I spend a small fortune on cheese. Especially soft cheeses, like goat cheese and sumptuous, creamy, expensive real, imported cheeses that pair perfectly with Pinot Noir and peppery water table crackers or smeared across a piece of thinly sliced toasted rye. Yep. This is my vice. Good cheese. Hard, soft, crumbly, whatever, I love it. And if I’m wrong for loving good cheese and crispy, crunchy crackers or bread, then by golly I don’t wanna be right in this life.
GUILTY. AS. CHARGED.
I’ve had some really successful cheese making sessions lately. The kind where the mozzarella actually stretches and with each pull, I simultaneously feel a tear being tugged from my eye as I secretly celebrate my cheese making success while beaming with pride. Like, how boring is my life that my mozzarella making accomplishments leave me verklempt? Let me answer that question for you…
Not boring at all.
Why? Because making your own food from scratch is like parenting. It’s sort of like one big experiment. We invest the heart and soul and mind into the process, a pinch of this, a dash of that and we pray it’s a recipe for success. It sometimes looks good along the way, but we never really know for sure if it’s actually culminating the way we hope it will until we get that first, wonderful taste of satisfaction. Like the time one of my daughter’s came home from a day at kindergarten and said there was a little boy being bullied because the other kids said he smelled bad, so she took it upon herself to make a blanket announcement that “Oops! I farted and it’s stinking up the place!” Yes. Those are the feel-good moments my friends. The moments when we realize we must be doing something right. Mozzarella stretching and fictitious farts. This is the stuff dreams are made of. Parenting from scratch, cooking from scratch. Is there really anything more rewarding in life?
Anyway, after my first cheese making session, I realized that I had all of this wonderful, rich whey leftover from the process. I couldn’t simply throw it all out or feed it to the flock like I do the rest of my scraps. Well, I suppose I could. And I do love to feed my chickens and turkeys lavish and peculiar snacks every now and again, but after doing a little research I realized there are countless recipes circulating out there in the big wide world on “wheys to use your whey”. Pun intended. I mean there are entire books written on the topic. People actually dedicate their research, time, intelligence and writing abilities to the intentional usage and nutritional benefits of whey. I’m here to tell you, these are my people. I want to be friends with people who intentionally use every last bit of everything to the fullest, for health and for waste reduction and… Just because it feels good.
One such “whey to use whey” (okay, I promise I’m done with the pun thing now) is to incorporate it into your bread-making process. I’m a big fan of the comfort foods. Can you tell? Little did I know that this whey, yeast, flour combination was sent straight from the heavens above.
Wow. Wow. Wow.
Take it from me, the most scrumptious, velvety, delectable bread is officially made by using whey. I am hooked. And if I don’t slow down on the bread baking and cheese making pretty soon, I’ll be sporting the extra padding on the haunches to prove just how hooked I really am.
Bread is a staple in our house. The kids often eat sandwiches for lunch, toast for breakfast and occasionally we make homemade croutons for our salads with dinner. So last fall, I decided I would start baking homemade bread every Monday morning. I collected all sorts of recipes. Wheat, country white, French, sourdough, rye, multigrain, the list goes on and on. I figured two loaves per week would suffice. I couldn’t wait to get started on this new endeavor.
Then it never happened. Zero warm, puffy blobs of dough were punched down in my favorite bread bowl, zero smushy wads of dough were kneaded on my countertop and zero loaves of bread were baked in my oven last year. Zilch.
But let me tell ya, since the whey discovery I’m seriously making up for lost time. I’ve been on a bread baking frenzy around here for days. Some might even say I’m borderline obsessive carbpulsive (make that, compulsive) with this newfound hobby of mine. Hey, I don’t mind being known as the Queen of Carbs. After all, I’m basically the Farm Fresh Veggie Fairy during the summer months, so what of it? I’m all about the balance y’all.
Yeah, so I’ve had some interesting cheese and bread failures lately too. But I won’t expand on those. Suffice to say, sometimes I suck at cheese making. Sometimes I suck at bread baking. And sometimes I suck at child rearing. But if you have ever tried any of those undertakings, then you are well aware of the fact that they all require practice and patience. We all have to start somewhere. Lucky for you, I have the perfect recipes for your very first attempt at cheese making and bread baking. Parenting? Well, let’s just say I’m yet to find the perfect recipe for that undertaking. You’ll just have to keep right on feeling your way around in the dark like the rest of us.
But for now, find comfort in these delicious recipes below and as always, thanks for reading!
NOTHING FANCY FARMER’S CHEESE
1 large piece of cheese cloth
1 quart whole milk or raw milk if you have access.
1 lemon, juiced (possibly 2 lemons)
1 teaspoon salt
Ground pepper, garlic, fresh herbs or spices
1) In large saucepan bring milk and salt to a slow boil while stirring milk consistently to keep from scorching.
2) Once boil begins to roll, remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Let sit until curds begin to form, about 6-8 minutes. If curdling does not occur, add more lemon juice.
3) Place sieve or strainer over a large bowl. Line sieve or strainer with cheese cloth. Pour curds into cheesecloth and let whey drain through cloth and strainer, into bowl below.
4) Gather edges of cheesecloth and squeeze out as much liquid as possible from curds. Hang the cheesecloth and curds over bowl to drip for a couple of hours. Getting as much of the liquid out of the cheese as possible will allow the cheese to last longer in the refrigerator.
5) Once cheese is firm, place into bowl and add garlic, fresh herbs, s&p or whatever spices you prefer. Or simply eat it plain.
6) Bake bread (see recipe below) with leftover whey or store in your freezer for up to 3 months.
WHEY WHEAT BREAD BATCH
2 cups whey
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature (I use unsalted)
3-4 tablespoons raw sugar
5 cups whole wheat flour (possibly 6+ cups total)
1) Combine whey, yeast and 4 CUPS of the flour in large bowl. Mix well, cover with plastic wrap and allow to bubble. (Although it’s not necessary, I sometimes allow my starter to ferment for a day before making my bread. However, it’s also fine to simply let it sit for an hour or so.)
2) NOTE: Stand-up mixers are magical. This is where my hand-me-down counter top Kitchen Aid mixer makes me feel uber posh and filled with gratitude. However, if you do not own one of these gems, then good old fashioned elbow grease will get the job done and give you a good workout in the process.
Add sugar, butter, 1 cup of flour and salt to your bubbly yeast mixture. Mix for about 10 minutes with paddle attachment on medium until mixture looks smooth. If you do not have a stand up mixer, time to work on getting those highly sought-after ripped forceps and triceps.
3) If you are using the upright mixer, switch to dough hook attachment. Turn on medium speed and add more flour in quarter cup increments. This is not an exact science. You may need to use more or less flour for your concoction, but keep adding flour until dough is elastic and smooth, without being too sticky. If you are doing your work by hand, time to begin kneading inside the bowl. Be sure to flour your hands well. Begin working flour into dough with hands until stretchy and smooth.
4) Once dough is smooth, form into a ball, place in large bowl and cover with a clean towel. Leave to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size. After the dough is done rising, punch it down, push out any excess air bubbles you feel. Let it rest and rise again for a bit. Preheat oven to 375.
5) After second rise, I placed dough into greased, standard sized loaf pan and baked for 35-40 minutes or until loaf is nice and golden brown on top. Glass pans are fab, because you can see if the bottom is a nice golden color as well.
Bread baking can be tricky sometimes. It takes practice. Don’t get discouraged if this first attempt didn’t go well for you. Press on, try again.
Assuming all went well with this first attempt, now is the time to celebrate the deliciousness with a warm slice, a pat of butter and a nice up of joe.