent idea. It softens their structure and makes them more edible so to speak. Some seeds (chia seeds, oat flakes, flax seeds) tend to soak up all the water creating a gel-like structure. However, they also release some of that water back once in the oven. 

Step 1. Soak the seeds or grains in cold or room temperature water (several hours or overnight).

Step 2. Drain the seeds.

Step 3. Fold the seeds into the dough or use them to top the loaf.

Toasted

Many bakers prefer toasting the seeds before adding them to the dough. As some seeds (chia seeds, flax seeds) tend to soak up a lot of moisture from the dough, toasting them first will help avoid that. 

Step 1. Place the seeds in a pan.

Step 2. Toast on low heat for about 5 minutes (until they become brown).

Step 3. Add the seeds to the dough and shape the loaf (or use them as a topping).

Step 4. Bake.

Tip: Once baked, we recommend that you keep the bread in a breadbox to keep it fresh longer. 

Adding Seeds to the Bread Machine

When kneading and baking manually, there are a few steps you need to follow regarding adding these ingredients to the dough. But when adding seeds to a bread machine, this is not an issue. 

Most bread machines now come with a hopper, a sort of automatic dispenser for fruits and nuts. You simply place the seeds of your choice to the hopper and the machine will automatically add it to the dough when it’s time.

Other bread makers will alert you when it’s time to open the lid and add seeds. Either way, you don’t need to think about it a lot. 

Adding Fruits to the Dough

Raisins and dried cranberries are not the only fruits you can add to a loaf. In fact, you can pretty much add whichever fruit you like, depending, of course, on the type of loaf you’re making. 

Think of banana bread, cinnamon raisin bread, apple or pumpkin sweet loaf… There are countless options to incorporate fruit into the dough both dried and fresh. 

Below, you will find all you need to know about adding fruits to a loaf.

How to Add Dried Fruits? 

When we think of dried fruits, we first think of raisins and cranberries, of course. But there are other options if you wish to mix things up a bit. You can consider adding dried plums, apricots, dates, figs, etc. 

When adding dried fruit to a loaf, there is little to no preparation. You simply fold the fruit into the dough towards the end of kneading/shaping. 

However, dried fruits can soak up moisture from the dough leaving the loaf dry. One way of avoiding that is to soak the dried fruit in a liquid of your choice prior to adding them to the dough.

Suggestion: For soaking dried raisins and cranberries, you can use rum, brandy or just water. 

Adding Dried Fruit in a Bread Machine

When adding dried fruit to a bread machine, the process is as simple as with the seeds and whole grains. If you have a bread machine with an automatic fruit and nut dispenser, toss the fruits in the hopper and the machine will do the rest. If you have a different bread machine model, it probably features an audible sound when it’s time to incorporate the add-ins. 

However, there is one important factor to consider here. Dried fruits such as raisins and cranberries tend to stick to the bread machine so they are not evenly dispersed and incorporated into the dough. To prevent that, you can toss the dried fruit into a bit of flour to prevent them from sticking. 

When baking bread in a bread machine, we suggest using the recommended flour for bread makers to ensure the best results. However, if you don’t have it at hand, you can use regular flour (all-purpose flour) instead.

How to Add Fresh Fruits? 

Adding fresh fruit to the dough takes some preparation depending on the type of fruit you’re using. For larger fruits, you need to peel them and then cut them into cubes prior to incorporating them into the mixture. 

Apples. When using apples for a sweet loaf, you need to peel them first. Cut them into small cubes and fold them in. If you want to prevent them from turning brown in the oven, you should toss the apple cubes in some lemon juice first. 

Pumpkin. If you’re baking a pumpkin sweet loaf, the process is similar. Peel and cut the pumpkin into cubes. Toss the pumpkin cubes into a pan, pour water over it, and simmer on low heat until they soften enough to be pureed. Add the pumpkin puree to the dough mixture.

Bananas. For classic banana bread, you need to mash the bananas first. Mix them with the wet ingredients (milk, oil), and then add the dry ingredients and mix. 

Adding Fresh Fruit to the Bread Machine

When adding fresh fruit to the bread machine, the process is not that different when compared to manual baking. Except that you need to wait for the beep to add the fruit.

Also, you need to be very careful when it comes to proportions because bread machines have a limited capacity. But also because adding too much fruit can ruin the recipe. 

Step 1. Peel and cut the fruit into cubes.

Step 2. Cook if necessary (if using pumpkin).

Step 3. Wait for the bread machine to alert you when it’s time to add the fruit. 

We would advise you to avoid very firm fruit such as Granny Smith apples because the bread machine can’t process them properly. 

Tip: For a perfect sweet loaf, make sure that you closely follow the instructions indicated in the recipe, especially regarding the quantity. 

Why Do Loaves With Fresh Fruit Sometimes Taste Gummy in the Middle?

Many amateur bakers will experience this at some point. When using fresh fruit, it is possible that once baked, the loaf will still be slightly undercooked or gummy in the middle even though you used the right temperature and followed the instructions to the slightest detail.

Because fresh fruit contains a lot of water, it releases some of those juices during baking. It is crucial to pay attention to proportions as well as the size of the pan you’re using to bake the loaf. Perhaps the recipe you used was not ideal i.e. the proportions indicated are wrong. Consider changing the recipe or checking whether you use the right-sized pan. 

Additionally, using frozen fruit can release moisture even faster thus affecting the quality of your loaf so be careful.

How to Avoid Gummy Dough?

There are several tactics that can help you avoid gummy dough. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure that you get a perfectly baked loaf.

  1. Cut the fruit into smaller cubes to reduce the juices that are released during baking. Pat the cubes dry to remove some of the excess juice.
  2. When working with fresh fruit, it also helps to dust them in flour or cocoa (if you’re making chocolate-flavored bread). The flour will absorb the excess moisture from the fruits. 
  3. Toss the fruits into a bit of sugar and leave them in a strainer to speed up the draining process. 
  4. Use a thermometer. Sometimes, the loaf will get that nice brown color and will appear to be perfectly baked but the center is still moist. Insert the thermometer into the center of the loaf to check the temperature (it should be about 200F). 

Which Nuts Can You Add to the Dough?

Pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, pistachios, etc. It’s up to you which ones you will use. If a recipe calls for almonds, for example, but you prefer walnuts, you can replace them without affecting the final result. 

Nuts are considered to be extremely healthy and should, therefore, be part of our diet. They are praised for their numerous health benefits and are loaded with nutrients and antioxidants. Nuts are used in both cooking and baking and they are ideal as a healthy snack too. You can eat them raw or toasted, use them to make nut butter, sauces, add them as toppings or use them in cakes. 

It is believed that nuts also have anti-inflammatory properties, help fight Type 2 Diabetes, and aid in weight loss. 

Walnuts

Walnuts can help reduce cholesterol and regulate blood pressure thus reducing the risk of heart disease. Besides, walnuts can help fight inflammation and they have a positive effect on the brain.

Walnuts are pretty high in calories (654g/per 100g) and dense in nutrients such as calcium.

WalnutsProteinFiberVitamins
per 100g15.23g6.7gCalcium, Iron, Potassium

Pecans

Raw pecans are low in carbohydrates (lower than other types of nuts) and they are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Pecans are high in manganese as well as vitamin E, thiamin, vitamin B6, etc. 

Pecans also contain monounsaturated fats which are good for your health. They contain moderate levels of protein and fiber. 

Pecans are often used in baked goods (pies, cakes) but they are also added to bread/sweet loaves. Due to their numerous positive effects on our health, pecans should be part of your diet but make sure you consume them in moderation. 

PecansProteinFiberVitamins
per 100g9.5g9.6gVitamin E, VItamin E, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, VItamin B, Zinc

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and dietary fiber. Also, they’re loaded with B-complex vitamins and should therefore be incorporated into your diet either as a snack or added to baked goods such as bread. 

You can also use them to make delicious chocolate hazelnut spread which is much healthier than the store-bought kind. 

Hazelnuts are a great source of minerals such as potassium, iron, zinc, and magnesium.

HazelnutsProteinFiberVitamins
per 100g15g9.4gVitamin B6, Phosphorus, Potassium, Iron, Magnesium, Zinc

Almonds

Almonds are high in unsaturated fats, the kind that does not affect your cholesterol level. 

Apart from that, almonds are also known to help reduce cancer risks as well as protect from heart diseases. 

They are great as a tasty snack, added to cakes, cookies or sweet loaves. You can also use it to make homemade almond milk or add to your salty dishes to improve flavor. They are perfect for sweet bread and you can add them to a loaf sliced, chopped, toasted or even raw. 

AlmondsProteinFiberVitamins
per 100g21g13gCalcium, Iron, Potassium

Macadamia Nuts

There is a link between macadamia nuts and heart health. They also improve digestion, help keep blood sugar under control, and aid in weight management. 

These nuts native to Australia are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. The high flavonoid levels in macadamia nuts help fight inflammation while antioxidants present in them help reduce the risk of several diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Macadamia nutsProteinFiberVitamins
per 100g7.91g8.6gVitamin B6, Thiamin, Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Iron

Pistachios

Pistachios are an excellent source of protein, fats, and antioxidants. In fact, pistachios are known to contain more antioxidants than other types of nuts. Antioxidants are important because they prevent cell damage and reduce the risk of some serious diseases. 

Additionally, pistachios promote gut health, heart health, and aid in weight loss. They are loaded with nutrients and vitamins such as vitamin B6, copper, etc. 

Pistachios are used in all types of dishes, both salty and sweet (including ice cream!), and you can also add them to bread.

PistachiosProteinFiberVitamins
per 100g20g11gVitamin B6, Copper, Thiamin, Potassium, Phosphorus

How Do You Add Nuts When Baking Manually?

You can add nuts to your loaf either raw or processed in some way. Again, it depends on the desired result as well as the recipe you’re using. There are several methods for adding nuts to the dough:

Raw. When adding raw nuts to the dough, we suggest you do so towards the end of mixing. We gently fold the nuts in. 

Toasted. Toasting the nuts before adding them to the dough improves flavor. We know that it might seem like an extra step that takes time but trust us when we say that it’s worth it. Once you try a loaf with toasted nuts, you won’t go back to the old ways. 

Step 1. Toast the nuts in a pan at low heat for about 5-10 minutes.

Step 2. Gently press and fold the nuts into the dough. 

Processed. Another method is to process the nuts in a blender for a little bit prior to adding them to the dough. This helps improve bread flavor. If you don’t have a blender, you can use a rolling pin. In this case, you need to place the nuts between two pieces of parchment paper. Roll the pin over to break the nuts. 

Chopped. The third method is to chop the nuts before you add them to the dough. This helps give a stronger flavor. 

Tip: When adding hazelnuts, don’t forget to remove the skin which can affect the flavor once baked. You can do so by toasting the hazelnuts first and then rubbing the skin off using a napkin or towel.

How Do You Add Nuts to a Bread Machine?

As you already know, many bread makers have an automatic fruit and nuts dispenser so just like with seeds and fruits, you add nuts to the dispenser and let the machine handle the rest. 

Or wait for the beep and then add the nuts to the dough if you don’t have an automatic dispenser.

Final Word

Seeds, fruits, and nuts are all incredibly healthy and can be used to enrich your basic, everyday loaf while boosting your health at the same time.  However, when baking with these ingredients, it is important to pay attention to some of the things we explained in this article so as to get a perfectly healthy and delicious loaf. 

It takes some preparation depending on the ingredients you’re using, but once you try experimenting with fruity, nutty and seeded loaves, you will realize that the exquisite taste of the final result is definitely worth the effort.

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