Discover the delightful taste of homemade bread kvass – a traditional Russian drink that balances honey-like sweetness with a punch of acidity. This naturally fermented drink boasts a toasty flavor from the bread and is packed with nutrients, making it a functional food you can enjoy with practically no effort.
Using only a few scraps of old bread, you can make a bubbly probiotic beverage that's incredibly satisfying and just a tad alcoholic. Unlike the French, who turn stale bread into French toast, the Russians take a different approach, creating bread kvass from their leftover dark and heavy rye bread.
This easy-to-make beverage requires no special equipment or ingredients and can be customized with different flavors. If you're looking for a gluten-free option, try using puffed cereal.
Let's dive into the world of bread kvass and enjoy this refreshing and flavorful drink.
What is kvass?
Kvass is a traditional Eastern European drink made with stale, toasted sourdough rye bread. Other versions exist, including those made with beets and fruit.
It's a probiotic drink with a honey and malt taste, containing 0.3-1.5% alcohol. Kvass was a solution to pre-industrial problems of lack of clean water and minimizing food waste.
It continues to be popular in Eastern Europe and rising in the US, although many modernized versions have skipped the rye bread altogether.
How to make kvass
To make kvass, toast stale bread, soak it in water for up to 3 days, strain the liquid, and add seasonings and wild yeast for initial fermentation.
After 1-2 days, strain the kvass into bottles for secondary fermentation, adding sugar for more bubbles.
The bacteria and wild yeast do most of the work, so only a few minutes of active time is required for this multi-day process.
How to make kvass without yeast
The nutritional benefits of kvass are derived from a slow, gradual fermentation process that breaks down the nutrients in stale bread. However, adding a large amount of modern commercial yeast overwhelms the natural cultures, resulting in a fizzy beverage that lacks elegance.
The best way to start making kvass is by using a spoonful of sourdough starter. Although a white flour starter works well, a rye sourdough starter is more traditional.
If you don't have a sourdough starter, you can use a small amount of commercial yeast along with a few spoonfuls of yogurt whey that has active cultures to achieve a similar result.
When is kvass ready?
Homemade kvass is a traditional Eastern European probiotic drink made from stale bread, usually rye, and flavored with fruit, honey, or herbs. It's a balance between fermenting enough for flavor and fizz but not too much to make it overly sour.
Traditional kvass was lightly carbonated, unlike modern sodas. As a result, kvass was a safe alternative to water in unsanitary conditions and is mildly alcoholic.
Using sourdough starter is preferable to commercial yeast for a slow and natural fermentation process. In addition, sweeteners like birch sap, honey, or sugar can be added for a bit of residual sweetness.
While rye bread is traditional, any type of bread can be used for making kvass. A darker loaf of bread like dark rye can add a caramelly flavor to the beverage.
On the other hand, a white bread loaf can result in a lighter and refreshing beverage.
For instant yeast, the recipe suggests sticking to it, but if you prefer fresh yeast, use the same amount. While bread yeast can produce up to 8% ABV, it may compromise the flavor.
If you opt for sourdough starter instead of yeast, add 1 Tbsp of active starter, resulting in a beverage with 0.5%-2% ABV. Due to the bacterial strains in the starter, the kvass may have an unpleasant odor initially, but the flavor will improve after bottling.
For best results, let it sit in the fridge for a week. The bacteria in sourdough starter gives the kvass a unique taste, much like sour beer. For brewers yeast, use only 1/4 tsp because it is highly active.
- For a traditional flavor, add a few sprigs of mint per batch.
- Create a fruity flavor by adding a handful of raisins, berries, or a few slices of apples.
- Add some zesty flavor with lemon peel.
- If you prefer a beer-like flavor, use hops. Hops also act as a preservative, prolonging the shelf life of the kvass. Use 1 Tbsp of hops per batch.