I have a basic bread recipe that works well in my automatic breadmaker. The recipe is:

  • 1 & 7/8 cup water
  • 5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp dry milk
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp vital wheat gluten
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast

I'd like to make variations on it by adding some of the following ingredients (not all at once, I'll probably pick one item from that list for any one loaf):

  • oat or wheat bran
  • multi-grain cereal
  • chia seeds
  • corn meal

Is there a general principle for how to do it, or do I just have to try and see what works? Say I want to add 1 cup of wheat bran. Do I just add it to the mix above? Or should I subtract 1 cup of flour in this case, to make it 4 cups flour + 1 cup bran? Should I increase gluten or any other ingredients? What is the maximum amount of these ingredients that can be added?

I'm not much of a cook. If these things are described in some book already (as I suspect they are), recommendations for books to read would also be helpful.

3 Answers 3


The big question you have to ask yourself is, "How absorbent is what you want to add?" For instance Chia seeds are not going to affect your hydration much. Those you can probably just add. Corn meal on the other hand will absorb water, but it won't create gluten. You'd want to replace some of the flour with corn meal and perhaps a bit more vital wheat gluten. Wheat bran contains gluten, oat bran does not. Both will be absorbent so should replace flour. Any cereal will be absorbent, the question of gluten will depend upon the grains used. Because you're using a bread maker you're probably not as intimately aware of the hydration of your dough as you would be if you did your kneading by hand. For your next few loaves, take the dough out of the machine when it is done kneading. Give it a few kneads to get a feel for it. You'll feel it if your hydration is off.

You're right in that you want to try adding one ingredient at a time. Also start small, you might just be surprised at how much 1/4 cup of corn meal will affect your loaf.

I find it helpful to look at recipes that include the ingredient I want to add and compare that recipe to similar loaves that don't contain the ingredient. In what other ways are the recipes different?

2 websites come to mind that you might find helpful.

The Fresh Loaf and King Arthur Flour


@Jolenealaska's focus on hydration is dead on.

The recipe appears to produce about 2 lbs. of dough @ 67% hydration (depending on how you scoop/pour/sift your flour to measure). Your substitution or addition of ingredients should aim to maintain similar hydration, weight and volume (for use in a bread machine).

The best way to determine hydration percentage will be by using a scale to weigh your ingredients (simply stated, weight of water divided by weight of flour).

You're going to need to experiment a bit (not a bad thing... more bread!), and here's some feedback based on your original recipe above, the "other ingredients" listed and personal experience. Adapt as you learn more.

Seeds - most seeds can just be added without a problem. Too many seeds can interrupt (slice through) the gluten structure. Some seeds (like Flax) should be toasted and 'popped' or ground before adding (otherwise they don't really get digested and you miss out on all the good stuff - research this).

Toasting seeds is just plain recommended if you're going to put them in bread (personal opinion).

Corn Meal - substitute one cup of corn meal for one cup of flour and ADD two to three more tablespoons of water.

Oat/Wheat Bran - I pre-soak whole bran for a few hours. Whole bran is thirsty and typically needs about 1/3 (33%) more water than flour and time to hydrate. This is where the scale is handy but the math may be a bit tricky.

You want to maintain the same hydration level for the final dough, but the whole bran needs a bit more water, what to do? Mix equal parts (by weight) bran and water. Then reduce your recipe by the same weight in flour, but only by 67% of the water used to pre soak the bran.

Example: If using 4 ounces of whole bran, pre soak it with an equal weight (4 ounces) of water (67% hydration plus 33% more = 100% water).

Then reduce your original recipe by 4 ounces of flour but only reduce the water in the original recipe by 2.7 ounces (about 5 Tablespoons). Why reduce the water by only 2.7 ounces? Because 2.7 is the effective hydration (67%) of the pre-soaked bran.

Multi-grain cereal - I have no experience with this.

Have fun and enjoy all the good bread.


To answer the book-part of your question, it all depends on what you're aiming for in bread-making! If you (or others who land here from search...) are interested in books, here's a few related to your question, with the promise that I don't receive commission! While these don't focus on substitutions, I'm keying off of the fact that you say you're looking for principles, and that your recipe is predominantly whole-wheat and enriched. Roughly in decreasing order of perceived usefulness for your application.

  • Not intended for a bread-machine, but minimal-fuss with consistent, frequent, decent bread made with predominantly whole-grain with added gluten: Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes Per Day of the eponymous franchise. Has several recipes with other ingredients and reasonable descriptions of their technique.

  • Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads book. Focuses on non-conventional delayed fermentation techniques for better flavor with higher whole-grain content. Couldn't find a direct link; here from Amazon and Google

  • Bread Science! A great book by Buehler about concepts in bread. Probably relevant only if you're interested in getting more into other types of optimizations and modifications to your dough.

These are "teasers" to entice you into baking more bread... :) Hope they help either way.

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