The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Using dill and caraway seeds

tjkoko's picture

Using dill and caraway seeds

In my experience as a home baker, I've found that when adding either of the two seeds I mentioned to a dough, I need to add an equivalent amount of water since the seeds absorb moisture.  Any comments appreciated.

baltochef's picture

Generally speaking, anything that will absorb large quantities of water should be compensated for in a bread recipe..Dried fruits, dehydrated vegetables, large quantities of seeds..Some seeds will lose their identity in a bread from the process of being kneaded if they are soaked beforehand..For most breads, such as Jewish Deli Rye Bread, where the amount of seeds per loaf is kept to 1-2 teaspoons per loaf, most recipes do not call for pre-soaking the seeds..

I have never seemed to have encountered any troubles when adding small quantities of seeds, such as caraway seeds, to a recipe that originally did not contain them..That being said, the only way to know for sure whether there is a need to add additional liquids to a bread recipe to compensate for seeds in the recipe is to ACCURATELY weigh out the seeds in the recipe with a good scale capable of accurately weighing very small amounts of light ingredients such as spices and seeds..

Then, soak the seeds in a large quantity of accurately weighed out water that exceeds the amount that they might be capable of absorbing for the period of time that they will be soaked..Soak the seeds for a specific period of time, preferably 4-24 hours..There are online sources that can tell one how long to soak seeds, none of which I have at hand right now as I type this post..Then, after soaking for a measured amount of time the seeds should be drained for a specific amount of time..After draining the seeds should then be weighed to determine the amount of liquid that they have absorbed..

Only by performing the above tasks, and by keeping accurate notes, will a baker know whether to soak seeds in advance, or to add additional liquids to a recipe to compensate for ingredients such as seeds..Different lots of seeds or grains, grown in different places within a country, grown in different countries altogether, grown at different times of the year, and grown in different years; will all have slightly different moisture contents..The same holds true for flours..This is why soaking them onesself is preferrable to depending upon online tables which can sometimes be quite accurate, and at other times be very inaccurate..

Generally speaking, it is better to soak in advance, than to allow thirsty ingredients to absorbe liquids out of the recipe..Unless there are compelling reasons not to do so..


Edit: I would probably save the seed soaking water to use in the liquid part of the bread recipe so as to add any flavor that leached out of the seeds during the process of soaking..The one exception to this might be any leftover soaking water from mucilaginous seeds such as flax seeds..

althetrainer's picture

I haven't tried dill seeds but I use caraway seeds and fennel seeds in my Russian bread all the time.  It'a about 1.5 tablespoons of caraway and 1 tablespoon of fennel in 3.5 cups of flour.  I don't pre-soak or add more water.  The seeds don't seem to have any effects on the hydration level.  If any, not significant enough for me to notice. 

joshua shuffman's picture
joshua shuffman

i'm with althetrainer on this.  never noticed a difference, but most of my recipes ar my own and hydration levels are arrived at through trial and error/tinkering.  there are, that being said, breads for which i grind seeds in a coffee grinder before adding them, but still, i consider them condiment as opposed to ingredient, inasmuch as i'd never count their percentage.  how much dill seed are you using that it affects your hydration?  i imagine this would make for a pretty intense bread, no?

tjkoko's picture

To approx 4 3/4 C KA AP flour, I add 2 TBS seeds (caraway or dill or a mixture of both).

Placing 2 TBS seeds in a ramekin along with 2 TBS water, most of the water will, indeed, be absorbed by the seeds.  Therefore with the seeds I add to the dough, a tiny bit of extra hydration is needed for a successful  moist dough.  Thanks for the comments.