An added dimension: bread dough coatings and toppings (e.g. seeds, flakes)
Have you considered the addition of a coating or topping on a loaf of bread?
For example, I developed a roast pumpkin bread (pictured) when working at Apex Bakery (Tanunda, Barossa Valley); it was delicious. However, what took it from nice to delicious was the thick layer of pumpkin seeds (pepitas) on the crust. These toasted beautifully in the oven for a popcorn-like flavour in each bite.
Or consider the wholemeal sourdough (feature photo: main page) I made the other day at home; it had a great texture. But the addition of sesame seeds coating the crust, golden and toasty after baking, took it to a new level of amazing flavour.
Also worthy of a mention is the spiced fruits sourdough (now serving as a taster at “Sourdough Bread Intro” classes!) as well. The combination of dates, sultanas and currants with mixed spice is so good. However, pressing the loaf into rolled oats before baking takes the loaf from simple raisin toast flavours to something approaching gourmet toasted muesli breakfast toast. Very nice!
Things to consider:
Flavour domination – some seeds have a strong flavour (e.g. sesame seeds), so think through whether that flavour will complement or dominate. Often coatings complement a flavoured loaf well, but sometimes overpower the simple flavours of a well fermented loaf.
Over-baking or burning – seeds, especially larger seeds are more prone to burning during baking. For the final third of the baking time it may help to check and turn down the oven temperature as required (e.g. 10-20 degreesC) or put a piece of foil or baking paper on top of the loaf instead.
Not too crunchy – check whether the grain used will be soft enough to eat after being baked as well. Baking tends to dry out the grain. So, kibbled or whole grains (e.g. wheat) will probably break the teeth if left on the outside of the loaf.
How it looks – use a combination of seeds or grains for a contrast and visual appeal (e.g. black and white sesame seeds). Pumpkin seeds add a nice vibrant colour to a grainy seed mixture. Coating the top surface looks different to coating the entire loaf.
Making it stick – generally coating stick and stay stuck when the loaf surface is damp after shaping. So, if the loaf surface is sticky try pressing the loaf into the seeds. Or if it’s dry or has excessive flour, wipe or spray some water across the surface before pressing into the desired coating.
How many seeds – for a generous coating it’s helpful to have a large amount of seeds/oats, etc. This way the entire loaf can be rolled or pressed in with plenty to spare. Alternately, simple sprinkle coating on loaf surface for a lighter touch.
Final rise considerations – generally (not always!) the coating will act as a non-stick barrier between the baking loaf tin or rising container (tea-towel/basket/banneton, etc.) - experiment for individual results. As insurance, a light spray of oil on a loaf pan, or a light dusting of rice flour on tea-towel or banneton will help but isn’t always needed.
Here are a few reasonably easy to source ideas:
White and black sesame seeds; poppy seeds; sunflower seeds; pumpkin seeds (pepitas); rolled oats; spelt flakes; linseeds (flaxseeds); wheat bran; polenta (cornmeal); wheat semolina; wholemeal rye flour… and more!