Nigella Lawson's Secret Bread Ingredient May Surprise You

Everyone knows Nigella Lawson is a goddess in the kitchen. Whether she whips up a tiramisu with a twist, shares surprising ingredients to add to our brownies, or recommends ways to use up stale bread, the "Nigella Bites" host always provides clever cooking innovations. Even when fans were a little iffy on her ruby red noodles, no one could deny they were a brilliant way to use beets (via Hello!). Perhaps one of Lawson's most interesting suggestions is for bread bakers. 

In a tweet, last year, Lawson encouraged her followers to save the water they used for boiling their pasta or potatoes and use it in their favorite bread recipe. The cookbook author tweeted, "Quick message to all those making bread at the moment. Keep the water you cooked potatoes or pasta in. It will help the bread's texture and rise." The tweet received almost 50,000 likes and 7,000 retweets, and while many know that starchy pasta water is great to add to sauces, few suspected this addition could improve a bread recipe.

A starchy secret ingredient

Using this secret starchy water in bread dough requires a bit of care. "Taste it before adding though," Lawson said in a tweet. "If very salty, dilute it with fresh water and, obviously, leave any salt in [the] recipe out." Lawson is definitely a believer in this method of making bread and even included it in her newest cookbook, "Cook, Eat, Repeat" (via Food52). "I had experimented in a much earlier book (my second, 'How to Be a Domestic Goddess,' published a couple of decades ago) with using potato-cooking water (which led me to try using pasta-cooking water, which also works well)," Lawson said in an email. "But until I started using Jim Lahey's no-knead method, I had largely forgotten about it. But I tried it again and was bowled away about the springiness it gave to the loaf and how much longer it kept it fresh." 

Lawson noted that starchy water stored in the fridge has a shelf life of about five days. If you don't have plans to cook pasta or potatoes leading up to a bread-making session, lemon juice can also help with the rise. Alternatively, you can use some instant potato powder. Simply add two tablespoons of this powder to your flour to create your best, springiest loaf of bread ever. With kitchen tips like this, expect to bake some loaves that can easily compete with anything Lawson serves up.