10.24.12 (I Did It) My Whey

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photos by gluttonforlife
I continue to be enamored of whey and hope my recipes for slow-cooked onions or crisp pickles may have piqued your interest. I suggest you get your hands on some by making fresh cheese or paneer (which might lead you down another path to this Indian dish or this one). I've learned that whey is also referred to as "milk serum," which sounds like something from the world of molecular gastronomy. But this yellowish, watery liquid is simply what's left when milk curdles, either from the use of rennet (sweet whey) or acid, like lemon or vinegar (acid whey). Whey was once a popular drink in inns and coffee houses (in the 1700s!) and has been used for centuries by European, Middle Eastern and Asian peoples to preserve food and in all manner of fermented tonics. It's an excellent source of minerals and digestive bacteria, and acts as a remedy for an upset stomach. Sipped on its own, whey is kind of an acquired taste, with a faint cheesiness that is not unpleasant. When combined with honey and frozen into sorbet, it's simply divine.
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freeze frame
I was inspired to make this sorbet after a conversation with my friend, the talented and creative chef Alex Raij who, with her husband Eder Montero, owns Txikito, El Quinto Pino and La Vara. She mentioned in passing that they'd made a whey sorbet with honey as part of a dessert plate at La Vara, and I couldn't get it out of my mind. (A quick internet search revealed that, as usual, someone had gotten there first; check out an amazing young chef's inspired rendition here.) I had some whey on hand, so I whipped up a batch—the simplest possible combination of just whey and honey. It was ethereal, frosty, milky but not, with a wonderful tang that played against the sweet, floral honey.
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get the scoop
When I crowed over my success to Alex, she mentioned that a little salt in the mix made the flavors really sing. I kicked myself for not thinking of that on my own, what with my love of salt and all. For my second batch, I added a couple of generous pinches of sea salt as well as a soupçon of orange flower water. Neither is distinctly perceptible, but both add something elusive, haunting and magical. With its featherweight frostiness and purported digestive properties, this sorbet makes an excellent finish to a hearty meal. Go ahead, give it a whirl.

Whey & Honey Sorbet

serves 6
  • — 3 cups whey
  • — 1 cup honey
  • — 1/2 -1 teaspoon orange flower water
  • — 2 generous pinches fine sea salt

Combine whey and honey in a saucepan and heat very gently just until combined. Stir in orange flower water and salt. Transfer to a bowl and chill in an ice bath until cold. Process in your ice cream maker until set. Pack into a container and place a sheet of parchment on top before sealing. Freeze for 3-4 hours, or overnight.

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Delicious, Laura. How is this different from buttermilk, which I grew up drinking in India? Whey to go. (Sorry, couldn't resist it.)
Amin Ahmad on October 25, 2012 at 9:13 pm —
Amin, buttermilk is the liquid that separates from the fat solids that come together when you make butter. It's similar, but for buttermilk you start with cream instead of milk and curdling is not required.
laura on October 26, 2012 at 10:45 pm —
Sounds refreshing. You may have even inspired me to replace the heavy homemade ice cream I usually make for Thanksgiving dessert for this lovely sorbet! Happy Friday, Laura!
Stefanie on October 26, 2012 at 8:21 am —
Roasted concord grapes sounds delightful( not to mention how beautiful that will look). Thank you for that lovely idea, Laura. And stay safe in the storm!
Stefanie on October 28, 2012 at 10:12 pm —
Thanks, Stefanie! I think this would be a great dessert option after a Thanksgiving feast, maybe paired with some delicious roasted concord grapes or figs.
laura on October 26, 2012 at 10:46 pm —
sounds wonderful. think of you often. for some reason your new site doesn't show up on my feed when you update.... hope you both are well. haven't had much time for making food at home but intend to try this.
g on October 27, 2012 at 1:34 am —
Let me know how you like it, Giovanna. xoxo
laura on October 27, 2012 at 9:06 am —