This recipe is a great way of using up the whey produced as a byproduct of making cheese or yoghurt. They whey adds extra protein to the bread and a rich, creamy colour. It also makes the dough chewier, but this is offset by the inclusion of fat in the form of extra virgin olive oil.
As mentioned in a previous post, ‘ciabatta’ refers to the “slipper” shape of the bread, but this dough can be used to make an outstanding loaf in any shape you choose, including in a loaf tin. The hydration is “high” at 75%, but, for a ciabatta relatively low. It can easily be increased by adding more water (or whey) into the final mix. The higher the hydration, the bigger the holes in the loaf and the more irregular the crumb. I baked this loaf to slice and use as burger buns, so the ‘lower’ 75% hydration provides a perfect texture.
The ciabatta uses a “poolish“, which is a pre-ferment using a large quantity of the water and flour from the dough mixed with a small amount of yeast. This is allowed to bubble up and the refrigerated overnight, and gives a more complex flavour to the final loaf.
The cheese recipe following is a very simple method of making an Indian “paneer”. It does not require any fancy equipment or any special ingredients: just milk and acid. The lemon juice in the recipe can be replaced with an equal amount of white vinegar if desired.
- 6 cups whole milk
- 3 tbsp lemon juice, strained
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Heat the milk in a large pan until boiling (be careful – it will easily froth over the pan and burn to both the bottom of the pan and the top of the oven.)
- Reduce the temperature and stir in the lemon juice. Shake the pan gently to encourage large curds to form.
- Place a colander over a pan to catch the whey. Line the colander with cheesecloth or muslin (a tea towel or even a double layer of kitchen paper will work). Drain the separated milk into the cheesecloth. Tie the cheesecloth into a bag and place a plate with something heavy on top.
- Leave for 3-4 hours or overnight. Remove from the cheesecloth.
- Refrigerate immediately, or knead 1/4 tsp salt into the cheese and then refrigerate. I press the cheese into a small rectangular tupperware and then turn out onto cling film.
- Reserve the whey for use in bread making (or a hundred other uses that a quick internet search will give you).
Ciabatta with whey makes 2 large ciabatta
- 360g strong white flour
- 360g water
- 1g yeast
- All of the poolish
- 215g whey, warmed (in the microwave or a pan) to about 35˚C
- 400g strong white flour
- 13g salt
- 5g yeast
- 40g extra virgin olive oil
- The night before baking, mix the poolish and allow to ferment at room temperature for 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight.
- Remove the poolish from the fridge an hour before mixing. Warm the whey.
- Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Stretch/fold knead for 5 minutes in the bowl.
- Turn the dough out onto a very well floured surface and shape into a rough rectangle. Allow the dough to rest for a couple of minutes. Pull the right hand side of the dough out and fold it back on itself, then repeat with the left (a “letter fold”).
- Rest the dough for 30 minutes, then repeat the letter fold. Bulk ferment for 2 hours.
- Divide the dough. Flour a piece of linen (or a tea towel) well with white flour or rice flour. Fold the towel so that it is raised in the middle (see photos) and place half of the dough on each side of the towel. Letter fold the dough again. Proof for 45 min – 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 230˚C. Flour a baking tray and flour your hands thoroughly. Gently lift the dough onto baking tray one loaf at a time. If you have a large baking tray, place both onto the tray with a gap of a couple of inches between.
- Bake at 230˚C for 20 minutes, rotating half way through if necessary.
- Cool on a wire rack before serving.