10.24.12 (I Did It) My Whey
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.
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.
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
- — 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.