The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough flaxseed

sam's picture

Sourdough flaxseed


This was my first attempt working with flax seeds.  I got a bag of brown whole flax seeds from the grocery store, soaked them at 300% hydration for 12 hrs.   Separately, I made a 3lb / 1362g dough at 68% hydration using 90% AP flour, 10% einkorn flour, and a touch of honey (5%).   20% of the flour was a liquid levain at 125% hydration, 50% of the flour was a cold flour soaker at 80% hydration.   For the flax seed soaker, I wasn't sure in advance how many seeds I'd want in the dough, so I just soaked a bunch of seeds, more than I'd need.  

For some reason I had thought I could treat the seeds as a hydration-neutral component.   After soaking,  the seeds had absorbed most of the water, but what remained was a gelatinious, kind of slimy, soupy mixture.   I tried straining them but not much drained.   So, I went ahead and began spooning them into the final dough and incorporating by hand, until I had a lot of seeds in the dough to my satisfaction.    This also significantly increased the hydration of the dough.  I spent about 30 minutes attempting to develop the dough by hand, slap + folds, kneading, etc., to no avail.  More of it was glued onto my hands than in a cohesive dough on the workboard.  :-)  

So I ended up adding 4 heaping spoonfuls of additional AP flour.  I hated to do it, but I had to.  :-).  I let the dough rest for 30 mins, then resumed stretch / slap / folding for another 20 mins.  That helped, but the dough was still very sticky and felt more like an 80% hydration dough.   After a long bulk ferment and more S&Fs, the dough did come together more, but relaxed very quickly.  I probably should have baked in a pan, but instead I tried it in the brotform and free-standing in the oven.   Upon the end of final-ferment and removing from the brotform, it blobbed out horizontally quite a bit.   To my surprise, it did get some upward spring in the oven, but next time I definitely need to factor in additional hydration being added by the flax seed soaker.

So that's all the bad parts.  The good part is -- tastes great!   :)  I couldn't remember what flax seeds tasted like beforehand, but once I tried it -- "ahhhh...  I remember now.".   They do taste very nice, and I see why people put them in bread, quite complementary.

Here's some pics.




Happy baking!



PiPs's picture

Gotta love linseeds. I can still remember my first time soaking them and what a mess I made. :)

The bread tuned out really well, and love seeing the linseed scattered throughout the crust.

All the best,

varda's picture

Flax seeds give such a great flavor to bread.   So how would you do it next time?   I have simply mixed seeds directly into the dough without soaking, and thought it came out fine, but that doesn't seem to be the accepted method.  -Varda

sam's picture

Thanks Phil + Varda.

Next time I would still soak the flaxseeds, but treat them as a non-flour liquid component.  Similar to how one would factor in hydration of eggs, honey, etc., to a dough.   I'm not sure what the right estimate would be, but I would start with a 75% hydration factor estimate for the soaked seeds.   I am a fan of using "cold" (ambient temp) flour soakers, even for white flours, so maybe one idea would be to use the soaked flax seeds as a base for a flour soaker, so you could reuse the liquidity from the soaked seeds to also pre-hydrate some of the flour.

ananda's picture

Hi gvz,

Very attractive and bold bread, but it sounds like you had difficulty mixing the dough.

Combine the soaker and the levain with all the other ingredients at the same time to mix the dough.

Total hydration should be 75% on flour...your idea to treat the seeds as distinct from flour is good

Hamelmans's Sourdough Seed Bread is a good reference point if you have the book.   He uses flax at 7% on flour, and he has 3 times that as the water in the soaker, just like you used.

Personally, I prefer the Golden Flax rather than the Brown.   The gelatinsation is a key part of the process as it allows for generous hydration in the final dough.

Best wishes


scottsourdough's picture

Seeds like flax (and especially chia!) can absorb a lot of water and get all gelatinous. Still, 300% hydration seems like a lot for flax. There should be a level where they'll end up not affecting final dough hydration, try soaking at something more like 150% and see how they affect the dough.

wassisname's picture

Beautiful loaf, gvz!  I'm loving the look of your crust, I can just imagine the flavor.  The first time I soaked flaxseeds I actually thought I would be able to rinse some of the slime off, ha!  Just kept getting more of it.  In the end there's nothing for it but to embrace the gelatinousness!


sam's picture

Thanks Andy, Scott and Marcus,

For the 300% hydration, yes I do have Hamelman's book and that's where I looked up the reference for the hydration of the flax seed soaker.  I didn't follow his recipe though.   There wasn't a picture in the book for that bread, and when I weighed out his 7%, it seemed like a small-ish amount.   Since this was my first time with flax, I wanted a lot!  :)   I'm not entirely sure how much I put in, probably closer to 30% by weight of flour (of unsoaked seeds).   Each bite has at least a half-dozen or more of the seeds.   The ones that poked through the crust are especially tasty.

When I mentioned I tried to strain out the extra liquid from the seed soaker, I didn't rinse them and try to pat them dry or anything.   There was a small layer of actual water still on the top of the soaked seeds, I just dumped the entire batch into a wire-mesh pasta style strainer (round), and shook it a couple of times.   What remained was the soupy gelatenous slime+seeds which I then spooned into the dough and mixed in.

Yes, mixing (by hand) was a bit of a challenge with this one...  :)   I am still getting the hang of making breads by hand.   But, the best thing was, I learned something new about flax seed soakers and hydration.   So it was a success.   :)

Thanks again for the nice comments.