Hacks For Baking Bread That You'll Want To Know

If you've ever made your own bread then you'll know that it tastes breathtakingly good, especially when it's straight out of the oven and you can watch butter melt into the soft inside. Aside from making vows to never buy store-bought bread again, apart from perhaps a nice bakery, there's something deeply satisfying, almost meditative about baking bread. It takes you back to the basics of what's so mesmerizing about home cooking, that it's about taking time out from the modern world, de-stressing, and creating something with your own hands. According to Woman & Home, cooking became a popular pursuit for women during the stay-at-home days of the pandemic. Of course, the appeal of making a home-baked loaf reaches the mixing bowls of all. Even if you're on a low-carb or no-carb diet, you can still make bread. 

Perhaps in a bid to make a food staple, to relax, and no doubt to avoid grocery stores, the quest for bread-making has sparked a huge interest in making and kneading dough. Let's face it, in anxious times, pummeling some dough is really relaxing. To make this newfound hobby more interesting, there are a few fantastic hacks for baking bread that you'll want to know. From making cloud bread, a bread that needs no kneading at all, to a shortcut to creating inspired Italian bread art (via The Guardian), here are some ways to up your bread game.

Microwave banana bread

Whoever thought of making bread in the microwave? Without flour? If you're feeling like you want a sweet bread fix that's not made from dough, then try a 90-second banana bread recipe that's made in a mug, courtesy of @cakeontherun. Start by mashing up ½ a banana with a fork in a microwaveable mug. And make sure it's overripe so it's sweet and soft. Add in a little baking powder and baking soda, plus a teaspoon of margarine, 5 tablespoons of milk, and a tablespoon of sweetener, plus a squirt of lemon juice and a smidgen of cinnamon. Using a blender, turn ½ a cup of oats into a finer flour-like texture and add this to the cup. Mix in and leave for a couple of minutes. Blast the mug in the microwave for 1½ minutes. Use a knife to loosen the bread out. You could try eating it straight from the mug, too.

For a variation on a theme, @sarahhbakes posts a banana bread recipe on TikTok that uses flour. Add an egg to one mashed banana, and mix in 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and a tablespoon of baking powder. After mixing, add a teaspoon of oil and the same amount of milk. Flavor with some cinnamon powder and a drop of vanilla essence. Add 3 tablespoons of flour and some chocolate chips. In a microwaveable bowl, blast for up to 3 minutes. 

Revive your homemade loaf

You've gone to the trouble of making some fresh bread, whether you've made a cob, baguette, or a farmhouse loaf. After taking the time to let the dough rise, and kneading it before baking, it seems to have turned out well. But the next day, your fluffy bread is lackluster; it starts to feel less soft and a little more stale. Do you throw it away? Or do you turn it into croutons instead? What if there was a simple hack that revived your loaf and made it taste fresh again? A TikTok post by @chef_tristan_welch explains this mad-simple yet brilliant bread tip. 

Preheat your oven to 400 F before you start, as you need to put your bread in as soon as you've done the following step. Holding your bread, put it under running water, and move it around so it's pretty drenched on top and underneath. Pop it on the wire rack of your hot oven and leave for 5 minutes. Not only will your loaf be revived, but it'll be lovely and warm, just ready for you to tear off a hunk and slather on a generous amount of butter so that it melts. 

Create TikTok's carb-free cloud bread

Try to get to the end of this creative bread hack before you make this exciting bread that's light and fluffy, like a cloud, and has no carbs in it. To make this TikTok-trending cloud bread, follow an easy Mashed Cloud Bread recipe. Make meringue peaks by mixing 4 egg whites with a ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar. Mix the yolks with a ¼ cup of cream cheese. Into this bowl, add a teaspoon of Italian herb seasoning, and ½ teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, and sea salt. Fold the meringue mix into the yolk mix. Put small dollops onto greaseproof paper on a tray — leaving spaces between each, as the clouds will expand. Bake at 300 F for 15 minutes and let them cool before serving. 

Meanwhile, @stephaniekimchi offers a really simple version. This involves mixing egg whites with a little sugar until stiff, then mixing in some cornstarch and baking in the oven in bun-like shapes. You can also add in some food coloring, as TikTok's @matthewinthekitchen does, to make bright blue cloud bread. You can try adding different colors and creating various shapes, such as a cloud-shaped bread bun. 

Be creative with focaccia dinner rolls

A super cool and creative way of baking focaccia bread is to make bread art. Create your own designs, patterns, and color schemes by decorating the delicious Italian bread before baking it. Not only will it look stunning, as a culinary masterpiece should, but if you use the right ingredients it'll taste as good as it looks. If you think this is the hack, think again! @fooddolls have come up with a great idea of making this bread fresh without any kneading. Use frozen dinner roll dough and space the rolls out in an ovenproof dish. Once thawed, they'll expand so they're all touching. Drizzle some olive oil over the top and push each row of dough so that the oil seeps in and the surface looks a little rippled, like that of focaccia. Now you're ready to add your toppings.

Add halved cherry tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, and some halved and pitted Kalamata olives. Add some mini mozzarella cheese balls and then sprinkle on some Italian seasoning, oregano, and black sesame seeds on the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 F (via Food Dolls). This is just one idea, and you really can let your imagination come up with other artistic and tasty designs.

Let dough rise longer for a no-knead loaf

Whatever bread you're making, unless it's a flatbread, there are certain stages that you must go through. You mix the ingredients, let the dough rise, and then you use some elbow grease that gives the dough a good kneading. It's this last part, the bit that requires some physical toiling, that puts a lot of people off baking bread. But what if you could skip out on this? Before you think it's simply not possible to totally ignore a fundamental stage of breadmaking, consider this game-changing hack by Sullivan Street Bakery baker Jim Lahey that was featured in The New York Times

His no-knead bread recipe has attracted attention around the world, including U.K. celebrity chef and presenter Nigella Lawson.  After mixing bread flour, yeast, water, and salt, the dough is left to rise for 12 to 18 hours. Then wrap it in a tea towel and leave it covered to rise a second time for 1-2 hours (via Nigella). Sweet Paul Magazine demonstrates this method on Facebook. The no-knead dough is baked in an oven for 30 minutes at 450 F, in a Dutch oven covered by its lid. Near the end of the baking time, the lid must be removed and the loaf put back in the oven for another 15-30 minutes so that it can brown on top. 

Roll bread dough into a square

Here's a quick puzzle for you. How do you turn a circle into a square? The answer is you make a cross. That's the secret to turning a round dough ball into a different shape so that when you roll it out you don't get a circle. Whether you're making rectangular focaccia or following another bread-style recipe, there are times when you want straight edges rather than curved ones. If you get a ball of dough, add a sprinkle of flour on top, and start to work with your rolling pin, you're going to find it impossible to get a square shape — unless you do a lot of trimming and cutting into your circle. And even if you start with a square of dough, it's not so simple. TikTok poster @frederikkewaerens has a simple solution. Once you know it, you'll never forget it. 

Using a big enough knife, cut two fairly deep grooves into your ball of dough, from one side to the other, overlapping to create a cross design. Starting in the middle of the cross, roll the dough back and forward once, turn, and do the same along the other cut mark. Each half of the dough, at either side of the cut, will stretch out, giving you an even square. Keep rotating the dough to stop it from going rectangular.

Cook stovetop bread

What do you do if your oven is full or you don't have one, yet you really want some homemade bread? Use your stovetop, of course. And if you're missing some yeast too, that's not a problem. Believe it or not, you can make bread using your cooktop. As highlighted on TikTok by @fnavanlife, it's easy to make a no-bake, yeast-free loaf, if you know how. And the hardest part might be flipping the bread in a pan.

Mix 1½ cups of flour with a teaspoon of baking powder, a ½ teaspoon of salt, and a cup of water. This is your dough. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and add the dough. Sprinkle on some Everything Bagel Seasoning and add a couple of tablespoons of water in the pan, around the edge of the dough. Cover with a lid and leave for 10 minutes on the heat. Flip and put the pan back on the stove, so the other side browns too. Flip your bread back over, and that's it. Your breadmaking is done, and you didn't have to wait for it to rise or have to knead it either. This has to be the easiest way to make bread ever, van or no van. 

Add some tang without making sourdough

Sourdough has such a unique flavor — sour and tangy — and it also has an incredible history that dates back to mining heritage in the U.S. and Canada. To make it you need to create what's called a starter, and you feed this with flour to make the dough. There's certainly an art to looking after your starter, and it's become on-trend to make sourdough at home (via Mashed). However, if you don't want to invest your time into lovingly tending to your starter and your energy into sourdough baking but love this bread, then this could be just the hack for you. And the secret ingredient is plain yogurt with active cultures (via Wonder How To). 

Lady & Pups recommends using yogurt to add some tartness to a loaf and fake that sourdough taste that's so distinctive. Preheat your oven to 450 F. Mix 2 cups of bread flour with 1½ cups and 2 tablespoons of unsweetened yogurt, as well as 1½ teaspoons of salt and ¾ of a teaspoon of dry yeast. Let the dough rise for 6 hours in a covered bowl. On a floured countertop, softly fold the dough and create a ball. Put the dough on greaseproof paper, cover with a bowl, and leave for 1-2 hours. Put the dough in a hot Dutch oven, and bake at 450 F for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake until lovely and browned. Turn out on a rack and cool. 

Use mashed potatoes to make bread

If you love toasted bagel and potatoes, then try out a fabulous smashed potato bagel, as posted on Hack Queen.  Add a couple of tablespoons of egg whites and a little baking powder to a packet of smashed potatoes. Season your bagel or donut mold, add the potato mix, and sprinkle on some Everything Bagel seasoning. You make your own version too, following a trick from Martha Stewart which mixes toasted sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, and poppy seeds, with dried minced garlic, dried minced onion, and some flakes of sea salt. Bake your bagels at 350 F for 12-15 minutes. When they're done, cut them in half and toast. Meanwhile, Be Healthy With Ash offers a variation to this bagel on Facebook by adding Parmesan as a topping and whipping the egg whites first.

Meanwhile, U.K. cookbook author Nigella Lawson likes to add a little water left over from boiling potatoes to flour to make bread dough. As the bread cooks, this starchy liquid creates a fluffy, lighter texture. She loves to add this to a simple bread recipe of flour and instant yeast to give it an extra special quality that's easy. Next time you're cooking some potatoes, or pasta for that matter, save some of that starchy water. Don't forget if you're looking for a great potato hack, then add some of the cooking water back in with the spuds and you'll get fluffier mash too (via Salon). 

Make challah with sweet bread dough

The braided beauty that's challah is a traditional Jewish bread enjoyed on the Sabbath, and the name comes from a translation relating to a cake rather than bread (via Aish). While eggs are used in some recipes for this yeasty bread, there are a myriad of different versions, some just using water, and others that are sweet loaves (via Reform Judaism). What's really satisfying about making challah is twisting together the dough into that iconic braided design. Traditionally it has twelve humps, but there are many ways to braid it (via @challahprince on TikTok).

A great tip when baking your own challah comes from TC Jewfolk, and involves using sweet bread dough that you've bought in, so you don't have to make your own. Buy this frozen and defrost it in the fridge for a day before transforming it. What's great is that this dough is often in individual pieces, so you can keep these apart so that it's ready for when you braid. Make three of the pieces flat and stretch them out. To turn this into challah, add butter, beaten egg, white and brown sugar, and some honey on top of your dough. Fold the dough over and knead it so all those lovely sweet ingredients are mixed in. It's not even baked yet, and will smell and look amazing. Since you're using your hands to do this, you may want to wash them. Make a three-strand braid, folding under the end. 

Steam bread instead of using the oven

It's pretty expected when you're making bread that when the dough is ready that you'll watch the heat work its magic in the oven, right? Well, once upon a time there weren't quite as many ovens, and certainly in certain cultures baking bread in this way isn't the norm. A great hack for getting soft bread that tastes delicious is to try steaming it instead. There are so many different types of bread you can make in this way, as highlighted by Bread Experience, from cornbread to a maple-walnut variety. 

While you can use a slow cooker or a pressure cooker, a really easy way is in a pot on your stovetop. You can steam your bread in a bread pan, or even empty soup or coffee cans. You'll need a big pot for the stove and something to put in the water so that whatever you're using to cook your bread doesn't touch the bottom of the pot and burn. Canning rings or a rack work well. You need a lid for your pot, too. Add boiling water so that it covers 50% of your bread cans or pans. Depending on the size of your loaf, it could take just less than 2 hours to steam or over 3 hours. You can try sticking a wooden skewer in to test if it's done. If it comes out without anything on it, then it's ready (via Chef Talk).

Use the tangzhong method to make soft, pillowy bread

Super light and fluffy, they literally spring right back up when you press down on them. Like the softest pillows, the hack to making bread like this is using the tangzhong method, as demonstrated on TikTok by @theboywhobakes. If you've never heard of it before, then it basically involves making a roux by heating up a little milk, water, and flour until it becomes a thick paste. You then add this to the rest of your dough ingredients, and when you come to bake it, your bread will be wonderfully bouncy and light.

You can use this technique to make Japanese milk bread, as per a TikTok post by @kwokspots, which can be torn apart to create buns. Make your roux in a stovetop pan with a couple of tablespoons of water and flour and 4½ tablespoons of milk. Activate a tablespoon of yeast in ¼ cup of water. Add these together along with an egg, ½ a cup of milk, ¼ cup of sugar, and 2⅓ cups of flour, plus a teaspoon of salt. Mix until you've got a dough ball and add in softened butter. Leave to rest for 90 minutes. Split into 8 balls and add, with spaces between, to a baking pan. Leave for 45 minutes so they expand and touch. Brush with egg wash and bake for 20 minutes. Coat with melted garlic butter when it's fresh out of the oven. Try not to eat it all!