One of the great bonuses of writing for Bachology is I get to indulge my passion for cooking and interest in trying new things which often leads to great culinary discoveries. Lynda and I for some time have been discussing a need for a cheese posting which I was keen to take on. Handmade cheese to me seemed a rather complicated affair and to be fair, it is when you are competing with the grand masters of the cheese world. After lots of research and a few tasteless experiments I found the middle-eastern soft fresh cheese Labneh which I have renamed as ‘Lazy Labneh’ as it is super easy to make and tastes tangy, fresh and delish! Labneh is basically strained yoghurt and a bit of salt – that’s it! No rennet, cheese cultures and not a thermometer in sight and you don’t even need to wait long to taste it as it only takes 1-2 days to make. A by-product of cheese production is whey which is a yellowy liquid that smells of a cheesy butter. Cheese is basically the protein and fat in the milk and by curdling it or straining it you separate the solids from the liquids. I loathe waste so decided to use my whey in a milk bread recipe. Normally we use water in bread but you can substitute with many other liquids such as milk, beer, wine, pickle juice, and why not whey?! I was feeling rather thrilled with myself with this discovery and then Dan Lepard’s Handmade Loaf book fell onto my doormat and he too encourages the use of whey in bread making. It was nice to feel like an inventive cook for a micro second but I should have known better! So the climax of my cheese and whey journey is the most heavenly bacon sandwich.
The whey bread is reminiscent of brioche – buttery, light and airy. Toast the bread and generously spread on the Labneh mixed with black pepper and chives, then fill with some crispy bacon and lightly fried cherry tomatoes – bacon butty heaven! These two partners in crime are now going to be regulars in my kitchen and I can’t wait to experiment more with Labneh.
- Ikg natural yoghurt – I used Yeo Valley live culture organic. You can use Greek yoghurt – which is much creamier, goat’s yoghurt or mix a combination of yoghurts.
- Fine sea salt
- Olive oil
Line a colander or sieve with a double layer of cheese cloth or muslin.
Add salt to taste to the yoghurt and give it a good stir.
Pour the yoghurt into the lined colander or sieve, tie up the muslin into a purse and knot or secure with string or an elastic band. Hang the bundle in the fridge over a bowl to catch the whey. Make sure the bundle sits above the liquid. Leave the Labneh like this for 24-36 hours. You can speed up the process by gently squeezing out the whey from the Labneh a couple of times a day. The Labneh will be ready when quite dry and firm but it will be still quite creamy inside.
You can eat the cheese straight away – the possibilities are endless! I chose to roll mine into small balls and pack into a sterilised 2 litre Kilner Jar with olive oil. It helps to pour some olive oil in the jar before popping in the first few balls and then keep topping up as you add more to avoid them sticking. http://www.kilnerjar.co.uk/
Labneh can be stored like this for 2 weeks. You can infuse the oil with herbs and spices or choose to roll the Labneh in chives or other herbs before placing in the oil. Bring Labneh to room temperature before serving – the olive oil coagulates around the cheese when refrigerated.
- 500g strong white flour
- 10g instant yeast
- 10g salt
- 2 tsp honey
- 30g soft unsalted butter
- 320ml warmed whey
- Olive oil for kneading
In a large bowl add the flour, yeast, salt, honey and butter. Add three-quarters of the whey and combine the ingredients until it forms a rough dough and all the flour is off the side of the bowl. You may need to add more whey at this point if the dough is too dry.
Lightly oil your bench top and tip out the dough onto it. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. Restrain from adding more flour – the oil should keep the dough from sticking to your bench top. Once it is smooth and elastic form into a ball.
Clean out your large bowl and lightly oil it. Add the dough ball and cover the bowl – I use a plastic shower cap. Leave to rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. This usually takes about 2 hours but longer is OK.
Lightly grease a 1kg loaf tin with butter. Tip out your dough onto a lightly oiled surface and give a light knead AKA knocking back the dough. Shape the dough into an oblong and place into the tin with the seam at the bottom. Press the dough into the tin to get a flat surface and coat the top of the dough with a fine layer of flour. Place the tin into a plastic bag or loosely cover – I again use a shower cap.
Leave the dough to rise until at least double the size. It has fully risen when you can lightly press your finger into the dough and it leaves a slight indentation – not when it instantly springs back. I find the final rise takes between 1 ½ hrs – 2hrs.
Heat the oven to 210°c/ 190°c fan bake/ gas mark 7.
Just before the dough goes into the oven gently slash it length ways with an extremely sharp knife or better still a bread maker’s tool called a lame which uses a razor blade.
Place in the oven and mist the oven with a water sprayer – this will help to give a golden crust. Cook for 20-25 minutes until well risen, golden and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap the bottom of the tin. Remove loaf straightaway from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.