Using Whey In Sourdough Bread

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If you make your own yoghurt or cheese at home, you may have wondered about using whey in sourdough bread baking.

This blog will give you some ideas on how you can use it to improve your sourdough bread, as well as some ideas for using it in sourdough discard recipes too.

What is Whey?

Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. It contains lactose, vitamins, protein and minerals. You can read more about whey here.

There are two types of whey, with one more common in a home kitchen.

Sweet whey is the whey from the hard cheese making process utilising renet.

Acid whey is the whey from cottage cheese, ricotta and strained yoghurt.

Acid Whey from straining Greek Yoghurt is generally yellowish in color.

This blog concentrates on using acid whey in sourdough bread baking as it is the most common type of whey in a home setting.

The whey I have used to conduct experiments for this blog is whey from making strained Greek yoghurt.

My yoghurt is made from an organic, pot set yoghurt culture in an electric yoghurt maker (which I also use to keep my starter at a constant temperature).

I strain my yoghurt quite heavily until it is super thick so I get a lot of whey on a daily basis (the yoghurt maker has a super handy strainer for this purpose).

I generally use my whey in smoothies for my kids (it’s a great source of protein & nutrients for fussy kids), pancakes and to feed to my chickens.

But I started to wonder what would happen if I added whey to my sourdough baking, as I was accumulating quite a bit.

Feeding A Sourdough Starter Whey

I decided to feed my sourdough starter with whey instead of water for a few days to see what happened. Given that whey is full of beneficial bacteria (and particularly lacto acid bacteria) I thought it would be a way to boost the good bacteria in my sourdough starter.

You can’t have too much of the good stuff, right?

I have a mature sourdough starter that is very well established and makes great sourdough bread. It doubles easily after feeding.

I put 50g of sourdough starter into a jar and fed it 50g of flour and 50g of whey (I used whey in place of water). It doubled within an hour. It tripled in 2 hours. I repeated this for 3 feeding cycles over 36 hours.

Some things that I noticed about my starter when I fed it with whey:

  • it tripled easily (my starter is super strong, but never triples with regular feeding)
  • it smelled much sweeter than normal (even though my whey had no sugar)
  • the whey produced a “marshmallow” spongy bubble pattern on the side of the jar

If you are experimenting with feeding your starter a different food, always keep a backup as sourdough insurance. That way if your experiment doesn’t work, you haven’t killed your sourdough starter. I’ve always got a jar in the fridge and a jar of dried starter – just in case!

Baking Sourdough Bread with Whey

After feeding my sourdough starter whey for a few days I then started to think about using whey in my actual bread.

Feeding my starter used a little whey, but I literally have litres of it some days, so being able to use large amounts is great.

I used my Simple Sourdough Bread Recipe and swapped 350g of water for 350g of acid whey. I proceeded with the recipe process as per normal.

My dough rose as per normal during bulk ferment and was very easy to shape. I couldn’t really notice any difference in the dough made with whey, except that it smells a lot sweeter than sourdough made with just water.

However, once I baked it, I noticed that my bread had a much crisper crust and a softer, slightly more open crumb than I would normally get with that level of hydration. The bread was super soft and silky inside – honestly you wouldn’t be able to resist the texture!

Baking Timelines for sourdough bread

How To Use Whey In Sourdough Starter and Sourdough Bread Baking

Based on my research and experiments, here are my tips for using whey in sourdough bread.

  • You can feed your established starter with whey. Using the 1:1:1 ratio you can replace water with whey. It’s up to you whether you feed an offshoot of your starter or just feed the original starter. As always, I advise you to have a starter back up. I found that after 3 feedings of whey my starter wasn’t as active so I went back to water and now just give my starter occasional whey feedings for a “boost”. You could even just add half water, half whey if you wanted to feed your starter whey at every feed.
  • If you are trying to make a sourdough starter from scratch, whey can be a great boost to your starter. You can either replace the whole water component or just do half water half whey. The whey will help the bacteria to establish a lot faster. As above though, you don’t need to use it forever, just the first few days as the bacteria establish.
  • You can replace some or all of the water component in your sourdough bread recipe with whey. It’s a great way to use up excess whey, given how much liquid is in sourdough bread. Using the whey as part of your sourdough bread will increase the protein and available nutrients in your sourdough bread. In my experience they whey will give your bread a crisper crust and a softer crumb.

Just a note on baking sourdough bread with whey. Remember that if the yoghurt you make has sugar or any flavorings, then your whey will have these in it too.

If you have whey with sugar or honey added to it, it will make your sourdough ferment faster and will have an effect on the finished crumb.

Sourdough Recipes That Work Well With Acid Whey

The following recipes work really well when you replace the water content with acid whey.

I hope this information helps you to navigate using whey in your sourdough baking.

Baking Timelines for sourdough bread

Ever wondered about using beer in your sourdough bread? You’ll find the ultimate guide to using beer in sourdough bread here.

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Sourdough Starter (other than adding whey)

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