Ciabatta with whey and a simple cheese

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 finished ciabatta: rough and ready to eat.
The finished ciabatta: rough and ready to eat.

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.

Milk plus lemon - an extremely simple fresh cheese
Milk plus lemon – an extremely simple fresh cheese

Paneer

  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice, strained
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  1. 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.)
  2. Reduce the temperature and stir in the lemon juice. Shake the pan gently to encourage large curds to form.
  3. 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.
  4. Leave for 3-4 hours or overnight. Remove from the cheesecloth.
  5. 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.
  6. Reserve the whey for use in bread making (or a hundred other uses that a quick internet search will give you).
Adding an acid to milk produces a very simple cheese.
Adding an acid to milk produces a very simple cheese.
The finished cheese - pressed into a tupperware and then stored in the fridge.
The finished cheese – pressed into a tupperware and then stored in the fridge.

Ciabatta with whey makes 2 large ciabatta

Poolish

  • 360g strong white flour
  • 360g water
  • 1g yeast

Dough

  • 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
  1. The night before baking, mix the poolish and allow to ferment at room temperature for 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight.
  2. Remove the poolish from the fridge an hour before mixing. Warm the whey.
  3. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Stretch/fold knead for 5 minutes in the bowl.
  4. 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”).
  5. Rest the dough for 30 minutes, then repeat the letter fold. Bulk ferment for 2 hours.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Bake at 230˚C for 20 minutes, rotating half way through if necessary.
  9. Cool on a wire rack before serving.
The "letter fold" stretch and fold technique adds structure to the loaf and also makes the traditional "slipper" shape for the ciabatta
The “letter fold” stretch and fold technique adds structure to the loaf and also makes the traditional “slipper” shape for the ciabatta
The towel is rucked up in the middle and at the edges to support the slack dough.
The towel is rucked up in the middle and at the edges to support the slack dough.
The dough is given one final shape - being careful not to knock the air out - before baking on a sheet dusted with semolina.
The dough is given one final shape – being careful not to knock the air out – before baking on a sheet dusted with semolina.
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10 thoughts on “Ciabatta with whey and a simple cheese

  1. Victoria

    Looks good, but it’s like pancake batter…. No way to ‘fold’ it without adding much additional flour- so far close to 200 g, and still too wet to put on a board….

    1. The absorbency of flours might vary slightly from brand to brand, but that seems like it’s far too wet. Did you give it a long rest/autolyse? It will gradually thicken by itself, and the first few stretch/folds are generally more like scooping and dropping… It certainly stays very wet throughout and is almost impossible to “shape”

    2. I just checked the recipe again and the hydration is about 76%- high, but not high enough for the batter consistency you mentioned- what flour are you using?

      1. Victoria

        King Aurthur bread flour -in the US. Not sure where you hail from. Into the the 1st hour of bulk ferment, and not sure if I will be able to get the traditional shape…. Either way, I will bake it- smells lovely just sitting on the board. I will experiment with this again, because I do make farmers cheese/paneer and always have whey.
        My original goal when I started making bread in January, was to see if I could replicate an italian bread I grew up on… But I have been having too much fun trying different recipes and gaining technique.

      2. I’m in Australia using Lauke strong flour, but I have no idea what your KA flour is like! Not much help there.

        The only thing I can suggest is that wetter is better as far as the dough is concerned- Italian breads go up near 100% hydration and the baker literally scoops the dough out of a bucket of water and throws it into the wood oven!

  2. Victoria

    KA is a strong flour and has been around a long time. I’ll try again next weekend, and let you know the out come.

  3. Pingback: Pugilese – a ciabatta style bread with a sourdough starter | Bread Bar None

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