There are quite a few bread improvers that you can add to your home-baked bread, depending on what quality you are trying to improve. The best part is that they don’t require any extra investment. You’ve probably already got them in your pantry or fridge!
For better rise, texture and flavour
To achieve a better rise, texture, and flavour in your bread, there are several tips you can follow.
Vinegar is a beneficial ingredient when making bread. It can do a few things, like adding sourness or making the bread taste better. Vinegar is a mild acid that helps break down the dough’s starches and proteins, which helps make it rise better, giving it a better texture. If your water is soft, vinegar can improve gluten quality. That’s why it’s used in many bread recipes, especially sourdough. Also, when mixed with baking soda, vinegar creates gas, which helps make cookies and cakes rise better.
The ideal amount to add
Bakers suggest using 1 tablespoon of vinegar for every 2 ½ cups of flour in bread recipes. The maximum amount of vinegar that should be used in a bread recipe is 1 tablespoon. Adding too much vinegar can stop the yeast from growing, cause the fermentation process to stop, and prevent the dough from rising. It can also affect the browning process. Be careful not to use too much vinegar. Mixing yeast and vinegar directly can kill the yeast, and your dough won’t rise.
Lemon juice substitute
You can use vinegar instead of lemon juice in your recipe. Just add 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar for each teaspoon of lemon juice.
You can use vinegar instead of wine. Just mix 1 part vinegar with 2 parts water. 1 tablespoon wine = 1 teaspoon vinegar + 2 teaspoons water.
Common types of vinegar to use in bread making
There are different types of vinegar, each with unique characteristics and uses in bread making.
White vinegar is a type of vinegar that is commonly used in baking. It has a sour taste and activates baking soda in some bread recipes that don’t use yeast. It doesn’t have a strong flavour and is suitable for pickling and marinades. It is made by distilling alcoholic spirits from corn and rye.
Cider vinegar is another type of vinegar made from apples. It tastes sweeter and has a milder taste than white vinegar. It can be used in yeast-based bread recipes to help activate the yeast and improve the texture of the dough. If you’re making sourdough bread, you’ll need cider vinegar and buttermilk. Adding vinegar to sourdough bread makes it acidic, which helps gluten form better and results in softer and tastier bread. Apple cider vinegar is often used in salad dressings and sauces.
Balsamic vinegar is a dark, sweet, and tangy liquid from Italy. It’s made from grape syrup and has a strong flavour. People use it a lot for salad dressing and dipping sauce. It can also add flavour to bread and dough that contains fruits and nuts. Use it only when a recipe asks for it.
Common types of vinegar that we don't use for bread making
Several types of vinegar are commonly used for cooking and other purposes but are NOT typically used in bread making.
- Malt vinegar from malted barley and rice vinegar. It has a mild, slightly sweet taste and is commonly used in Asian cuisine to balance flavours.
- Red wine vinegar: Made from red wine, it has a strong flavour and is often used in marinades and dressings.
While these types of vinegar may not be suitable for bread making, many other styles can add flavour and acidity to homemade bread.
- Champagne vinegar: Made from champagne, it has a delicate flavour and is often used in dressings and sauces.
Vital wheat gluten
Gluten is a protein in wheat that makes dough stretchy when mixed with water. When you bake bread, gluten helps it puff up by trapping gas from yeast and steam.
Vitamin C and vital wheat gluten
Many bakers use vitamin C and vital wheat gluten to make their bread tastier and softer. They are unnecessary, and you can leave them out because the more ingredients you have, the more work it is to put the bread together. However, if you want perfect bread, you can use them. They will make a difference! Even if you’ve tried to make bread before but it didn’t come out right, try using these ingredients. You’ll see good results. Professional bakers use it to make their bread rise better, have a good shape, be soft for longer and have more protein. Adding a little of this ingredient to your bread will improve it and make it healthier.
For better texture
Playing with texture in bread can be fun.
Milk is an important ingredient that makes bread look and feel great. You can use either powdered or fresh milk, but if you use fresh milk, don’t set a delay on your bread machine. The milk might spoil before baking, and your bread won’t turn out right.
Buttermilk is another great addition to bread and gives a nice tangy flavour.
Chickpeas can also help improve the texture of savoury bread.
Mashed potatoes can go with different kinds of bread, and you can use any potato you like, even sweet potato. Remember to bring the mashed potatoes to the right temperature (27-32°C/80-90°F), whether fresh or in the fridge.
Eggs can be added to both sweet and savoury bread recipes to improve texture.
Grains like cooked rice
Cooked rice and other grains can be used as bread improvers to enhance the texture of your bread. They are added similarly to fruit or nuts and help make the bread richer.
Bananas or applesauce
For sweet bread, try using bananas or applesauce to help retain moisture and give a cake-like texture.
For better flavour
Finding a bread improver for flavour is simple.
Nearly every bread includes salt, which is a natural flavour enhancer.
You can add a touch of honey to your bread recipes to make them sweeter and more appealing. Humans naturally enjoy sweet things, so adding ½ to 1 teaspoon of honey can improve the flavour of your bread and make it more inviting.
Peel or zest, as well as alcohol
Adding peel or alcohol to bread dough can make delicious, flavourful bread. But if you use too much orange, lemon, or grapefruit peel or alcohol, the bread cannot work properly, and the yeast won’t be able to do its job.
Adding herbs makes bread taste great! Here are some tips for using herbs in your bread.
You don’t need to crush dried herbs using a bread machine; use them as they are. The machine will mix them in for you. Ensure your herbs are fresh, and keep them for up to three months.
Use only the leaves of fresh herbs and not the stems.
Dried herbs vs Fresh herbs
When you use dried herbs instead of fresh ones, use this simple rule: 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs equals 1 teaspoon of dried herbs.
Basil leaves are easy to find and can be added to bread dough. They go well with other herbs, garlic, and cheese, making them versatile for bread-making. You can use fresh or dried basil leaves.
Chives can be freshly cut or dried and added to bread dough for a mild onion flavour. They also work well when mixed with cream cheese and garlic.
To add flavour to bread, you can use finely ground-dried rosemary. It works best with yeast bread, including garlic, onion, cheese, white, and wheat bread. But be careful not to use too much because it has a strong flavour even when dried. Just a little bit of rosemary is enough to add flavour to your bread. You can even place a sprig of rosemary on a baking sheet in the oven with the bread for perfect flavouring.
Sage is a garden herb with a mild flavour that tastes like pepper. It’s part of the Mint family. When fresh, sage has a milder flavour than when it’s dry. It’s best to use finely minced or dried sage leaves for bread. Ground sage has a strong flavour and goes well with whole wheat bread and orange and herb bread.
Thyme is good for adding a lemony taste to savoury bread. If you use fresh thyme, use a small amount because it has a strong flavour. Dry thyme can be finely ground and mixed with butter to make a tasty spread for bread.
Lavender flowers can add a gentle floral perfume to bread dough.
Regional herb blends that go great in bread
Regional herbs blends can add a special touch to homemade bread and elevate its flavour profile. Experiment with different herb blends and amounts to find what works best for your bread recipe and personal preference. Here are some suggestions for herb blends that work well in bread:
Italian Seasoning is a mix of ground herbs used to flavour Italian dishes. The mixture usually includes basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, sage, or coriander. It can give the bread a savoury and fragrant taste.
Mediterranean herb blend is similar to the Italian blend, but with marjoram and sometimes fennel, this blend can bring hints of the sunny Mediterranean to your bread.
Here’s my homemade recipe for a “Mediterranean Italian seasoning” that you can easily make yourself:
2 tablespoons of Mediterranean Italian seasoning is equal to 1.5 teaspoons of oregano, 1 teaspoon of marjoram, 1 teaspoon of basil, 1 teaspoon of thyme, 0.5 teaspoons of rosemary, and 1 teaspoon of sage.
All of these are dried herbs.
Tuscan herbs include rosemary, basil, thyme, and oregano. They go well with garlic flakes and parmesan cheese.
Provincial Herbs (Herbs de Provence)
Provincial herbs, also known as Herbs de Provence, include tarragon, savoury, fennel, basil, thyme, rosemary, and sometimes lavender.
French herbs include tarragon, chervil, and parsley. This blend can add a delicate, fresh touch to your bread.
Greek herbs are Greek Oregano, marjoram, dill, and mint – These herbs go well with lemons and peppers.
Fine herbs are chervil, parsley, chives and tarragon – They pair with gruyere and cracked pepper.
Mexican herbs like cumin, chilli powder, coriander and oregano can give bread a spicy taste. This is great for Mexican-style meals.
Spices add a delicious flavour to the bread. Here are some tips for using them in your bread.
Ground cinnamon is a spice often used when making bread. It works with yeast or quick bread. However, adding too much cinnamon can stop the yeast from doing its job, affecting the bread’s texture and size. Use only the recommended amount of cinnamon called for in the recipe to avoid this. Keep high percentages of cinnamon out of the dough; instead, add it to the fillings, where it will have a limited effect on the yeast activity.
Garlic is often used in bread, especially garlic bread, in different shapes and forms like yeast bread, biscuits, and pizza dough. Fresh garlic may slow down the yeast, so it’s better to use garlic powder instead to get the garlic flavour.
Ginger is good for digestion and tastes peppery. You can have it in different forms like root, dry, powdered, and candied. Ginger is related to turmeric and is a very versatile spice.
While it is sometimes an ingredient in yeast bread, it is commonly used in quick bread, muffins, pancakes, waffles, and coffee cakes.
Remember that when ginger is cooked, it becomes milder in flavour. So, feel free to use more than you think you need.
Allspice is a spice that is commonly used in sweet quick (non-yeast) bread. If you are making yeast bread, use it carefully; only use 1/4 teaspoon of allspice for every cup of flour to ensure your bread turns out well.
Nutmeg and mace are spices that come from the same kind of tree. Ground nutmeg is often used in baking, especially sweet baked goods like bread, muffins, and pancakes. It can also be added to coffee cake and French toast. Usually, it is combined with other spices like cinnamon. If you buy whole nutmeg and grind it yourself, it will keep its flavour for about four years. If you purchase it already ground, it will keep for almost two years if you store it in a sealed container.
Saffron or turmeric
Saffron is an expensive spice made from autumn crocus that costs more than turmeric. It adds a golden colour and unique flavour to the bread. To spread the flavour evenly, dissolve saffron in the called-for warm liquid when kneading.
Alternatively, turmeric can achieve a similar yellow colour and flavour.
Remember that while saffron has a yellow pigment, it has a distinct and lightly flavoured stamen that tastes different from turmeric.
Saffron has a subtle metallic flavour with earthy and nutty notes.
In contrast, turmeric has a gentle peppery taste with a mildly bitter flavour.
This spice powder can replace cinnamon or nutmeg in your bread recipe. It can be found in the Asian section of grocery stores or specialty markets. It’s made up of anise, fennel, Szechuan pepper, cinnamon, and cloves, with a possible addition of ginger.
Sesame, caraway, poppy, flax, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are tiny seeds that are just as useful as nuts. If you toast these seeds in a pan with no oil and keep stirring them over medium heat until golden, they will taste even better.
Sesame seeds are deliciously sweet and nutty. They taste great on bread and rolls, especially on the crust. Sesame seeds are also common in Italian bread and hamburger buns. They add another flavour dimension to bread.
Black & jet-black sesame seeds
When used as a topping, the rich, nutty flavour of black sesame seeds is amplified during baking, adding complexity unexpectedly and deliciously. There’s also striking visual contrast between the exposed brown crust and jet-black seeds.
How to adhere sesame seeds to bread crust
To make Sesame seeds stick to the bread, you first need to brush an egg wash on top of the bread and then sprinkle the sesame seeds over it.
Here’s how you can make the egg wash: mix 3 tablespoons of water and 1 egg in a bowl. Use a fork or whisk to beat the mixture. Brush the mixture onto the bread and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top of it. Then you can bake it according to the recipe. If you want, you can use only egg whites to brush the bread.
To make it healthier, you can also grind up sunflower seeds and put them in your bread, replacing part of the flour with an equal amount of ground seeds.
You can make cake-like bread with poppy seeds, usually accompanied by a citrus flavour like lemon or orange.
You can also sprinkle poppy seeds on the outside of the bread for an added crunch.
Caraway seeds come from a biennial plant grown for their flavourful seeds. Usually, they are put in rye bread to make it taste better, bringing in a reasonable amount of flavour to contrast the darker grain. They are also used in pumpernickel bread, cornbread, and other kinds of bread to add flavour.
Flaxseed is a good choice. Some people may find it has a strong taste when toasted, but it goes well with white bread. Not only does it taste good, but it also has important nutrients such as fatty acids, antioxidants and fibre.
Dill seeds (and dill weed)
Like caraway seeds, Dill seeds and weeds add great flavour to the bread and biscuits. Finely ground, the seeds can be whipped in butter to make a tasty spread.
Add hemp seeds to your favourite bread recipe for a crunchy addition.
You don’t need to alter the recipe. Just include pumpkin seeds in your desired quantity for additional texture and taste.
Cardamom is a spice from the seeds of various plants in the ginger family. The seeds are small and black and are found inside the pods. The pods can be used whole or ground and come in different colours and sizes depending on the type of plant.
Cardamom is often used in sweet bread, gingerbread recipes, and some coffee cake recipes. It is a popular spice for Christmas baking and is found in many Scandinavian bread recipes.
Cardamom has a strong, sweet, and pungent flavour with hints of lemon and mint. Black cardamom has a smoky and cooling menthol flavour.
Fennel is a plant that lasts long and can be grown easily from seeds. Its seeds are collected, dried, and added to bread and biscuits to give them a pleasant taste. Fennel seeds are also used for making different kinds of bread like rye, pumpernickel, wheat, cornmeal, and other types of rich bread. Fennel leaves and grated roots can also be used in cooking.
People like anise seed because it tastes like sweet licorice and has a strong smell. It is usually used in yeast and non-yeast quick bread.
Anise vs. Star Anise
Anise and star anise are different spices from other plant families, even though their names sound alike.
Anise vs. Fennel
Anise and fennel are similar in taste and look alike, but they are not the same thing. They belong to the same family of plants as caraway, parsley and cilantro but are not the same species.
Vegetables and Fruits
Some examples are:
• Sun-dried tomatoes
• Dried onion flakes (or minced onion)
• Lemon zest
• Pepper flakes (or minced hot peppers)
• Roasted garlic (or dried or minced garlic)
Raisins, sultanas, and cranberries that are dried are nice to use in bread.
Follow these steps when using dried fruit in your bread recipe for the best results.
Before putting them in the bread dough, cut them up and dust them lightly with flour. This will help them mix in better with the rest of the dough.
Wait to add them until the end of the kneading process so they are evenly distributed and not mashed by the machine. If you add them too late, they will sink to the bottom of the bread.
Use the exact amount of fruit that the recipe calls for. Don’t use fresh fruit instead of dried fruit because fresh fruit has water, which can make your bread dense or sticky.
Pureed fruits and vegetables
Pureed fruits and vegetables (found in a jar from the baby food section of your store) or thawed and well-drained canned or frozen vegetables in your blender or food processor are great products to use in recipes and are very convenient.
Nuts and seeds add extra flavour to your bread. You can use a variety of nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, almonds, macadamias, hazelnuts, pine nuts, peanuts, or Brazil nuts. Experiment with different types of nuts in your recipe. You can substitute your favourite nuts in any bread recipe.
To make nuts taste better, toast them. You can quickly toast a small amount in a skillet. Or, you can put nuts on a baking sheet in an oven at 177°C/350°F for 8-10 minutes until they turn golden brown.
Chopped or sliced nuts
Before putting chopped nuts in your bread machine, ensure they are small enough not to get pulverized by the kneading paddle. Add the nuts to the dough when the kneading cycle is about to end to mix the pieces evenly throughout the dough. If you wait too long to add the nuts, they will stay at the bottom of the loaf.
Chocolate and Cocoa
Some chocolate bread recipes use various types of chocolate. Here is information about the different kinds of chocolate used to make bread.
Chocolate chips (also called chocolate morsels)
You can use milk chocolate or semi-sweet. Adding chocolate chips at the beginning of the cycle will melt and colour the entire dough. But adding them later on, will give the dough a marbled look, especially when you add nuts and dried fruits.
Semi-sweet (also called bittersweet) chocolate
Semi-sweet chocolate has more cocoa butter and sugar than sweet chocolate. One square of chocolate equals 1 ounce (28g). Melted chocolate is used in most bread recipes. Cool the melted chocolate before adding it to the bread machine.
This is just plain chocolate without any sugar or extra flavours added, which makes it taste bitter. For convenience, you can get unsweetened chocolate in 28g squares or buy pre-melted chocolate in individual packets.
Unsweetened cocoa powder (either natural or Dutch-process)
Cocoa powder is made by removing some of the fat from pure chocolate. When using cocoa powder, make sure it is unsweetened and not a mix that already contains sugar. To measure, scoop it out of the container and level it off in a dry measuring cup.
I really like cheese in all kinds of foods. Two of my favourite types to put in bread are old hard cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese. It tastes so good!
Health bread improvers are additives or ingredients added to bread dough to enhance its nutritional value and health benefits. These improvers can help increase the fibre content, add essential vitamins and minerals, and boost the protein content of bread. These ingredients provide nutritional benefits and enhance the texture, flavour, and overall quality of bread. Typical health bread improvers include wheat bran, flaxseed, whole wheat flour, and oat fibre.
To improve your health, use half whole-grain flour when baking. This is an easy way to add more nutrients to your diet and make your bread healthier without sacrificing taste. It is also a good trick to make picky eaters enjoy bread with added nutrients.
Ground flax seeds
Flax seeds are a great addition to bread and make it taste good. If you grind the seeds, it’s even better for your health. When you grind them, healthy oils and fibre come out. You can replace some flour in your bread recipe with ground flax seeds to make it healthier.
- Adding extra ingredients at the beginning of making bread is good, but adding seeds and nuts later is better. This is because kneading can spoil them.
- When adding vegetables, fruit, mashed potatoes or cottage cheese, which are damp, consider them half liquid.
- If you add half a cup of mashed bananas, reduce the liquid by a quarter cup.
What are the basic ingredients to make basic bread?
The basic ingredients to make bread are like instruments in an orchestra; each one does a specific job and gives a unique flavour to the bread. The right amount of each ingredient is essential to get the best taste. When you bake bread, a reaction happens to make a final masterpiece.
Excellent bread is as good as the ingredients that go into it. The basics for bread are simple: liquid like water or milk, fat like butter or oil, flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Bread can taste better using additional ingredients, different grains and flours. There are also quite a few bread improvers that you can add to your home-baked bread, depending on what quality you are trying to improve.
I hope my easy tips will give you the confidence to step into the kitchen and prepare delicious meals to eat with a handful of close friends.
Have you made a Fast2eat Recipe? I love seeing your take on my recipe!