Adding fillings, such as dried fruit, seeds, nuts, or vegetables, into your bread dough can take your sourdough game to the next level and gives you the chance to get creative with your baking. When it comes to experimenting with sourdough add-ins, it’s all about finding what works for you and your taste buds. While some people might prefer a sweet, fruity loaf, others prefer a savoury loaf – so, why not try both?
Possibly the most important consideration when it comes to adding ingredients to your sourdough is the quantity of the add-ins and this decision ultimately rests on your preferences as a baker. Some bakers like their sourdough chock-full of nuts and seeds, and others prefer a light sprinkle throughout. I personally prefer a light touch when adding anything to my sourdough recipe, as fillings are supposed to “add” to your recipe, rather than overwhelm it.
Unlike the old adage from Means Girls, where the “limit does not exist”, there is a limit to the number of additions bakers can pack into bread dough. Exceed this limit and your loaf will become excessively heavy and dense, as the gluten network can only support so much. So, keep this in mind before reaching for that additional cup of olives or nuts. Therefore, as a general rule of thumb I always recommend starting with 20 percent add-ins. If you find it’s too much, reduce it slightly, and if you find you can’t get enough of those olives in your olive sourdough recipe, then add more!
When baking sourdough with fillings, there is a sweet spot that needs to be discovered to ensure you achieve the desired flavour and texture. Striking this fine balance between complementing and overwhelming your dough (and the person eating the sourdough) is somewhat of an artform. But, worry not, because I am here to help guide you on your culinary journey to create the perfect sourdough fillings. In this guide I will cover everything you need to know about adding fillings to your humble sourdough recipe, including getting the ratio just right, preparing your add-ins, when to mix in your ingredients, and finally, a list of my favourite recipes.
Preparing your sourdough add-ins
You’re probably wanting to jump straight in and start sprinkling raisins into your perfected sourdough recipe, but before you add anything there are a couple of things to consider. I always like to step back to think about how my chosen add-ins might affect the dough’s consistency, texture, fermentation, and eating quality. Some additions, like dried figs or apricots, might benefit from a coarse chop so they spread more evenly through the dough, while others will need to be soaked, cooked or even toasted beforehand to ensure they don’t burn or impact your dough’s hydration level.
Soaking sourdough add-ins
If you’re looking to add dried fruit to your sourdough dough, then you will need to soak the ingredients beforehand. Soaking ensures that your add-ins don’t suck all of the water out of your dough, which will affect its hydration. It also reduces the risk of burning the ingredients if they are on the outside of the sourdough loaf in the oven. Let me tell you, no one likes burnt raisins in their fruit loaf! Just like the name suggests, soaking requires you to soak your dried fruit in hot water, or water from your recipe, in a bowl for anywhere from several hours to overnight. Once you’re done, strain them in the sink and voilà – they’re ready to sprinkle into the dough. Ingredients that require soaking may include raisins, cranberries, dried cherries, dried apples, or dried apricots.
Cooking fillings for sourdough
Depending on how fancy you want to get with your sourdough recipe, you may need to cook your ingredients before adding them into the mix. Cooking is necessary for some ingredients, like rolled oats, sweet potatoes, bacon and quinoa. There is no special way to cook these add-ins, so just cook them as normal and allow them to completely cool before mixing them into your dough.
Toasting sourdough add-ins
If you’re looking to make a sourdough recipe with nuts or seeds, like a walnut sourdough, then these will require toasting beforehand. Toasting nuts helps to draw the natural oils to the surface, which intensifies the flavour and gives them that delicious crunch. It also helps to improve the flavour and texture of your sourdough, and who doesn’t want that? Toasting is a great idea if you’re baking with certain nuts and seeds, like walnuts, pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds or sesame seeds. It can either be done in the oven, or in a skillet on the stove in a matter of minutes.
When should I mix add-ins to my sourdough dough?
Now, we all know that you’re probably just wondering when you can add your delicious fillings to your sourdough. Typically, I incorporate my sourdough add-ins at the first stretch and fold, which is when you stretch the dough upward and fold it over toward the centre of the bowl. That way, if you’re following our simple no-knead sourdough recipe, you’ll have three more rounds of stretching and folding to fully mix in your add-ins so they evenly distribute the add-ins within the dough.
I find that adding my fillings early in the process usually provides a little extra oomph to the rise, as it adds another food source for the bacteria and yeast to feed on during bulk fermentation. However, if your sourdough add-ins are too wet, then the fillings can actually do the opposite and result in less rise.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking to top your recipe with add-ins for some artistic flair, like sprinkling some sesame seeds on the top, this can be done after forming your loaf, or right before baking.
Sourdough add-in recipes to try at home
Now, we’ve come to the fun part – choosing a sourdough recipe to try for yourself at home. Whether you’re a self-proclaimed sweet tooth or a savoury person, these recipes will help you to level up your sourdough game.
Sourdough Fruit Bread
Sourdough Fruit Bread is a classic for a reason – it’s delicious. Lovers of raisin toast will love this recipe by The Pantry Mama, which includes dried raisins, honey and a mouth-watering cinnamon filling. Prep time for this one is about four hours, so it’s the perfect loaf for a lazy Sunday.
Olive Sourdough Bread
This savoury Olive Sourdough Bread recipe by the Clever Carrot is not for the faint of palate. It features a range of different flavours, including chopped olives, woodsy thyme, fragrant lemon zest and parmesan cheese. Enjoy it fresh and dipped in some olive oil for the perfect starter!
Fig and Walnut Sourdough
Want to get a little fancy with your sourdough? This Fig and Walnut Sourdough recipe by King Arthur Baking is the perfect partner for your next artisanal cheese platter. This robust, crunchy sourdough is studded with rich figs and crunchy walnuts and can be prepared in an hour. If you don’t have dried figs, then you can swap them out for some dried cranberries.
Jalapeño Cheddar Sourdough Bread
Want to turn up the heat in the kitchen? This Jalapeño Cheddar Sourdough Bread recipe by heartbeet kitchen will send your taste buds into a tailspin. Studded with cheddar cheese and pickled jalapeños, the chunks of cheese in this sourdough will melt into delicious pockets, while the jalapeños add some heat.
Feeling inspired? Or, maybe you’re just hungry after all this talk about delicious sourdough. Either way, we’ve got plenty of recipes to feast your eyes on at You Knead Sourdough, including my Sourdough Bread Recipe and Sourdough Starter Recipe. We’ve also got all your sourdough baking essentials, so you can ensure you have everything you need to make the perfect loaf, every time.
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