50 Shades In Bread: Tips and Tricks To Make Your Loaves Burst With Color

blueberry bread

My Instagram feed motto is bread is what gives color to my life and indeed I do like my breads to burst with color –helpful to fight the tendency of daily life to fade into shades of grey (could not resist the easy quote to the book, have mercy).

Last weekend I was once again taken by the color in bread fever and I produced two fresh fruit flavored doughs, which turned out to be delicious and very happy looking loaves.

pane uva

These were just the last of a long list of experiments, and I will review here some of the ways in which I managed to use natural ingredients in bread, so that you can also have fun with them and maybe dare to find new ones (and please do share your own tips!).

1. ABSOLUTE PINK. Have you ever felt like you really wanted a pink crumb? No? well, maybe after reading this you will. I tried achieving pink in my crumb in many different ways, but finally reached my goal using the following method: add some pulverized (in a mortar or blender) dried raspberries –or buy dried raspberry powder, available in health food stores– to your dough at the mixing stage. Also, substitute some of the water mixed with the flour with the liquid of unfrozen raspberries. To obtain the latter, simply let your frozen raspberries thaw in a colander placed over a bowl, at room temperature. The liquid can be used to give color to your food. I also added whole dried raspberries to the dough, right at the end of the mixing, to achieve a pretty dark pink embedded into the overall light pink-liliac effect.

raspberry bread

2. ABSOLUTE RED. I have been struggling for years trying to make a beets’ bread which kept the beautiful color that the beet juice was giving to the dough. Sadly, after baking the loaves, the red changed into an unappealing beige, which was so different from what I had hoped for. I tried many methods, including the grated fresh beets’ one suggested in a book (lovely, otherwise). All I got was a spotted loaf that someone quite unchivalrously named “chickenpox bread”. I then tried with the juice of cooked beets, added to the cubed pulp. Nothing. Only the red of the cubed beets. Then I tried adding red by baking the beets and mashing them and then adding the mash to the dough. Light brown crumb, again. And finally the inspiration. Someone mentioned that an acidic environment stabilizes color during cooking. Bingo: I had some ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) I used for preserves. And Vit C is used in bread, maybe not in sourdough bread, but still… so I added 0.2% ascorbic acid to my dough, together with the mashed baked beets and… here you go. An absolutely shockingly red crumb. Not that I want to use ascorbic acid too often, but it can help stabilyzing other natural colors in dough, too.

beets bread

3. BLUE-VIOLET CRAZE. Ok, this is not a bread, but this system to have blue in cream will most likely work for bread, too. I made once these gluten-free semlor, sweet buns generally yeast-based, and I added to the cream the liquid of thawed frozen blueberries, to obtain a lovely tone of blue-violet. Probably the addition of some lemon juice to the dough could help make the color more stable, as lemon is acidic and contains plenty of Vit C (see the previous example).

blue semlor

4. EXOTIC YELLOW. I was after a protein-rich bread, filled with legumes. So I added a good amount of cooked red lentils to my dough. Only, the color of the dough was not exactly exciting. It looked… weird. Then I did what Indians do to correct the color (and add healthful nutrients) to their food: I added turmeric powder to the dough (you can add it to the lentils mash, too). The result was quite stunning. A lovely golden yellow crumb that tasted only very mildly of turmeric and instead left as a dominant flavor the lentils, which was my desired outcome. I wish all my experiments could go so smooth as this one! You can find the complete formula here.

turmeric bread

5. CHESTNUT BROWN. Everyone who knows me knows I love chocolate. And bread. So I try to do this happy match as often as possible. Spreading chocolate on bread (I am Italian, right?), adding pieces of chocolate to the dough after mixing it and, as I did here, adding powdered cocoa at the mixig stage. One note here is to make sure to use a strong flour and maybe not to exceed with the hydration, although I can hardly resist hyper-hydrating my doughs. This tips are meant to counterbalance the effect of the fats contained in cocoa which can slow down/alter gluten development. But if you do this right, you will have a lovely brown crumb, which will taste like cocoa and which will be delicious with further additions, like cooked whole chestnuts in this case (as the Autumn approches I feel like trying this loaf again, can’t wait!). Here you can find the full recipe.

chestnut chocolate sourdough

6. BRUSHSTROKES OF RED. A few years back I broke the ice with a local fruit I was not accustomed to (I am an Italian living in Sweden, for those who just stumbled on my blog for the first time), lingonberries, by mixing some of them to my bread dough. The result was stunning, I loved to see all that color when I cut into the loaves! You can read the whole method here.

lingonberry bread

7. BRUSHSTROKES OF PURPLE AND GREEN. And here we come to my latest experiments. A few years back I remade Farine‘s lovely blueberry bread (as shown below), which was sweetened with the addition of applesauce and powdered milk. I decided to try a dough with no other addition other than plenty of fresh blueberries and some dark chocolate (you see? I put it everywhere I can!). The result was lovely (you can see it below, and the method is here). Completely excited by the positive outcome, the day after I tried a different fresh fruit: grapes. I used both white and red grapes, to achieve more color. And added something savory, like cubed hard cheese, which I know by experience goes amazingly well with bread and grapes (perfect picnic combo, isn’t it?). Also in this case, I was very pleased with the outcome.

blueberry bread

blueberry bread

grapes bread

So this was it… more or less. There have been many more colorful breads that I haven’t even taken pictures of, and many more I want to try. I do hope these tips and tricks will inspire you and, please, don’t hesitate to show me your results and share with me and others your own tips towards a super colorful bread experience. The limit is the sky –or rather the occasional rainbows crossing it.

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Barbara Elisi

Hi there! I am the "soul" behind Bread & Companatico. My main interest is the preservation of bread tradition and craft, with an eye to health. I hope you are having a good time reading this blog, and please don't be shy to connect with me through comments or emails and do keep on bread-ing! ๐Ÿ™‚

Latest posts by Barbara Elisi (see all)

10 replies
  1. Don Sadowsky
    Don Sadowsky says:

    Barbara, your breads are sure to brighten up a long Swedish winter.

    I’ve baked with turmeric, which provides more light than heat. I’ve also used the common trick of adding cocoa powder to brown up a deli pumpernickel. And of course there are all the yellowish egg breads. I once tried adobo sauce, but the rich brick color changed to a dingy, pale orange in the baked loaf. Maybe your ascorbic acid idea would have worked.

  2. Amy Pangestu
    Amy Pangestu says:

    Hi Barbara ๐Ÿ™‚
    I live in Indonesia. We don’t have powdered raspberry. Frozen raspberry is still obtainable. You wrote that the water from blending unfrozen is used in the pink dough. Any suggestion on how to make it pink without the powdered raspberry?
    Oh.. One one question about the beet bread. Have you tried steaming the beet yet?
    Thank you.

  3. sandra
    sandra says:

    sei il mio genio nella lampada, la mia fata turchina, la mia amica-del-cuore, sei una panettiera con i fiocchi: io i tuoi “buchi” me li sogno la notte!!!

  4. Mariya
    Mariya says:

    Hi Barbara, I was wondering how much acid to you put to preserve the colours? Intried doing beetroot sourdough bread and it just turns brown. First I tried with fresh beetroot juice, then discovered your post and thried the baked beetroot puree with half a lemon and half a teaspoon of citric acid (for 360ml solution). Still no luck.


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