How To Coat Your Bread (Not Floor!) With Seeds

October 26, 2017

We all know one of the fastest ways to make a mess in the kitchen is sprinkling seeds, salt, or nuts over soon-to-be-baked goods. And even then, there’s no guarantee that those crunchy toppings will stick.

*This* is what you're looking for. Photo by Julia Gartland

The secret to getting a solid seed coating on free-form loaves? No sprinkling, says Emilie Raffa in her newest book Artisan Sourdough Made Simple. The Clever Carrot blogger experimented with many different ways to get seeds and nuts to adhere to bread dough. “Egg wash, egg white, milk, cream—you name it,” she writes.

Instead, her best seed-coated bread begins with a tea towel. Raffa spreads her seeds on a damp kitchen towel on a flat surface. Next, with floured hands, she shapes the dough into an oval and brushes the top with water. Using a bench scraper, she then transfers the dough onto the seeded towel, wet-side down.

No more scattered seeds! Photo by Julia Gartland

From there, she lifts up the sides of the towel and rocks it back and forth (like a baby!). The combination of gravity and dampness keeps the seeds from going anywhere but the bread top. Once the dough is coated, she bakes it seed-side up, watching to make sure seeds don't burn in the oven. Now, this isn't a technique you can use for quick or other batter-based breads. But if you want a cleaner kitchen and crunchier crust, go ahead and give it a try.

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Have you struggled to get seeds to stick to your bread? What's your trick?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Mickey
  • AntoniaJames
  • BakerRB
Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


Mickey October 26, 2017
I rarely have success with seeded breads. I usually use an egg wash that keeps the seeds on. However, many times my seeded breads have a burnt taste. Hamburger buns are ok because they are in the oven usually under 20 minuets. Full size loaves that takes 30 minuets or more, typically has that burnt taste or off taste. Then nuts and seeds seem to have a short shelf life. I am hesitant to buy such bread toppings these days.

However after reading the article, the “damp” tea towel or “Soaking” the seeds from the previous posting would that keep the seeds from burning?
AntoniaJames October 26, 2017
Interestingly, I don't soak the seeds that I put on top, and have never had a problem. But now that I think about it, the seeds that have been sitting in the bottom of the banetton in direct contact with a high hydration dough must be absorbing moisture, and the baguettes as noted have been sprayed with water before and after adding the seeds, so that may help - though I doubt it helps more than a little bit, because the high temperature of the oven cause it to evaporate quickly.
You should try soaking them for the longer-baking loaves! It won't hurt. ;o)
AntoniaJames October 26, 2017
Let dough rise in a banneton whose interior surface is coated with seeds. They adhere during the rise. No problem, ever.

For more delicate loaves like braided challah, (i) brush with egg wash; (ii) dip your index finger into the egg wash and then press it into a bowl of seeds; and (iii) roll your seed-coated finger gently across each exposed section of bread. The seeds will come off and adhere nicely, and quite prettily, too.

I make four-seeded baguettes on a regular basis (seeds inside and out, using Tartine bread methods and ratios for the baguettes, and 50 grams each of millet, poppy seeds and toasted flax seeds and sesame seeds per 1 kg flour, soaking the seeds in water 1:1 mass). I find that if you spray the shaped baguette well with water and then patiently (slowly, methodically) sprinkle the seeds from a loosely held but controlled hand just down the middle of each baguette, it works fine. Spray the water on each loaf before applying the seeds to it, as the water evaporates quickly. And then spray them all again before you put the bread in the oven, for the best crust. ;o)
BakerRB October 27, 2017
Thanks for your tips. The image I'm picturing from the method of using your finger to apply seeds to the challah is lovely and makes me want to bake this weekend!