Whey, Too Good to Waste

Ricotta is a staple in my kitchen. I use it for ravioli and tortellini filling. I add it to frittatas, quiches, and savory pifresh-ricottaes. Last week, I included it in my pierogie filling. I even make dessert out of it.  Now that I’m in the habit of making my own ricotta, I feel like I’ve got the world at my fingertips – a light, fluffy, cheesy world. When you make all this cheese, you also wind up with a whole lot of whey. What to do?

Now, people will tell you that it’s a refreshing and healthy drink. I haven’t gotten that brave yet, but when I went on a calzone making binge and found myself with over 7 quarts  of whey, I had to think creatively to find other uses. If you find yourself in a similar predicament, with way too much whey, here are a few ideas to help you out.

  • Make whey pancakes. The batter, when I made it with AP flour, was a little runnier than my steadfast pancake recipe, but the pancakes were very tasty and worth wiping the drips off the counter.  For a really smug pancake, I’ll try this recipe next with whole wheat flour.
  • Pawn some off on a friend and give her the recipe for Italian white bread.
  • Use it as a base for soups. I’ve substituted up to 50% whey for stock, depending on the soup. I’ve used it successfully  in minestrone, chicken noodle, potato leek, and others.
  • Feed it to some friendly chickens. It’s good for them. (I don’t exactly remember why. I’m the baker, not the chicken farmer. I do it to make the chickens like me better, so they’ll be kinder when I come to visit.)
  • Add it to your pasta sauce. We liked it in pesto.

Spinach and Cheese Ravioli

These ravioli don’t have a strong spinach flavor, but the texture of the dough is nice and hearty.  They freeze well for a quick and healthy meal on a busy night. Ravioli are not hard to make, but I would recommend having a two-person team: one to roll and one to fill and shape.

Ravioli, ready for freezingDough:
8.5 ounces flour (about 2 cups)
6 cups fresh spinach
3 eggs
1 tbls. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt

Making the dough-

1. Prepare the spinach. Saute with just about 1 tbls. of water in pan for a few minutes, until wilted. (If you’ve just washed the spinach, shake a little of the water out and then toss in the pan. The leaves will be wet enough.) Place the spinach on a washcloth (that you don’t mind being stained) and squeeze over the sink. Try to get out as much water as possible.
2. Mix flour and salt ingredients in a bowl.
3. In a food processor, add egg, spinach, and oil. Process until smooth.
4. Make a little well in the flour mixture, pour in spinach mixture and mix with a fork until lumpy. Knead with your fingers until it comes together. Knead one additional minute, adding extra flour, if needed. (How will you know if more flour is needed? Dough should not be wet or tacky.)
5. Allow your dough to rest, covered, for 30 minutes. (Be patient. This step allows the flour to get properly moistened and allows you to work with the dough.)

2 cups homemade ricotta
3 gloves garlic, finely diced
about 1/4 cup grated parmesan
about 1/4 cup grated mozzarella
salt and white pepper to taste
optional: add fresh herbs to taste

Prepare the filling:
6. Mix all the ingredients in small bowl. If your filling is too dry, mix back in about 1 tbls. of the whey from the cheesemaking. You want your filling to be light and fluffy, but it needs to be able to hold its shape.

Flour the dough before you roll it each time - Roll out the pasta:
7. Divide the pasta dough into 4 equal balls. Cover the balls that you are not using.
8. Shape the first ball into a rectangle. Sprinkle with a little flour every time your dough feels too tacky. Roll your dough through the pasta roller, gradually working your way up to setting six, which will produce a thin but sturdy sheet of pasta. Tip: fold your dough into a rectangle before sending it through the machine.

Shape the ravioli:
9. Cut a long sheet of pasta in half, so that you have two equal pieces. (Another technique is to fold a long sheet in half, gently crease to mark the center, and only fill one side. The second half of the dough becomes the top and ‘closes over’ the ravioli filling.)
10. Drop scant tablespoons of pasta about 1 inch apart on the dough, leaving an equal amount of space aDraw a line of water between each ravioli with your finger - round all four edges.
11. Dip one finger (or pastry brush) into water and run a line of water around the four edges and between each ravioli. Your goal is to moisten. Don’t get it too wet!
12. Lay the second pasta sheet over top of the filling. Work from left to right, gently pressing down between the ravioli as Seal the ravioli carefully - you go. You may need to stretch the last part of the dough over the filling.  Go back and seal the top and sides of each ravioli. Try not to trap any air next to the filling (or your ravioli may burst.)
13. Use a sealer/cutter pastry tool to seal and cut. (This tool is so worth the few dollars of its cost. But, alternatively, you can slice with a knife and seal by hand. I used to press each side shut with a fork and that worked well, though was time consuming.)

Save those babies for later:
14. Lay the ravioli on a floured sheet pan and place in the freezer for about a half hour. After this, they can be placed in a big freezer bag and won’t stick to each other.

15.  From the freezer, boil in gently boiling water for five minutes. (Cook fresh raviloi 3-4 minutes.)

Italian White Bread (made with whey)

Italian White BreadHave you ever had Italian bread in a restaurant that’s flat, white, bland, but oh so good? This is the recipe. I think that Italian mamas must have always made whey bread  following the making of ricotta, because they just seem to go together.

Whey bread is very easy to make, as it only has one rise and this comes after you form the loaves. For the first time, I used my new kitchen aid mixer to knead the bread. Superbly simple!

adapted from Home Cheese Making

5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1 tbls. sugar
4 1/2 tsp. yeast

3/4 cup hot whey leftover after the making of ricotta
1 cup warm water
5 tbls. butter, melted

Extras: cornmeal, sesame seeds, egg white

1. Add dry ingredients to the bowl and stir.
2. If the whey has cooled, heat whey and water. Slice butter and stir into the hot liquid to melt.
3. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir well until combined. Or! Use your mixer and the dough hook to mix and knead. Either way, stir and knead for an additional five minutes, until the dough is smooth and warm.
4. Divide dough into desired portions. I suggest two pieces for full size loaves or three pieces for moderate, individual loaves. Pat the dough into a rectangle and then roll up into a cylinder. Pinch seams and edges and shape a little bit more.
5. Place onto a sheet pan that’s been sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
6. If you want, paint the loaf with egg white and/or  sprinkle with sesame seeds.
7. Bake at 425F for 30 minutes.Bread before rising-

-This recipe easily doubles.
-Loaves freeze well after they have been cooled.
-Makes great garlic bread!
-Dry leftover pieces and process to make bread crumbs. Keep a container of bread crumbs in your freezer for later use.

Sorrel Pesto

Earlier this year I discovered sorrel, with its bright almost lemon-like flavor.  In fact, I ate sorrel nearly every week.  It is delicious as a raw snack and enhances salad (though the sorrel soup I made was a little too much of a good thing.)  However, as summer wore on the sorrel stopped appearing at the farmers’ market. You can imagine my surprise when at the last market of the year, just a couple weeks ago, I was able to grab one last bunch of fresh, locally grown sorrel.  I ate some of it as salad and ended up cooking with the rest – here’s to the last of this year’s sorrel.sorrelpesto1

Creamy Sorrel Pesto

Serves 4

2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
about 12 large sorrel leaves
about 4 tbls. fresh, minced parsley
3 tbls. olive oil
1/2 cup of whey (left over from cheese making)

  1. Blend all of the ingredients, except the whey, in a food processor until smooth. Heat until warm over low.
  2. Add whey until you have reached your desired consistency. They whey adds a wonderful creaminess – without cream!
  3. Add cooked homemade pasta and toss to coat.  If the sauce thickens too much, thin with whey or pasta water.

Note: The pine nuts, cheese and oil were clearly not local.  Another salty, aged cheese would probably be a nice substitute for the Parmesan and I actually believe hazelnuts would have been a better choice than pine nuts.