The Secret Ingredient You Should Be Adding To Your Bread

Bread is one of the most basic of all foods, hence the nickname "staff of life" (which is not exactly Biblical, according to The Phrase Finder, but is still sufficiently ancient that we don't have to ponder the meaning too deeply). In fact, bread is so important that it's one of the staple items people stock up on — along with milk and TP — whenever any storm or other natural disaster is about to hit.

If store-bought bread is in short supply, or you just want the satisfaction of making your own, be aware that bread making is more than just a simple baking project. While it isn't necessarily all that difficult, it requires both time and care — and a little bit of creativity does not go unrewarded, either. If you want your bread to be truly out of the ordinary, there's one secret ingredient that Taste of Home insists was known to your grandmother — well, somebody's grandmother, at any rate. So what was Hypothetical Granny's secret ingredient for bread that smelled amazing and tasted even better? Would you believe — onion soup mix?

Onion soup mix adds so much flavor for so little effort

Yes, onion soup mix, that weird brown and white flaky stuff that nobody ever in the history of convenience foods has ever once used to make actual onion soup. You may have seen it on store shelves and wondered what on earth it was used for — the answer is that's it's usually used for seasoning pot roasts, or else mixed with sour cream to make a retro '70s kind of chip dip. What you really should be using it for, however, is to add some savor to your homemade bread.

Taste of Home says onion soup mix merely needs to be dissolved in hot water before adding to the yeast for your bread dough. Both AllRecipes and Food. provide more specific details than that, however. AllRecipes calls for using a one-ounce packet of soup mix that is combined with lukewarm milk, sugar, salt, butter, and flour and then added to yeast that's already been proofed with warm water and a little sugar. Food. uses the blender to mix sugar, scalded milk, butter, and two ounces of soup mix before blending in softened yeast. 

As comments on the first recipe seemed to indicate, one ounce of onion soup mix per loaf isn't quite enough to give it much flavor — they suggested doubling that amount, as does the second recipe, so two ounces of onion soup mix per loaf of bread is the recommended amount.

Onion soup mix can be used after baking, too

If you've already baked your bread, or you happen to have a loaf of the store-bought kind lying around, you can still give it a little aftermarket onion action with onion soup mix. One recipe, supplied by Delish, is for an Onion Soup Pull-Apart Bread that they describe as being "like a bread bowl of onion soup — that you can eat without a spoon."

In order to make this bread, you take a loaf of crusty bread (they suggest sourdough, although French or Italian would also work well) and cut it lengthwise and crosswise, only not all the way through. You're kind of making a checkerboard pattern of cuts that you can then pull apart. Fill up all of the cracks and crevices with onions that have been caramelized and then sauteed in soup mix and broth, and finish things off by stuffing in shredded Swiss cheese wherever it will fit. Bake the loaf until the cheese is bubbly, and then enjoy all that yummy, oniony goodness.

You can even DIY your onion soup mix

Okay, so you're going to all the trouble of making your own bread, and maybe you just don't want to spoil things by using an instant soup. If you really want to make everything from scratch, that's ok, you can whip up your own copycat version of packaged onion soup mix, too. Wellness Mama has a recipe for a preservative-free soup mix that just takes minutes to stir together, should you happen to have all of the necessary dried herbs and spices on hand.

In order to make this recipe, you will need dried onion flakes, onion powder, garlic powder, celery salt, black pepper, dried parsley, salt (they suggest Himalayan salt or sea salt, but plain old table salt is perfectly fine), and beef bouillon powder. You can also add a teeny bit of turmeric if you wish, although it's not strictly necessary. And if you really, really want to DIY as much of this as you can, you can even make your own garlic powder with a technique that could also be used to make the onion powder and dried onion flakes.