Homemade stuffings challenge the cook at Thanksgiving, typically demanding time both on the stovetop and in the oven, then—for all that labor—delivering lackluster results.

Making a better stuffing meant using better bread (no bagged cubes, thanks so much). But that bread needs flavor, and we wanted a lot of it, preferably from copious amounts of fresh herbs.

Getting those herbs to adhere to and season the bread was a challange. After a few misfires, we settled on using the food processor to create a deeply aromatic paste of shallots, sage and thyme.

Blended with soy sauce (for a salty-savory punch) and melted butter, the sauce easily coated and penetrated the bread cubes (any sturdy white sandwich bread worked).

Toasting the coated bread was easier and more practical than worrying about finding stale bread. Importantly, this also saved us any stovetop time. As the bread toasted, any rawness from the shallots baked off.

To hit additional familiar flavor notes, we added chopped celery and poultry seasoning to the cubes just before toasting. And the added moisture from the paste helped create the balance of tender-crunchy we like in stuffing.

We knew we wanted our stuffing to include roasted mushrooms—shiitake and portobello—for their meaty, but not overwhelming flavor. And we found that adding some to our paste gave us another, deeper flavor layer.

As a bonus, the seasoned and toasted bread cubes can be done in advance, giving us the do-ahead convenience of the purchased stuff.

When we were ready for our stuffing, we combined our cubes with more roasted mushrooms, chicken broth, fresh parsley and an extra drizzle of melted butter, then baked until crispy.