Here’s what you need to get started: a long length of foil, big enough width-wise and lengthwise to completely encompass your items and still leave room for double crimps on each side and air space inside the packet. Also, a smaller piece of foil, a paper towel or napkin, and a couple tablespoons of water.
So simple. So quick. Such an easy way to heat any bread, rolls, pizza, or other pieces of doughy goodness and have them come out hot, steamy, and soft — like they’d just been freshly baked.
This is a method I came up with 20 years ago, while trying to copy the effect of this vintage bun warmer that my mom had and used while I was growing up. I, sadly, did not acquire this in any of her down-sizings. Sad me.
Place the paper towel or paper napkin — it should not be larger than your bread items — in the middle of the large sheet of foil. Wet it with enough water to saturate the center but leave the corners still dry for now. The moisture will spread out, obviously, but this is how I think of it. You’ll use a couple tablespoons, plus or minus, depending on how big a surface you need to cover.
But this foil method is almost better than having the actual bun warmer. There’s no storage of the lightweight but bulky item. The fit is always perfect for exactly how much or what shape of bready goodness you wish to reheat. And you don’t get dried out corners or soggy parts of bread.
Take the smaller piece of foil and fold it down so it is just slightly larger than the bread item. Place it on top of the wet paper towel. Set the bread on top.
There are only a couple of tricks, but they are tricks a first-grader could master. How much water to use, and sealing the foil packet steam-tight.
Bring the two short ends together over the top of the bread. Fold together in one-inch folds at least twice, but just keep going until the foil *almost* snugs up to the bread. Air space is essential, so leave some!
Tricky part: when you are ready to close up the sides of the packet, don’t press the top of the packet down to the work surface. Instead, bring the bottom edge *up to the top edge* and then double-crimp. Repeat on the other open side. This gives you a more steam-proof crimp with less foil. And yummier, softer, steamier bread.
As far as the actual heating, use whatever your oven is already set to, and whatever time that turns out warm steamy bread. For room temperature loaf-shaped bread, I find this to be 400F for 10-20 minutes. Adjust for thicker or thinner items, for colder items, or for lower oven temperatures.
There it is, my Bun Warmer Hack in excruciating detail, but the details make it work EVERY.TIME.
Happy Warm & Steamy Rolls on Your Thanksgiving Table — you’re welcome!