Thursday, August 23, 2012

Whey Bread

Now that you've made ricotta style cheese from scratch, you probably have a bowl full of drained whey just taking up space in your refrigerator. Well don't fret dear reader, I've got just the thing for you to do with it!

As much as I'd like to take the credit for this genius idea, I cannot. I asked my dear friend Google what to do with all this whey that drained from my cheese, as there certainly had to be something to do with it other than just dump it down the drain (I usually water my plants with "waste"water, but since this has vinegar in it I didn't want to chance it). Clever Google introduced me to Terri's Table, who uses her whey to make bread! You can find her recipe here. Why Terri, I do believe I will try to make bread with my whey!

What you'll need:
3 cups warm whey or water*
1 tablespoon yeast (1 packet)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
7(ish) cups all-purpose flour

*I had kept my whey in the frig until I could figure out what to do with it, then warmed it in the microwave in 30 second increments until reached ~110 degrees. I had two cups of whey, so I added 1 cup water at about the same temperature.

I've tried to make bread before, which you can read about here and here, and while the essential process of all bread recipes is the same and super simple, the technique is what takes time to master. I think the key to making good bread is getting to know the texture of the dough - when its too sticky, too dry or up to Baby Bear's standards (Just Right!). The most essential ingredient is time. The last batch of bread I made was dense and rock hard because I got so excited to bake it that I forgot to let it rise a second time before I stuffed it in the oven. It would have made a great crouton for a giant's salad.

Terri says to dump everything but the flour into your bowl until the yeast gets foamy, which I did in my KitchenAid stand mixer. I then dumped in about 3 cups of flour and mixed on low speed with the paddle attachment. When it got to about pancake-batter-consistency, I switched to the dough hook, and, again on slow speed, mixed in the rest of the flour 1/4 cup at a time. I caught myself just staring into the mixer at one point, simply fascinated with the way the dough pulsed and moved around in the bowl as the dough hook spun it around. It was like watching the blob, or some other wild living thing breathe. I know, its silly to relate bread dough to mid-century B-flick horror creatures, but, alas, this is the way my mind works.

After the dough thickened a bit, I turned the speed up to about a 2, which is still pretty low, and added flour a bit at a time until it all balled up around the dough hook and was pretty tacky. I pulled the dough out of the mixer and dumped it onto my floured marble kneading board. I kneaded it, adding sprinkles of flour each time it got a little tacky or stuck to the board, until my triceps started to hurt (which I will not admit was only about four minutes). I rolled it into a nice ball, and then transferred it to a large glass bowl lightly sprayed with oil (I used canola oil spray), covered with a dishtowel and let rise for a little longer than an hour.

After it had risen, I dumped it once again on the floured kneading board and repeated the kneading process, sprinkling a little more flour only when it stuck to the board, for another few minutes. I used a dough scraper to cut it in half (only because I just bought one and needed to find a reason to use it, but a large knife would be equally fine), and rolled each half into oblong rolls. I sprayed two glass loaf dishes and tucked each half of the dough into its own bed dish. I sprayed one side of parchment paper large enough to cover both dishes and covered those babies up.

An hour later, they were were ready for baking. (And I realized that there are a few things in this life that I am completely incapable of: drawing a straight line, rolling my R's and cutting things in equal halves.) The loaf on the right is quite a bit larger than the one on the left, although not completely noticeable in the above photo.

I used a trick I have read about in recipes for making French bread (even though I've never actually made French bread). I put one rack on the very bottom of the oven and placed a baking dish half-full (half-empty?) of water and placed the other rack in the center of the oven with the two bread pans. The idea is that the water will create steam as it heats and will help the bread get that wonderful brown, crispy crust that you find on artisan breads. 

What you get, or what I get anyway, is one loaf twice as tall as the other because, ya know, I apparently cannot cut things in half.

This is the lightest, fluffiest, softest bread I have ever eaten - let alone anything I have ever made myself! I was so excited that I immediately sent a photo via text message to my sister proclaiming how my bread would put Sarah Lee to shame... and then I realized I was rubbing salt in her recent gluten-free wound... D'oh! Memory is also not one of my strong points, I guess. But bread - now I can do bread!!

I see absolutely nothing wrong with the disproportionate amount of carbs on that plate. Nothing at all. 

Since this recipe made so much, I froze one loaf. It freezes perfectly and keeps well in the refrigerator, too.  In the future, I think I may either halve the recipe from the onset or cut the original recipe into thirds so that I end up with three smaller loaves. I am positive that I will be making ricotta much more often - just so that I can make this whey bread :)  Enjoy!

*Don't forget: you can reuse the parchment paper over and over until its ready for the recycle bin!

*I apologize for the off-color photos. Husband had camera #1 at sea, camera #2 is broken and I am left with my fancy 2 megapixel dumb-phone and (which is amazing for all of us uber disappointed Picnik fans).


Terri said...

Isn't this bread wonderful!!?? Thanks for the mention and attribution. I really appreciate it. Happy cooking!