Chocolate Loves Rosemary: A Whey Cool Romance

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett

Little Miss Muffet has nothing on my family lately. She just sat around on her tuffet; we race around the kitchen, trying to outrun the buckets of whey that keep pushing open the fridge doors and threatening to leap out.

Why so much whey? Well, when you’re the child of a baker, it’s a good bet your science fair project will unfold in the kitchen. Thus my 10-year-old has been hard at work manufacturing mozzarella, all to answer the burning question: Which milk works best?

He has his answer, but I can’t tell you til Tuesday. (Hint: It’s not the one made from powdered milk.) Meanwhile, we’re wading in whey, and there’s no way I can throw this stuff out. After all, all the goodness in a gallon of milk is still there, minus the fat.  (I could use it to water my garden, but given the North Carolina chill these days, I’d just be making whey sorbet.)

So now we’re outrunning buckets of whey and bulging bowls of bread dough. I froze some of the whey, but I went through 15 pounds of flour yesterday making pizza dough (delicious topped with that winning cheese), cinnamon rolls, sandwich bread and supper bread. And, best of all, chocolate rosemary bread.

I’ll never be able to explain how I wrote two cookbooks on baking with herbs without having the chocolate-rosemary combination cross my mind. Chocolate truly loves rosemary: the piney, astringent, slightly winey taste of rosemary marries perfectly with chocolate’s slightly winey richness. I’ll gladly eat rosemary with any semisweet chocolate, but I especially love it with dark and bittersweet chocolates, teetering on the balance beam of savory and sweet.

When I dove into all this dough, I wasn’t looking for highly sophisticated bread with finesse: I just wanted to use up some whey and get out of the kitchen. So I mixed up a batch of the trendy “5-minute” dough, using whey in place of all the water and making an olive oil dough, knowing that would work with most any flavor I settled on.

And I did want flavor in this round of baking, seeing as how my freezer’s already filled with plain loaves. Just after Christmas, my son tested two batches of mozzarella in time for a UNC football party (it’s good to eat lots of mozz when your team loses another bowl game). With all the whey from that, I threw together some more bread, making plain round loaves, some to freeze and some to take on a New Year’s trip. (Tasty though they were, two of the loaves went to the beach and came back without getting eaten — and to my surprise, more than a week later, they were still moist, not moldy, and perfect for croutons for a post-holiday, desperately needed salad. I’m still trying to figure out, with fingers crossed, whether the whey helped inhibit mold.)

Having settled on barely-sweet bread for a simple breakfast, I slammed some bittersweet chocolate on the counter (in its package) to break it up, chopped it roughly into small chunks, and folded some into my dough with minced rosemary. With its crackly crust and thin ribbons of chocolate balanced with a scattering of chunks, all kissed with rosemary, this easy bread may be ideal for a feel-good New Year’s meal, with a cup of hot tea or milky coffee. It needs nothing, though a light smear of butter would never hurt it — or how about a dip in olive oil and a sprinkling of coarse salt for an afternoon snack?

Chocolate truly loves rosemary, and despite the runaway whey, I love this bread, all the mozzarella in the house, and, especially, my son’s delight in his creations.

Recipe: Chocolate-Rosemary Bread

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