The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Whey starter

Moriah's picture

Whey starter

I make my own yogurt and usually end up freezing the whey I strain off. Yesterday I decided , hmm I wonder if I can make a starter with it? I used 100% hydration and  in an hour or so it was active! I fed it about 3 times before I went to bed and this morning it was beautiful fragrant and bubbly. Does anyone have any experience with this? Will it work for bread?

JMonkey's picture

It wouldn't hurt to try, but I suspect it's not going to do much for your bread. A sourdough starter is a combination of yeast and bacteria, and, in yogurt, it's just bacteria and, if I recall correctly, they're usually different strains than those found in a starter.

But heck, what have you got to lose except maybe a buck or two of flour? Give it a shot!

LLM777's picture

If you used the whey as the liquid and added flour wouldn't it just take yeast from the surroundings and still be a sourdough starter (just a little more sour perhaps)?

I also make my own yogurt (we love it!) and use our extra whey for the liquid in smoothies.

Thanks for the idea!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

So I would stick to AP flour or risk a really chewy crumb.  I would be tempted to add yeast  if bread is made right away but if you just keep feeding it, ev. switching to water, maybe you'll get the yeasts developed too.

Try it making just a small loaf and see what it does.

hullaf's picture

My question is (and I asked about this a year ago, did not get a definite answer) -- do the proteins in the whey need to be scalded, like in milk, to be used for bread making? Several bread books I've looked into (ie/ The Bread Bilble by RLB, Bread by Hamelman, Artisan Baking Across America by Glezar) each says the milk should be scalded before using because it's needed to denature the gluten-weakening proteins which will cause the bread texture to be coarse and dense. In 'Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book", it says "scalding is not so important when the proportion of milk to other liquids in the recipe is half or less." They all say, go ahead and use dried milk as a substitute. 

But, are the whey proteins different from the milk ones? 

Is there a milk scientist out there who knows what I'm asking? 

As seen in the many listings here about whey and it's usage in bread making, it's obvious that it'll work well with or without scalding. But, still, I am curious.   Anet

TheLorax's picture

I, too, am curious about the validity of scalding milk to get a good rise.  While I used to scald religiously, I seem to have dropped the practice as time has moved on - to no discernable difference.


In regards to milk proteins, milk is predominantly casein, followed by whey.  Something like 80% casein, 20% whey, if I recall correctly.  So, when you pour off the liquid from your yogurt (whey), you're left with a higher concentration of casein in the form of yogurt "solids"; but I bet there's still some whey in there too.


Hope that helps?

maurdel's picture

Do you all think that since the milk most of us use has been pasteurized, that scalding is not necessary? I always wondered about the pasteurization process.

hullaf's picture

maurdel -- (the more I read the more I get confused.) This so far is what I'm thinking about pasteurization -- 

In normal pasteurization of raw milk the heat goes up to 145 degrees and held exactly for 30 minutes. To scald, the temperature goes up to 190 degrees and denatures enough of the proteins to not make the bread dense. Too long or too much heat destroys the milk proteins, such as in the now "ultra-pasteurized" milk we see in most grocery stores which is flash heated to a very high temperature that kills all pathogens and denatures the proteins completely. (And consequently the shelf life is longer but compromises the taste.) I suppose in the 'olden days' when all milk was just pasteurized and not 'ultra'-pasteurized, the scalding was more of a necessity.  

Incidentally, for making cheese, the milk is only heated so far so that the milk proteins are changed just little enough to generate curds . . . and whey. And there are enough proteins leftover in the whey to make ricotta, too.  

So, in using milk for bread, it depends on what kind of milk you use. I can get non-ultra pasteurized milk from a local farm here in Nashville that I like. But, all in all, I don't scald milk like I used to do for bread making. I tend to use dried milk.   


maurdel's picture

Thanks for all your research. I suppose since the organic milk I buy is always of the ultra-pasterized group then I should never bother with scalding right?  Though I wonder then about all those baking books that don't bother to discuss pasteurization.

summerbaker's picture

This may be somewhat off topic, but how in the world do you make yogurt?  I've tried one popular way (heating milk and small amount of yogurt then putting it in the oven with the light on for five hours) and the method totally didn't work.  I monitored the temperature every second so I know that I didn't overheat the mixture.  What is your method, if you don't mind taking the time to explain it?  do I need to buy a yogurt maker?

maurdel's picture

summerbaker, the yogurt making process you describe should work, but here are some very important variables:

1. The temperature of the milk ( I like 118 degs F)

2. The yogurt you "start" with; Some of the commercially available yogurts have thickening agents, and other additives. They also have different cultures that may or may not work in your procedure. I have had some that result in a very odd gluey texture.  I like the way plain Dannon works - which for some reason is not so easy to find anymore.

3. I believe even the milk you use seems to change the outcome.

I think the most imp. factor though is the starter yogurt. What did you use?

Mrsblume's picture

I think the problem here is that you do not put thestarter yogurt into thge milk you heat. The idea of heating is to kill all extraneous cultures. I have a yogurt maker that has yet to be used because an acquaintance gave me a starter and showed me how to do it so simply. It is a lower temp culture.

LLM777's picture

I find that a yogurt maker (Donvier is what I have) is the easiest and least maintanence way to make yogurt.  I definitely agree with Dannon plain (lowfat) as the starter.  I use Alton Brown's (food network) recipe with minor changes.  It can be a little time consuming but, as in bread making, the results are worth it. 


summerbaker's picture

I used Stonyfield Organic fat free yogurt.  I'll try the Dannon lowfat next time.  I also used skim milk.  Do you think that the lack of fat was the culprit?  What I ended up with was milk with some curds in the bottom of the bowl (I hate to waste food so I used it up in rice pudding - that tells you how watery it was!).  I'll also look up the Alton Brown method.  Thanks for the feedback maurdel and LLM777!

maurdel's picture

I usually prefer whole milk, though I have also made 2%. I don't think I ever tried skim. I would not think it would make yogurt very successfully.  Can't seem to remember if I ever  used 1% or not........

Did you use a thermometer? I do not believe it needs to be so precise, but it would certainly help the first few (hundred) times, so that you know what it should 'feel' like.

summerbaker's picture

I'm going to try whole milk when I try it again.  I definitely used a thermometer the whole time and heated the milk/yogurt mixture gently until it reached 185 degrees.  Then I immediately took it off of the stove (as per the directions in the recipe I was using). 

Poppins's picture

Your problem was that you heated up both the milk and the yogurt starter. Yogurt is made when specific bacteria are introduced to milk. They eat up all the milk sugars, thus thickening your milk and giving it it's sour taste. Bacteria cannot survive higher than 120-130 degrees F. You heat up the milk to kill any bacteria that are not yogurt bacteria, because they can keep it from setting properly. However, if you heat up the yogurt too, you will kill those bacteria as well, and there will be nothing left to culture your yogurt. To keep from killing the yogurt culture, you want to heat up the milk, and then add the yogurt after it has cooled back down to 110-115 degrees f.

Hope this helps! Good luck with the yogurt. :)

LLM777's picture

If you do use his recipe, he heats milk only to 120 degrees I found that did not thicken the yogurt. Once I did heat to 180 degrees like other recipes called for, it seemed to work.

My other change was to keep it in the yogurt maker just 6-8 hours not what the machine or alton's recipe called for.


summerbaker's picture

I think I'll get a yogurt maker, though my husband is insisting that we get one with glass jars since he is BPA-phobic and says it's going to leach out of the polycarbonate.  I'm skeptical but I'll probably humor him on this one since it's usually wise to pick my battles!  I will definitely keep your recipe changes in mind.

VA Susan's picture
VA Susan

Hi summerbaker,

If you have a crockpot, you can try this. I make it all the time. I use 2 % fat milk.

subfuscpersona's picture

There seem to be three questions being asked on this topic...

QUESTION 1 Can whey be be used instead of water to refresh an active starter?

ANSWER TO Q 1 YES. There are minerals and proteins in whey that yeast (both commerical and "wild") like. Whey is also slightly acidic.

QUESTION 2 Can whey be used instead of water in the final dough?

ANSWER TO Q 2 YES. You may find your dough rises slightly faster (see answer to Q 1)

QUESTION 3 Does whey need to be scalded prior to use in bread baking?


All of my answers are based on long-term personal experience and experimentation in bread baking.

For further information on using whey in bread baking, see this TFL post dated Jul 2008.

hullaf's picture

I was making a bread out of PR's "Whole Grain Breads' book and . . .  lo-and-behold, right there on page 237 he explains about scalded vs unscalded milk for bread recipes! Pasteurized milk nowadays from the grocery store does not need to be scalded. To quote his summary, "if you feel that your loaf is not reaching it's fullest size potential with unscalded milk, try using scalded."   Anet

althetrainer's picture

I too make yogurt at home and I also have extra whey after each batch.  I usually use it in my protein shakes or in soup.  Now I have one more way to use it up.  I am all for trying the whey from yogurt in my wourdough starter.  I will use 1/4 from my wild yeast starter and do a small experiement tomorrow.  Can't wait to see if that will make any difference.

By the way, I have an old yogurt maker but I never used it.  I used a large jar and a heating pad.  I find it more effective that way.  I make plain non fat yogurt once a week.  It's so creamy and tasty that nothing found in the market is half as good as what I make at home.  It's very easy and I really think everyone should at least give it a try.

NinaB's picture

I made homemade greek yogurt for the first time last night.  Worked better than anticipated.  Found a method on Youtube and it worked well, with some modifications to heating method (my oven setting are either too warm or too cool).  I started this adventure ~ dinner time on Fri and by noon on Sat I had tasty superthick greek-style yogurt!

I used:

1/2 gal milk - (I used 2% fat, organic, no antibiotics which was recommended...I suppose antibiotics might interfere with the cultures)

1 small container (5 oz I think) Fage 0% fat Greek Yogurt - roughly at room temp

sauce pot to hold milk + lid, spoon, thermometer, 2 bath towels, heating pad, cheese cloth, colander, large bowl to hold colander, whisk

Heat milk to 180F-185F, stirring often.  Once at temp, put lid on pot and let milk cool to 110F sitting on counter (takes a couple hrs).  I took yogurt out of fridge to warm while the milk cools.  Whisk in yogurt once milk is ~110F.  Put lid back on.  Wrap in towels and heating pad.  Set pad on low (box for heating pad said medium would provide ~120F).  Left on counter overnight (and ended up dreaming about making yogurt!).  Next morning, I had a layer of whey on top, with a thickened yogurt-like product underneath - it was a little grainy in appearance when I stuck the thermometer in it to check temp (116F - love that heating pad!!).  Put colander in bowl, multiple layers of cheesecloth in colander.  Poured off top whey into a plastic container, then transfered additional whey/yog into colander.  Put pot lid on top of yogurt and put whole assembly in fridge.  Came home roughly 3-4 hrs later to find a super thick yogurt in the fridge.  Closer to cream cheese actually (hey, with some herbs and crustly bread it'll work for me!).  Next time will stop draining a little sooner, but adding back a little whey to get the right consistency probably won't hurt (whisk in).  Flavor is similar to the Fage Greek yogurt.

Now, I sit typing this with a whey starter next to me.  I mixed 1 cup whey and 1 cup King Arthur AP flour this afternoon (now 9pm and showing signs of life).  Will give it a little water and more flour before I go to bed.  Might mix it with a starter in the fridge...not sure yet.  Fage doesn't specify what "live and active cultures" are in their yogurt so I cannot be certain what I'm working with, but it smells slightly buttery.  Might be nice to balance with a more sour starter for some sourdough next week!  Maybe I'll try with and without this whey starter for a comparison.  Will post bread results if things work out well. 

If anyone tries this yogurt method hope it works as well for you as it did for me!



ApolloAcres's picture

I use a simply country method. I use farm fresh milk (usually I remove most of the cream to make butter) and heat it very slowly. I find the temp can vary to your liking of thickness and sourness. Somewhere around 120F seems good. Then I take it off the heat. While the milk is warming I sterile a 4 gallon pickle jar with hot water. When the milk has cooled sufficiently I add 2 tbs of organic yogurt or a "mother" culture I saved from last batch,stir, then wrap the jar in towels and place in a thermos cooler. The cooler in next to a space heater to help with warmth. I leave the yogurt to culture much longer than any time I have read, 16 hrs about usually. This makes yummy yogurt. I have read that some folks strain some of the whey out to make it less watery if that's a problem. The whey can be used to make sauerkraut, or soak beans/grain etc too, making them more digestible. Hope this helps some one. :)