Eating your corn and whey

When you make ricotta, you have something left over called whey. This is purportedly good for baking, and I promised you I’d give it a try one of these days. We have been making a fair amount of ricotta, and I have had a few opportunities to try baking with the whey – as it turns out, two of my favorite attempts have included corn. I don’t know if there is some magical corn-whey alchemy that takes place (like what happens with buckwheat and maple syrup, say, or mushrooms and onions, or butternut squash and sage, or lime and cilantro) – but both of these recipes turned out beautifully when baked with whey.

I think this might be the perfect weekend for you to try making ricotta at home! And while you are enjoying it smeared on toast, or swirled with caramelized onions, or stuffed inside of some whole grain manicotti – while you are doing that, you can make some cornbread. Or some corn waffles. Take your pick.

Just don’t eat your corn and whey sitting on a tuffet, or you might get an unexpected, eight-legged visitor.

Whole Grain Corn-and-Whey Bread
This skillet cornbread is adapted from a recipe in The New York Times Magazine. Sam Sifton adapted it from The East Coast Grill in Cambridge; his changes were a tad controversial online. At our house, we found his addition of whole corn kernels to be brilliant. I saw the gorgeous yellow photo in the magazine, and then saw the bread again when Jess at Sweet Amandine went and took a flying leap with it. And then we had that whey sitting around … I used whey and a touch of cream to get some fat back in the mix. Plain whole milk, as the original calls for, would no doubt also work well. I also added a bit of whole wheat flour to the recipe, because I cannot resist opportunities for more whole grains :)  Two kinds of cornmeal are not necessary, but I had them on hand and they made a nice texture. 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, fine grind
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, medium grind
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups whey
1/4 cup half-and-half
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup melted butter
2 cups organic frozen corn kernels (fresh would surely be great here once they are in season)

Preheat oven to 350 F and oil a 9-inch cast-iron skillet. Put the skillet in the oven to heat up.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cornmeals, sugar, salt and baking powder. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, whey, cream and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, including the melted butter and the corn. Stir until just mixed.

Remove the hot cast-iron pan from the oven. Pour the batter into it.  Gently bump (or “smack,” per Sam) your pan on your countertop to even the batter out.

Bake for about one hour, until the corn bread is nice and golden-brown and craggy on top and a tester comes out clean. Like Jess, we found that this bread was much better fully cooled. It has a cake-like bite, and a nice sweetness. A little honey (or honey spiked with red chili flakes, per Sam’s recommendation) and a little butter are both terrific. Toasting the cooled bread gives a nice result too.

Crisp-Edged Corn-and-Whey Waffles
You might be thinking, wow, these people eat a lot of waffles. Well, we didn’t used to. And we still mostly eat granola for breakfast. But these corn waffles are really nice; they have all the best aspects of cornbread, being crispy and slightly sweet and gently corn-y. Plus they freeze and re-heat really well. I again used they whey-cream combo, but milk would work just as well. Honey is obviously the topping of choice, but these also make a nice savory waffle for piling with sandwich fixings, and you couldn’t go wrong dipping them in chili … I recommend cooking them until not a bit of steam is coming out of your waffle iron, to get a nice crispy crust … like the craggy top of the skillet cornbread above, I suspect you will find the crisp edges to be the best part :) 

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal (either fine or medium grind, or a combo)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups whey
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
Pre-heat your waffle iron so it gets nice and toasty. Whisk together the flours, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a big bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix the eggs, whey and cream together. Mix wet into dry, and then add the melted butter. Mix everything together well. Cook according to your waffle iron’s directions – see head note about letting it stop steaming.  If you plan to freeze them and toast them again later, you don’t need to make the initial bake quite as ‘toasty’.
We got 14 Belgian-style waffles from this batter.

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