Often taking a backseat to creamy curd (hello, ricotta and haloumi), whey is that leftover liquid that lingers in the bowl or pan when milk has been curdled and strained.
Resist the urge to simply pour it down the sink, because this protein-rich juice deserves its own gold star.
Liquid whey usually falls into one of two camps, sweet or sour. Sweet when it's the byproduct of harder cheeses such as cheddar and parmesan or sour when it's come off the back of more acidic cheeses such as labneh or ricotta. It should be strained and stored in a bottle or jar and placed in the fridge for up to a month. It can also be poured into ice cube trays and kept in the freezer for up to six months.
When using whey it can be as easy as substituting it in any baking recipe that calls for water (or even milk). For example, in your bread and biscuit doughs, homemade tortillas, your pancake and muffin batters, perfect in soups and stocks, great for pickling and brining or in this case, caramel sauce.
Whey naturally contains milk sugars and protein so all you need is a 375g sterilised jar and a little patience as you cook the whey down for about 45 minutes before adding the usual suspects of sugar, butter, vanilla extract and cream.
How to make a whey caramel sauce
This recipe makes 1 x 375 g jar.
Heat 2 cups of whey in a medium saucepan over low heat and bring to a simmer. Keep a close eye on it as it reduces making sure it doesn't burn.
About 30-45 minutes later, or when the quantity has reduced by ¼ - ½ in size, stir in 1 cup of caster sugar, ½ tbsp of vanilla extract and 60 g of butter. If you're using sweet whey then add 3 tbsp of lemon juice. The mixture will start to bubble and rise, don't worry if it does this. Continue to stir over the low heat for 2 minutes until the butter and sugar have completely dissolved.
Take the pan off the heat and then stir in ½ cup of thickened cream which has been brought to room temperature. As you stir, you'll notice the caramel becomes thick, creamy and glossy. If you prefer your caramel on the salty side add a couple of pinches of salt flakes at this point and then pour it into your jar.
It will continue to thicken as it cools. I keep mine in a cool place in my pantry for four to five days or in the fridge for a couple of weeks. It may harden in the fridge, so reheat the caramel to get it back to that drizzling consistency.
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