The Secret Ingredient Paul Hollywood Adds To All Of His Bread Recipes

There is no doubt that chef and television personality Paul Hollywood knows his way around a loaf of bread. Though Hollywood has judged everything from layer cakes to delicate pastries during his many seasons on the hit television show "The Great British Bake Off," baking bread has always been his passion — and he has a secret ingredient that just might help you master the art of whipping up fresh bread at home. It's even one that you likely have in your pantry already.

Ever since he first saw it being used while he was working abroad as a baker in Cyprus, Hollywood has been a fan of adding oil to all of his bread doughs (via Great British Food Awards). Since bread can be so easily impacted by environmental factors, which can make baking bread intimidating for a novice home cook, oil is the perfect solution to any troubles you may face.

While many bakers may be familiar with the process of sprinkling flour over a surface while kneading dough, Hollywood revealed on his own website that oil is actually preferable to use in the kneading process. If you use too much flour, you risk changing the consistency of the dough as the kneading incorporates the flour; oil, on the other hand, will prevent the dough from sticking to your hands during kneading, but won't alter the dough itself.

Why would you want to use oil?

Besides acting as a lubricant to ensure half of your bread dough doesn't end up stuck to your hands after kneading, oil serves several functions that you may not have thought of when it comes to making bread.

One thing Cook's Illustrated notes is that the fat within the oil can help make the bread more tender, as it coats some gluten-forming proteins. This tenderizing effect is more visible in certain doughs with a higher butter content, such as brioche, but it can make a difference in just about any type of bread you decide to make. But don't put it away when you're done kneading. Oil is also crucial in the rising process. Have you ever coated the exterior of your perfectly-formed ball of dough before waiting patiently for it to rise as the yeast activates? Well, there's a reason for that, explains The Spruce Eats. Adding some oil to the top of the dough will help to prevent the exterior from forming a crust that you'd need to take extra steps to knead away.

In addition to helping create a more tender loaf of bread and making the kneading process easier, oil has a few other benefits in baking. As one might expect, the addition of oil will help create an end product with more moisture, reports Bakerpedia. It will also help your loaf stay fresh longer, preventing it from drying out before you're able to enjoy it.