What To Do with Leftover Whey: Make Rustic Italian Bread
The Easiest, Most Delicious Italian Bread Recipe
Have you ever wondered how Italian restaurants make their bread so fluffy and delicious? This is the recipe. Italian chefs (and mammas) make whey bread following the making of ricotta, using the leftover whey that drains off of the cheese.
Ricotta-style cheese is actually very easy to make, but that's a whole other lens (Google it, if you're curious.) In the absence of ricotta whey, you can use the liquid that collects on the top of your yogurt or sour cream. Drain it off the top into a separate container for several days in a row. Be sure to store it in the refrigerator until you collect enough whey for the recipe. If you have trouble collecting enough whey, you can always use a little bit less than the recipe requires; just accommodate by adding a little bit of extra water so that your total liquid, water plus whey, is 1 3/4 C.
Whey bread is extremely easy to make, as it only requires one rise! Deliciously simple!
Easy Cheesy! If you want to try your hand at making simple cheeses, here's a starter kit with easy instructions and supplies.
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. sugar (I prefer Zulka, or other natural sugar)
4 1/2 tsp. yeast (2 packets of Red Star Yeast)
3/4 whey leftover after the making of ricotta (or whey drained from yogurt or sour cream)
1 cup warm water
5 Tbs. butter
Cornmeal to prevent bread from sticking to the pan
Warm Up Wet Ingredients
Heat whey and water gently. Slice butter and stir into the warm liquid to melt.
Note: the liquids should just be warm enough to melt the butter. Do not simmer or boil the liquid ingredients. They should be warm to the touch, but not hot. Hot liquid will kill the yeast in the dry ingredients, and your bread won't rise.
Combining Dry Ingredients with Liquids
Combine dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt and yeast) in a large bowl and stir them together.
Create a "well" in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the warm liquid ingredients into the well. Stir well until combined.
Knead the Dough
Knead the dough for about five minutes, until the dough is smooth, elastic and warm.
I enjoy kneading dough and find it extremely relaxing. When kneading, use the heel of the hand to press the dough down into the bowl. Then fold the dough in half and turn it 1/4 turn. Press the dough down again, fold over and turn. Repeat this motion over and over again, until the dough is smooth.
If the dough is sticky, add flour, a sprinkle at a time, until it becomes smooth.
Never squeeze the dough between your fingers. Press it gently with the flat part of your palm.
Divide and Roll Out the Dough
Divide dough into two equal pieces for two large loaves. Or divide into three equal pieces for three moderate size loaves. Pat or roll the dough into a rectangle and then roll up into a cylinder. Pinch seams and edges and shape a bit more to create a uniform loaf.
Try to make the loaf uniform. If one end of the loaf is a little bit smaller than the other end, the size difference will be exaggerated when the loaf rises and it will become obviously uneven. The smaller end will cooker faster than the larger end, and may become hard and dry.
Let the Dough Rise
Sprinkle sheet pans with a thin layer of cornmeal. This will help to keep your loaves from sticking to the pans.
Transfer loaves to the pans and cover them loosely with non-stick foil or plastic wrap sprayed with non-stick spray (to keep wrap from sticking to the dough.) Place a damp dish towel over the bread. This helps to keep the dough from drying out.
Make sure your wrap is not too tight and the towel is not too heavy, or they may constrict the bread and prevent it from rising properly.
Let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour. If it is cool in your kitchen, warm your oven up to 180 degrees. Then turn the oven off, and place the dough into the warm oven to rise. Leave the oven door slightly open so that the dough does not begin to cook.
Once your bread has risen to roughly twice its original size, uncover the dough. If it has been rising in the oven, remove it from the oven before preheating the oven for baking.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Once the oven is preheated, place your loaves, uncovered, in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
The crust will become thick, brown and delicious, while the inside will be fluffy and moist. If the bread appears to be getting too brown during baking, cover it loosely with aluminum foil and finish baking.
Allow bread to cool before slicing. Enjoy!
This recipe easily doubles. Make 4 or size loaves at a time. Once the loaves are cool, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for later use.
Loaves can be brushed with egg whites and sprinkled with sesame seeds prior to cooking.
Slice finished loaves in half and spread with butter, crushed garlic and parsley flakes. Wrap in foil and reheat for 10 minutes to create a delicious garlic bread.
If a loaf dries out before you can eat all of it, whirl the dried bread in a food processor to create homemade bread crumbs. Store in a freezer bag or plastic jar in the freezer for later use.
More information about making homemade cheese and delicious bread!
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