no knead bread liquid substitutes

so i've been experimenting quite a bit with jim lahey's very forgiving no knead bread recipe, trying out different flours, spices, nuts, seeds, fruits, etc. it just occurred to me that I might try swapping out the water for other liquids. has anyone tried this in the past, and if so what would you recommend? presumably I should avoid anything that will kill the yeast...



jakestavis February 26, 2016
so i made one loaf with half strained tomato juice and half water (and added some bloody mary spices), and in terms of crust/crumb it came out great! the tomato flavor was more muted than I was expecting so I'd be curious to see how a less diluted juice would work.

in fact while it was in the oven I came across this recipe from lahey himself that substitutes carrot juice for water without diulting at all, so I think it's def worth a shot.
AntoniaJames February 26, 2016
Carrot juice! Interesting. I have some knock-your-socks-off delicious cooking water leftover from Anson Mills's Carolina Gold Rice, which I'm putting into a light artisanal bread this afternoon (Tartine Bread starter, bread flour and wheat germ). The experiments continue.

Thanks for reporting back. I find it interesting that the acid in the tomato juice did not wreak havoc with the yeast. I'd add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, were I to go down the route of using undiluted juice. I always do that in my buttermilk sandwich loaves, for the same reason. ;o)
jakestavis February 23, 2016
thanks to all! i've done whey before and had some good success, but am curious about the more flavor forward options (though that ricotta whey and potatoes trick sounds pretty hard to pass up). i think I will try diluting some juices and will let you know how it goes!
AntoniaJames February 24, 2016
To boost flavor, consider finely chopping rosemary with the salt that you'll add to the bread + a handful of coarsely chopped rosemary leaves. You could also - either with the rosemary, or in another loaf - toast and then coarsely chop walnuts and add them.

A toasted nut oil such as pistachio, hazelnut, walnut oil also gives artisanal breads more flavor. I use about 36 grams (a couple of good glugs) per 375 - 400 grams of flour in my artisanal breads. Let the dough rest for 10 - 20 minutes, and then work it in. This gives the gluten a head start as the oil interferes with the flour + water magic that = gluten.

And you could also substitute more flavorful flours. Rye comes to mind, especially for a long-ferment dough like this. I'd substitute 36 grams of rye flour and 14 grams of toasted wheat germ for 50 grams of flour, and would only use bread flour for the rest, not all-purpose.

Hope this helps. ;o)
AntoniaJames February 23, 2016
Water in which potatoes (especially cut ones) have been cooked, including all of the starch that has settled to the bottom. It makes the crumb chewy and perfectly moist, while improving the flavor of the bread.

I've been doing that for years with breads of all kinds - artisanal (sourdough and those using commercial yeast) as well as virtually all of the sandwich loaf recipes I've posted here, other than the milk and honey loaf, which depends on milk for its character.

I second the ricotta whey idea, too. Best of all: Boil cut up potatoes in ricotta whey (oh, that special dairy sweetness is almost magical) and then use the ricotta whey - potato cooking water for bread. ;o)
cookbookchick February 24, 2016
Oh, yes, AJ, thanks for the reminder -- I also use potato water in bread dough when I have it. But boiling them in ricotta whey? Can't wait to try that! On a related note, I was out of milk this morning to make a Dutch Baby pancake with sautéed apples, so I used my ricotta whey topped off with a little half and half to make the required volume. The pancake came out even more tender than the all-milk version. Really delicious!
cookbookchick February 23, 2016
I use the whey from making yogurt or ricotta. I made Lahey's olive bread a couple of days ago with chilled whey if saved in the fridge. The bread is delicious!
Jimmy H. February 23, 2016
Any flavorful liquid will work, you do want to avoid anything overly acidic. Acids will break down the gluten and you will have a flabby loaf. A roasted beet or carrot pureed with a bit of white wine or beer makes a moist richly flavored and colorful alternative to the humdrum. Watch fruit juices, they can be pretty acidic and have a high sugar content. They will darken the bread before the interior is done, you may want to lower the bake temp.
Smaug February 23, 2016
I sometimes use wine in bread recipes, but usually as a small part of the liquid, don't know how far you can go with that. Alcohol is produced by yeast, so presumably there is some tolerance. Milk is obvious- most dinner rolls I've made use it, and it's essential in English muffins (makes them toast better). Never tried any sort of fruit juice, but I don't see much reason not to other than flavor. Anything will affect the way yeast behave to some extent, but I can't see any of these having a profound effect; yeast never acts exactly the same twice anyway in a home kitchen.
Regine February 23, 2016
Your best bet is to use milk instead of water. I have done this on several bread recipes with great result.
Sarah E. February 23, 2016
That is a cool thought! I've never tried it myself, but be sure to keep in mind the ingredients of whatever you're adding will affect the way yeast responds in the bread (beyond flat out killing it). Yeast feeds on sugar, causing it to act more rapidly and altering your rise times. Or, too much sugar could make the yeast overreact and your bread won't rise at all. Adding something like apple juice, a liquid high in sugar, is going to seriously effect the outcome of your loaf. Conversely, yeast is retarded by salt. So watch the sodium levels of your new liquids as well—things like instant coffee, store-bought lemonade, and swiss miss have higher sodium levels. Salt and sugar also effect the coloration of your crust, so that's a thing to consider as well. Oh and fats! Fats (from milk or oil or something) will also change your gluten development.
I'm intrigued by your results if you do try it!
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