Don’t Waste That: Whey (French Bread)

Remember when we made yogurt and after draining the yogurt we ended up with about a pint of whey.  I told you to save it and you’ll be glad that you did.  We are going to use the whey to make french bread.  You can substitute whey for water in any bread recipe.  Whey adds a wonderful understated, deeper flavor to bread.  Once you make bread with whey you will never go back to making bread with just water again.  French bread is the most simple yeast breads to make – it’s just flour, salt, water (in this case whey), and yeast – and it’s a great bread to teach yourself how to bake.  It’s not too terribly finicky and it doesn’t take a lot of time nor a lot of ingredients so if it doesn’t turn out, then you can’t really be disappointed.

If you have never made bread before I suggest you start by using All Purpose flour.  All Purpose Flour is so forgiving.  I have made french bread with whole wheat and a blend of whole wheat and all purpose flour, but you need an extra ingredient called Vital Wheat Gluten.  Wheat flour does not have the same amount of gluten as white flour so if you are not skilled, the bread will not rise.

Start with All Purpose Flour to get your confidence up and once you can churn out consistent french bread loaves, you can start playing around with the wheat flour ratio!
Once you start making your own bread, you will never go back to pre-packaged bread again…unless you really have to.

In a 2 cup measuring cup, measure out 1 1/2 cups of whey and microwave for 1 minute so that it’s luke warm add a pinch of sugar, and then sprinkle in the yeast.  You want this to sit for about 5 minutes to give the yeast time to activate.  You know the yeast is activating when it starts to bubble up.

In a separate bowl, add 1 cup of flour and salt (I prefer sea salt) and mix.  Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add the whey/yeast mixture.  Using a wooden spoon, mix well until it is smooth.  Add 2 to 3 cups more flour.  You want the flour to be stiff and not wet.  Once the flour is stiff, flour your counter, and dump the mixture out on your counter.  Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, throwing the dough down on the counter every so often.  The action of kneading and throwing the dough will activate the gluten.  Form your dough into a ball.

Lightly oil a bowl (I prefer olive oil), and place your ball of dough in the bowl.  Cover with a towel and let the dough rise for a minimum of 40 minutes; you want the dough to double in size.

When the dough has doubled in size, dump it out on your well floured counter, punch it down and let the dough rest for 5 minutes.  Once it’s rested, start kneading.  Knead for 10 minutes, cut the dough in half and form into logs. Cover with a towel and let rise again for a minimum of 40 minutes, again waiting for the dough to double in size.
I have a french bread pan but you don’t need a french bread pan to bake french bread!
Preheat your oven to 400F.  Using a sharp, serrated knife, make three quick slices into the dough. Brush with olive oil (or use your misto, like me!).  Throw some ice cubes into the bottom of your oven and bake the bread for 20-30 minutes until the bread is golden brown.  If you tap on the bottom of the bread, it will sound hollow.  Let the bread cool for at least 20 minutes…but I can never wait that long.  I have to cut into the loaf while the bread is still steaming hot!
French Bread
Yield:  2 loaves
1.5 cups whey
1 scant tablespoon yeast
pinch sugar
3 to 4 cups of all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of salt (I prefer sea)
  1. Warm up whey until it is luke warm, add a pinch of salt, then sprinkle in the yeast.
  2. While your waiting for the yeast to activate, add 1 cup of flour and the salt into a large bowl, mix it well with a wood spoon and create a well in the middle.
  3. Once the yeast is bubbly, pour it into the well and start mixing with a wood spoon until the dough is very smooth.  Add 2 – 3 more cups of flour until the dough is stiff.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and start kneading.  Knead for about 10 minutes, slamming the dough down onto the counter as you knead.  Form the dough into a bowl.
  5. Oil a bowl and add the dough to the bowl.  Cover with a towel and let rise for at least 45 minutes.  You want the dough to double in size.
  6. Once the dough doubles in size, turn it out onto a floured surface, punch the dough down, and let it rest for 5 minutes.  After the 5 minutes, start kneading the dough, about 5 minutes.  Cut the dough in half and form two logs. 
  7. Place the logs on a baking sheet and cover with a towel.  Let rise for a minimum of 40 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size. 
  8. Preheat your oven to 400 and throw some ice cubes in the bottom of your oven.  Using a sharp, serrated knife, quickly make three slashes into the tops of the bread, brush (or spray) with olive oil, and bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.
  9. Let cool for 20 minutes before you slice and devour!

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