13 Ways To Upgrade Your Homemade Bread

assorted loaves of bread
assorted loaves of bread - Carlosgaw/Getty Images

It's pretty hard to beat a loaf of freshly baked bread straight out of the oven. From lovingly made sourdough and classic crusty rolls to sweet brioche and fluffy focaccia, bread comes in so many delicious forms. While you might use a couple of go-to recipes on repeat, there's certainly no need to stick to the same old routine every time. When it comes to homemade bread, we urge you to get creative and explore the huge variety of recipe options that are out there.

If you're looking to take your homemade loaves from standard to sensational, you've come to the right place. Whether you fancy adding a savory twist, a touch of sweetness, or an entirely new flavor profile, there are countless ways to bring some excitement into your bread recipe. It might be a simple add-in like seeds, nuts, or herbs, or perhaps you're looking to introduce some rich, sophisticated flavors with olives or cured meats. Either way, we've got plenty of options to give your loaf a unique twist. So, join us as we explore some delicious ways to upgrade your homemade bread.

Read more: Ingredients To Take Your Scrambled Eggs To The Next Level

Add Molasses To The Dough

sliced whole wheat bread with molasses
sliced whole wheat bread with molasses - Miriam Hahn/Mashed

A thick, dark syrup that's actually a by-product in the production of sugar, molasses is an ingredient we might traditionally associate with gingerbread cookies or fall-inspired sweet treats. But this flavorful syrup can also make a fantastic addition to your homemade loaf of bread. Most standard whole-wheat bread recipes feature a little sugar or honey, bringing a slight hint of sweetness to the loaf. However, molasses can provide a far richer, deeper flavor, not only enhancing its taste, but also giving it a beautiful, golden-brown color.

To incorporate molasses into your bread, simply add it in when it comes to mixing up the wet ingredients. A little goes a long way, so if you want to keep your loaf suitable for making savory sandwiches, with just a subtle sweetness, around two tablespoons of molasses is perfect. If you'd prefer a sweeter, richer loaf, you can add up to a third cup of molasses. Once the dough has been prepped and left to rise, bake it in the oven until you have a wonderful golden brown crust. The smell will be impossible to resist!

Top It With Seeds And Grains

sliced loaf of bread with seeds and oats
sliced loaf of bread with seeds and oats - javogarciaphotography/Shutterstock

Incorporating seeds and grains into your homemade bread is an amazing way to add crunchy texture, a rustic look, and plenty of nutritional benefits too. It's a simple addition that can turn an everyday loaf into a hearty delight that's perfect for sandwiches, toasting, or dunking into a steaming bowl of soup. There are plenty of options to suit different tastes when it comes to adding seeds or grains to your bread. Try sunflower or pumpkin seeds for a mild, slightly earthy taste and pleasant crunch, oats for a chewy texture and wholesome feel, or chia or flax seeds for a boost of fiber and healthy fats. Adding sesame seeds can also give the bread a richer, nuttier taste.

The simplest way to add the seeds is to scatter them on top of the loaf before baking. You can also brush the loaf with an egg wash before doing this to help them stick and give the bread a lovely shiny finish. Or, if you'd prefer to have these nutritious little add-ins distributed throughout the whole loaf, just mix them in when combining the dry ingredients in the recipe.

Flavor It With Cheese And Chili

chili cheese bread
chili cheese bread - Angela Latimer/Mashed

A winning combination that adds heaps of savory flavor and a spicy kick to any loaf is cheese and chili. Incorporate these ingredients into your dough, and thank us later. The result is a mouth-watering loaf that's wonderful for snacking and dunking.

There are of course a huge variety of different cheeses to choose from, and many of them will work incredibly well in a range of bread recipes. Our favorite has to be a classic cheddar, paired with spicy peppers in our super simple jalapeño cheese bread. However, you could also opt for cheeses like mozzarella, which works wonderfully in pull-apart bread rolls with its amazing melty, gooey texture. Or, go with feta, which is perfect for adding to flatbreads and focaccias. When it comes to the peppers, you can absolutely tailor this to your spice preference. Serranos are great for adding a moderate level of heat, whilst poblanos will give a milder, sweeter taste to the bread.

To add cheese and chili to your bread, you'll first need to shred or crumble the cheese, depending on which variety you're using. Then, mix this, along with the sliced chilis, into the dry ingredient mixture, before adding the wet ingredients. This will ensure the cheese and chili gets evenly distributed throughout the loaf.

Add Garlic And Herbs

rosemary bread on wire rack
rosemary bread on wire rack - Monicaninker/Getty Images

Garlic and herbs — a duo we're used to combining in so many of our savory meals, from pastas, to soups and stews, and marinades for meat and fish. So, why not add them to bread? The aromatic goodness of garlic and fragrant flavors of herbs pair perfectly together, and can fit beautifully into a freshly baked, homemade bread.

For a classic Italian-inspired bread, try adding oregano and basil, fresh or dried. For the garlic element, you can either use garlic powder, which packs a concentrated punch, or fresh garlic that's been grated or finely chopped. Other herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage can also be fantastic additions.

Whether you're making smaller individual rolls or one large loaf, most recipes typically add the garlic and herbs in along with the other dry ingredients. However, if you want to create herby, garlicky swirls throughout a loaf, you can try mixing a garlic and herb butter and brushing this onto flattened dough before rolling it into a log. Then, to create a gorgeous look, split the log into two, and twist the pieces tougher before baking. You bread will be filled with delicious pockets of savory flavor throughout.

Incorporate Some Fruit

sliced pear bread on board
sliced pear bread on board - Catherine Brookes/Mashed

If you love bringing a little sweetness to your loaves, but still want to keep things light and healthy, fruit is the perfect addition. Whether they're fresh, dried, or canned, a whole host of fruits can work brilliantly incorporated into your bread dough. It naturally adds flavor, moisture, and nutrients.

There are so many amazing fruit bread recipes out there, but we'll give you a run down of some of our favorite ideas. First, you could opt for the classic addition of raisins and cranberries, which are super easy to toss into your dough mixture. Plus, they pair wonderfully with other sweet and spicy flavors like cinnamon, vanilla, and orange zest. Or, if you'd rather go for fresh fruit, try making a rustic pear bread, with chunks of juicy pear throughout, and whole slices adorning the top of the loaf. For a fun tropical twist, fresh pineapple bread is a great refreshing treat. Using canned crushed pineapple adds heaps of moisture and natural sweetness to create a wonderfully tender dessert loaf.

And the possibilities don't end there. Fruit is also a classic add-in for brioche, with its super light texture and sweet taste. Apricots, peaches, or cherries would all make amazing options. Or, if you're a fan of citrus flavor, orange zest can be incorporated into a range of breads, from classic rustic loaves to cinnamon rolls.

Incorporate Some Veggies

focaccia with artistic vegetable and herb design
focaccia with artistic vegetable and herb design - Anna_shepulova/Getty Images

If you prefer to stick to savory flavors when it comes to bread, we've got plenty more options for you. To make your loaf extra wholesome and nutritious, adding some colorful veggies is a great idea. One of the most popular types of bread for adding vegetable to is a fluffy focaccia. With its wide surface area, it's perfect for scattering an array of toppings onto before baking. Some great choices include sliced red onions, peppers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and mushrooms. You can get super creative here too, arranging the toppings into fun patterns and shapes.

Sundried tomatoes are another popular homemade bread add-in, with a rich, sweet-tart taste. Chopped small, they're super easy to mix into the dough, adding little bursts of delicious tangy flavor to every slice. They pair fantastically with cheeses like cheddar and mozzarella, and herbs like oregano and basil too.

You can even add root vegetables like carrots and parsnips to your homemade loaves. Just peel and grate the veggie, and toss them in as you're mixing up the dough. This will keep the bread super moist and tasty, while packing nutrients into the loaf too.

Mix In Some Cured Meats

bread with pepperoni
bread with pepperoni - AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock

Adding cured meats to your homemade bread is sure to bring plenty of delicious savory flavor, while giving it a hearty protein boost. Options like bacon, chorizo, or pepperoni will infuse your loaf with a smoky richness, that makes it wonderful to snack on as is, or equally as good used to make an extra-meaty sandwich. Pepperoni is of course a classic choice for loading onto a crispy pizza base, but it also works fantastically in more traditional loaves of bread. To create a swirl of pepperoni throughout the bread, you can roll the dough into a rectangle, arrange the pepperoni on top, and roll it up (just like a swiss roll!) before baking. Mozzarella cheese and Italian herbs also make great pairings for this meat.

Or, for a smoky chorizo bread, just dice the cooked sausage up into small pieces and toss it through the dry ingredients as you prep the dough. If you're a bacon lover, this is another popular add-in, often paired with cheddar cheese in rolls or pull-apart sharing loaves. Cured meats can be used to top a focaccia bread too. Try scattering serrano ham pieces on top of the bread, perhaps alongside some juicy fresh figs and slices of onion, before baking.

Add Chopped Nuts

sourdough loaf with chopped nuts
sourdough loaf with chopped nuts - 77 Studio/Shutterstock

Nuts are a popular addition in sweet loaves, like banana bread or pumpkin bread, but you can also use them to enhance a range of savory breads. They're great for adding a distinct, crunchy texture and rich flavor, that makes any loaf feel extra wholesome. Nuts are also a great source of fiber and healthy fats.

There are plenty of choices when it comes to adding nuts to your homemade bread. Some of the most popular add-ins are walnuts, pecans and almonds, which can be finely chopped and distributed throughout the dough, or scattered on top of the loaf before baking. Cashews, brazil nuts, and pine nuts would also work fantastically. A slice of a savory nut bread will pair well with foods like cheeses, charcuterie meats, and hearty soups and stews. Or, if you're whipping up a sweet loaf, like a babka with hazelnuts or a tender pistachio loaf, the nutty flavors can play well off classic ingredients like chocolate, dried fruit, or honey.

Throw In Some Olives

sliced olive bread
sliced olive bread - Ballycroy/Getty Images

To bring some Mediterranean flavor to your bread, trying adding some olives to your recipe. With their rich, tangy taste, olives can really transform the flavor profile of your bread, and make it feel that extra bit more sophisticated. You'll need to roughly chop up the olives before adding them into the mix. There are a few varieties to choose from, and you can absolutely go for your favorite type here. Kalamata olives area a great choice, with their eye-catching deep purple color and bold taste. Green olives have a slightly milder and sweeter taste, while black olives tend to be more rich and a little bitter. Whichever olives you go for (perhaps a combination of a few!), toss them in alongside the dry ingredients, mixing everything well before you add the wet ingredients and form the dough.

Olives pairs beautifully with other Mediterranean-inspired flavors, like sundried tomatoes, garlic or herbs. So, there's always the option to combine them with a medley of other ingredients in your loaf. Your freshly baked olive bread will make the perfect addition to a platter of delicious meats and cheeses, or simply enjoy a slice with a generous drizzle of olive oil.

Add Beer

sliced beer bread on wire rack
sliced beer bread on wire rack - Kate Shungu/Mashed

Beer is the secret ingredient that can elevate your bread in terms of flavor, texture, and ease of prep. You might never have thought to add alcohol to your bread recipe, but beer has all the characteristics required to produce an incredible homemade loaf. Many homemade bread recipes require the addition of yeast, organisms that ferment sugars into gases. The gases they create help to leaven the loaf, giving it volume and making it lovely and light. Yeast also adds a distinct flavor to bread, that can be described as nutty or cheesy.

So, where does beer come into this? Well beer does in fact contain yeast, so when we add this to our bread, we remove the need for using dry yeast, which can be trickier to work with. When using traditional yeast, the bread making process includes a proofing stage, where the dough must be left to rise before baking. But, with beer, we can skip this step, making the prep much quicker. You can make a simple beer bread with just four ingredients — self-rising flour, beer, sugar, and butter. Simply mix the flour, sugar, and beer into a dough, transfer to a greased loaf pan, and bake until golden. Then, the butter can be melted and poured all over the bread while it's still warm. Is your mouth watering yet?

Brush It With Herby Pesto

loaf of bread with pesto and herbs
loaf of bread with pesto and herbs - Lyutik_Ryutik/Shutterstock

An amazing way to load your bread with fresh, herbaceous flavor is by adding pesto to the dough. This simple addition can transform a basic loaf into a rich, savory, aromatic treat that's brilliant for serving alongside pasta dishes or soups. You can either grab a jar of store-bought pesto to save time, or mix up your own at home using a fresh basil. Pesto works great as a filling in pull-apart loaves. You can divide the dough into smaller rounds, flatten them, brush them with the pesto, then fold them over. Then line up the filled dough pieces in a greased loaf pan and bake. This will form one whole but easy to split loaf that's full of herby goodness.

To amp up the flavor and richness of the bread, you can even add more cheese and garlic. Whip up a garlic butter and brush this on top of the loaf when it's fresh out of the oven, or add a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Pesto is also great to add to individual rolls, flatbreads, focaccias, and pizzas.

Add Chocolate

chocolate babka bread
chocolate babka bread - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Chocolate is an essential ingredient in many cake, brownie, and cookie recipes. But, don't forget that it can be added to a range of delicious breads too! If you have a sweet tooth, this is the perfect ingredient for adding richness and indulgence to your loaf.

One of the most convenient ways to use chocolate in your bread baking is in handy chocolate chip form. These can be tossed into bananas breads, brioche loaves, or sweet buns to ensure that every bite has a burst of chocolatey goodness. Or, in breads that involve braiding or rolling up the dough, you can use melted chocolate. This can be spread onto the dough to create swirls throughout the bread. An incredible pairing for melted chocolate is chopped hazelnuts, which could be incorporated into a delicious babka.Finally, using cocoa powder can be another handy way to inject your bread with chocolate flavor. This can be added to banana breads, quick bread, or even sourdough loafs for extra color and richness.

Stuff It With Meat

German bierocks bread rolls
German bierocks bread rolls - Sophie Putka/Mashed

Another idea for taking your homemade loaf to the next level is filling it with meat, such as chicken, beef, or sausage. It's an amazing way to make your bread extra hearty and satisfying, pack it with savory flavor, and boost the protein content too. One of our favorite bread recipes featuring meat is for authentic German bierocks. These delicious rolls are made by filling circles of dough with a mixture of cooked ground beef, vegetables, and spices. The bierocks have a crusty outer layer, fluffy, chewy middle, and plenty of meaty filling, which makes them perfect for enjoying just as they are.

Other meats like chicken or sausage can also be incorporated into homemade breads. Just made sure to chop the meat up into small chunks or buy it in ground up form. Then, ensure you cook the meat thoroughly first, along with any other additions of choice such as vegetables, herbs, chilis, or garlic. You can then use this as a filling mixture in breads that require braiding or rolling up, to distribute the meat throughout the loaf.

Read the original article on Mashed.