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I recently made coloured swirled bread, in which different colours of dough (in my case a coloured and an uncoloured piece) were rolled together and baked in the same loaf to give an interesting novelty appearance. When I put it into the oven the poke test on the uncoloured dough rose up slowly, but the uncoloured sprang back a bit more quickly. The finished bread rose acceptably, but not spectacularly, and the coloured dough was somewhat denser than the uncoloured. The whole thing was a sourdough loaf if that makes any difference.

When should the colouring for the coloured piece have been added?

  • after kneading? This is what I did. With liquid colouring, which seemed to colour individual strands of gluten, this required considerable kneading to distribute evenly. This amounted to nearly twice the amount of kneading as the uncoloured piece. Since the undivided full batch of dough had completed kneading (it was at windowpane) when I divided them, I might possibly have overkneaded the coloured piece. The uncoloured piece would also have undergone more fermentation than the coloured piece due to how long the extra kneading took (even in the fridge).
  • before kneading?* This would have allowed the colouring to be more easily mixed in, but would also have required each colour of dough to be separately kneaded to windowpane strength as well as separately proofed. Not only would I need to be sure each piece was equivalently kneaded but also equivalently proofed. As with the other option this would leave one piece fermenting longer than the other.

EDIT: *before kneading referring to the point when the flour and water and other ingredients have been barely incorporated together and the result is still just a "shaggy mess" as some describe it. I assume that "kneading" is a specific stage of breadmaking for the purpose of gluten development, not merely an act of kneading at any point in the process.

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You may want to experiment with different types of food coloring. They might be toxic to yeast, for example I have propylene-glycol based food coloring and I don't know what it'd do to yeast, probably nothing good. –  rumtscho Jan 14 at 11:26
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1 Answer 1

If it requires kneading in the color to get it distributed, then whatever you end up doing, it's effectively 'before kneading' or at the very least 'in the middle of kneading'

So therefore, I'd add the color before or during the first kneading; if nothing else, it'd get better distribution. If you're making a double batch, I'd make the first one color-free, and the second colored (adding the dye to any liquid in the recipe).

You might also want to see the question on coloring fondant for suggestions on kneading in color faster.

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I should probably have clarified that 'kneading' for me refers to a deliberate gluten development stage of breadmaking, not just the act of kneading. I ideally would not like to knead in colour, but that seemed to be the only option by the point the dough was developed to windowpane. "Before kneading" means when the dough is still a shaggy mess, with the ingredients barely incorporated together, a mix not a dough. Is this when you'd recommend splitting the parts and colouring them separately? –  ccsdg Jan 14 at 20:55
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@ccsdg, as Joe said, it's best to add the liquid color to whatever other liquid your recipe calls for. I.e. add it to the water, mix thoroughly, then add the water to the flour. –  Marti Jan 14 at 22:14
    
@Marti, I managed to not understand that part of Joe's answer, thanks for pointing it out. So really I would have to make two completely separate batches of bread from scratch? Seeing as water is the first ingredient I add to the flour, and I don't want the entire loaf to be coloured. EDIT: I see that Joe mentioned a double batch. That is a solution, but it makes the overproofing issues even worse (now have to separately mix, knead AND proof the different parts of the bread). –  ccsdg Jan 14 at 22:16
    
@ccsdg : you see what powdered colors will do ... they'd be much easier to mix in later as compared to a liquid or gel color. –  Joe Jan 15 at 22:53
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