It’s another bread-making day today. Why? Because I wanted to try a new lasagna recipe.
Train of thought yesterday evening: Oh, I will need ricotta for lasagna. I guess. It was the main reason I didn’t like lasagna as a child, the texture grossed me out, but… yeah, I’ve made my peace with ricotta now after having it on fresh bread and toast so often. OK, ricotta it is.
That means I will have the perfect amount of warm whey for some bread or bagels! But I REALLY don’t have time to make bagels tomorrow. Ooh, good thing I finished up the bread for breakfast this morning then! I’ll make some fresh bread.
So, this morning I made ricotta & let it drain, then made bread dough with the whey and set it under the radiator to rise, then used half of the ricotta for a half-recipe of zucchini lasagna (I’m not fully convinced I’ll like it better there than spread on the bread, so I couldn’t bear to use it all in one go). The lasagna is now covered with foil and waiting till 5-ish to go in the oven, the dough is still rising, and I’m taking a break!
A break means time to type up recipes! The bread didn’t rise enough the first time I made it (just one loaf’s worth thankfully). I think the problem was that it called for room-temp water and my kitchen is way too cold. Since that first loaf I’ve wised up and used warm liquid like I do any other time I make bread, specifically the whey from ricotta, topped off with a little water if needed. It got rave reviews when I made it last weekend, and I’m going to be sharing some of today’s batch as well – the whole reason bread recipes make 2 loaves is because you eat 1 loaf the first day when it’s still warm/fresh and then eat the other loaf slowly over the next week, isn’t it?
from Smitten Kitchen, though I looked at the below book this time too because I ran out of lemon juice last time I made this and haven’t been able to find a bottle since then
Pour a 1 liter box of milk into a heavy saucepan. Sprinkle in about 1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt (or table salt?) Glop in somewhere between 1/2 and 1 cup of heavy cream (if you have it. If not, it’s OK.)
Heat the milk, stirring constantly (or at least almost constantly) until it’s almost boiling. This time I was looking really closely during short stirring breaks to try and get it just right, and I noticed the surface moving a bit though bubbles weren’t breaking the surface, so I figured that was a good place to stop.
Take the pot off the heat and pour in ONE of these acids:
6 Tablespoons white vinegar OR 3 Tablespoons lemon juice.
Give it a couple gentle stirs, and leave it to sit for 5 minutes.
Line a colander with some cheesecloth (I use a triple-layered cheesecloth, ie a longer piece that I fold twice) and put it in a bowl to catch the whey. Check that the milk mixture looks curdled, and pour it into the cheesecloth-colander-bowl stack to drain. (If it isn’t curdled, as happened to me once, I’m not sure what to do – maybe add more acid and see if it helps, or maybe shrug, pour it in anyway, and use what manages not to flow through as sour cream or something.)
After a short time you can pour out the whey to use for bread – by the time it’s cool enough not to kill the yeast, it will be almost finished draining. Leave the ricotta longer to drain more if you like it really thick, but you can go ahead and use the bulk of the whey while it sits.
adapted from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter
In a large bowl, sprinkle 1 Tablespoon yeast over 3 1/2 cups warm whey or warm water. Let sit for 5 min or so. While it sits, grease 2 loaf pans.
Add the dry ingredients:
1/4 cup ground flaxseed (optional, but why wouldn’t you use it?)
7 1/4 cups of flours*
4 teaspoons kosher salt (or about 2 tsp table salt)
(* My flour mix is different each time; this time it was: 1/2 cup wheat germ, 1 cup graham (whole wheat) flour, 1 3/4 cups bread flour, 4 cups all-purpose flour.)
Mix well. That’s right, mix, but no kneading needed! Of course, you can knead it if you want to. I tend to stir it for an extra 60 seconds and call it good. Put half into each loaf pan and spread it more or less evenly. Cover them with a damp kitchen towel and place somewhere warm to rise until level with the top of the pans (2-5 hours or possibly longer, depending on where you leave it).
Preheat the oven to 450 F. Sprinkle loaves with a little kosher salt and put into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the loaves from the pans, return to the oven, and bake about 15 min longer, until the crust is a nice crusty color and the loaves sound hollow when tapped. Place on a rack to cool.
Let cool as long as you can stand it, then cut into one and enjoy it spread with nice fresh ricotta and any fruit spread you have on-hand, or melt some butter on it if you didn’t make ricotta!
Rising bread dough – below the radiator, with an old towel draped over it to trap in heat. My mini loaf pans fit perfectly on top of the radiator and rise like nobody’s business! but the full-sized ones go under it and rise more slowly.