The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Adding grains to bread

crumb bum's picture
crumb bum

Adding grains to bread

Hello All

A question for all you bread experts out there.  I have several breads I have perfected over the last couple of years.  I want to change up some of these by adding different grains like bobs 5 or 7 grain cereal.  My question is how do I go about soaking these grains or cereals so that when I add them to the dough they don't contribute or rob water to the dough?  I was thinking of soaking a given amount of cereal in a given amount of water and weighing the water that did not soak in?   Any ideas would be appreciated.  Thanks.

Da Crumb Bum

Breadwhiner's picture

I have a baker's formula that soaks with 64% water relative to the grain weight.  Then the bread is 70% hydration, which is typical for breads without grains.


Hope this helps. 

earwax's picture

I'm in the process of developing a "cracked wheat" loaf. I had trouble determining how much grain to add. Just from the looks of it, I decided to start with an arbitrary percentage of the weight of the flour. I had then to consider this amount in the final weight, adjusting the flour, etc. For sake of experimentation, I assumed the grain would hydrate at the same rate as the flour in the recipe, counting the weight of the grain with the flour as 100%. Unconcerned upon the dough being too wet, I added flour to get the right feel. Obviously the cracked wheat has a lower rate and I need to determine what that is.  I will let you later. I was hoping today to find a reasonable formula/method for determining the addition of whole or cracked grains to bread. That's why I found this forum. ciao.

breadnerd's picture

I've seen two methods for soaking grains.


1. Soak the grains in unmeasured water overnight, then drain any remaining water leftover.

2. Use a portion of the full recipe's liquid (water, milk etc) in the soaker, then add the entire amount into the final dough.


In actual practice, I don't worry too much about affecting the final dough hydration.  I usually just hold back a little of the final water (or other liquid) during mixing/kneading so that I can add it later if necessary. My standard multi grain recipe is from BBA (I've adapted it a bit) and he doesn't use much water at all in his soaker--it doesn't take a whole lot to soften the grains, especially over 8 or more hours.


2 cents.


- breadnerd


sphealey's picture

The recipe that King Arthur gave out at the National Baking Tour lesson calls for


1-1/2 cups hot water

3/4 cups grain mix (cracked grain, seeds, 5-grains, mixture, etc)

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour (King Arthur naturally!)

2 cups AP flour


The method the instructor used was to take the water from the tea kettle after it had cooled down a bit (say 175 deg.F), pour it over the grains, mix, cover, leave out for an hour, and put in refrigerator overnight. She pointed out that leaving the soaked grain overnight at room temperature would start you down the road toward beer rather than bread!


So you could try that for proportions. Of course, there is a question as to what "3/4 cup" means in terms of weight, as the grains could vary from very dense (lots of cracked rye) to less dense (seeds).


_Bread Alone_ also has recipes that use a lot of cracked grain.



pumpkinpapa's picture

I always soak my grains and leave them out overnight at room temperature, anywhere's from 12 to 24 hours. I know some do it in as little as 7 hours.

I use warm water or Kefir milk. Kefir has the benefit of breaking down tannins, complex starches and certain hardy proteins which we have a hard time digesting.

I haven't tried it but I have heard of some who also soak a portion of their flour when w using a whole flour, ie. wheat, spelt, or rye. I'm told it is similar to sourdough.

tony's picture

My experience is to soak grain berries covered overnight at cool room temperature in their own weight of water or a little more. Sometimes I use cold well water, sometimes I boil it and pour over the grain. It's not clear how much difference the boiling makes, but for my most recent mixed-flour French bread with wheatberries (berry weight = 8% of the flour weight) I boiled the water, using 1.5 times the berry weight of water. All the water went into the dough the next morning. I added a percent or so of water to the dough hydration on the supposition that the the berries needed a little extra. However, I'm not sure that that extra percent matters much. Each batch of my bread differs from it's predecessors in a number of ways, so I'm seldom sure of all the cause-and-effect at work.

I like the whole grains in the bread. They give an extra chewy quality to the crumb and the ones in the crust can be crunchy with a different toasted grain flavor. Probably using boiling (or hot) water for the soaker makes softer berries in the crust. I've had some quite hard little bits in the crust of wheatberry or ryeberry bread.

Best of luck,

Drifty Baker's picture
Drifty Baker

I have been making a cracked wheat bread for some time.  The recipe I have calls for 3 cups of boiling water to be poured over 1 cup of cracked wheat and then you let it sit overnight  When I was last in Salt Lake City I got some local cracked wheat cereal that was just cracked wheat berries.  The instructions on the bag said to cook the cereal for 10 minutes.  I tried that and then let the cereal sit covered overnight.  The next day the cereal had almost congealed.  The bread made with the cooked wheat was more moist and kept fresh longer.  The cracked wheat berries were not as hard. Even those were not as hard as before.

I always make my loaves with the cooked wheat berries now.

Drifty Baker 


pumpkinpapa's picture

Boiling water is not good for the grains since boiled water is 212 F, and bread doesn't reach that temperature while baking. It's best for the healthy grains to be soaked in liquid that is a lot cooler.

Consider grinding grains, anything over 150F ruins it entirely, 130 F is when most nutrients begin to be killed off.

Now I like my porridge boiled but then I also like my porridge soaked overnight too :) 

jerrycentral's picture

I just take a ½ cup of cracked wheat (that I run through a Family Grain Mill) and ½ cup cereal mix and cover with about 1” water in a large glass measuring cup.  I Zap this in the Micro a couple times with stirring,  When the grain is tender I dump the mixture into a fine sieve and run cold water on it until it is cool.  This makes about two cups.  I just add to my dough and make a mess as usual. 



crumb bum's picture
crumb bum

Thanks for all your ideas.  I imagine I will be trying most if not all of these.  Good thing is the mistakes are pretty darn good eat'in.  The microwave idea seems to be the most simple, like me.  I just have to try a recipie that uses the instruction "zap it"

Da Crumb Bum 

dobrinov's picture

I personally use the bread machine to knead the dough. I let it knead for 7-8min and then add the grains. When I add the grains I start gradually adding water. Very little at a time, untill the dough is able to absorb the grains in itself and still have the same moisture level from before I added the grains. Works like a charm and takes about a minute attention. After I add the grains I knead for another 6 minutes, until I am sure the grains mixed well with the dough. Sure soaking may be a better method, but I am just looking at ways to shorten the time I spent making the dough.

 When my dough is ready i spread sesame seed on a flat surface. I shape my dough and with my hand I gently get the dough wet on the surface. Then I roll the shaped dough over the sesame seed so it is well covered from all sides. Then let it rise and bake. This way you get to feel the taste of the sesame seed because they bake on the surface of the bread. I bake on a stone at about 475-500 and get a very nice 3mm crust.

 I have to admit I am having trouble to find the right proportion of grains and seeds to flour. Since I am not so experienced I always think the bread may not support itself while rising if I add more grains (given I use only wholewheat).  But still I tend to add about 3/4-4/5c of grains and seeds to 3c of flour.  I also add 1/2c bran.


I hope this helps.