624785_29980377You know sugar never ever was so sweet…

Honey was the first unrefined sweetener I ever used in baking.  I still consider it my favorite to this day.  And it’s not because of the nostalgia factor.  It’s because honey is awesome.

Honey is a liquid sweetener produced naturally by honey bees and derived from the nectar of flowers.  The human hunt for honey began at least 10,000 years ago.  We know so because there’s a Mesolithic rock painting on a cave in Valencia, Spain that shows two hunters collecting honey and honeycomb from a wild nest.  Honey went on for centuries to be regarded as sacred because of its sweetness and rarity.  I know I still bow down to the honey gods.  You?

The honey-making process begins when bees – 20,000-40,000 of them per hive! – collect sugary flower nectar in their mouths.  They may travel up to 55,000 miles and visit more than two million flowers to gather enough nectar for just one pound of honey.  I wish I had that kind of endurance!  This nectar then mixes with special enzymes in the bees’ saliva and – voila! – it’s transformed into honey. Back in the hive, bees deposit the honey into wax cells that line the walls – the honeycomb – and flutter their wings to evaporate excess nectar water and make the honey sticky sweet.  Oh, and the honeycomb?  They make that too.  Ever hear the phrase “busy as a bee”?!  When all is said and done, the honey is removed from the hive by a beekeeper.  And to market it goes!

There are 300 unique kinds of honey in the United States.  Wowza.  They range in color from white to amber to red to brown to black.  In general, the lighter colors have a mild flavor and the darker colors are more robust. Polyfloral honey – aka wildflower honey – is made from the nectar of many types of flowers.  Monofloral honeys – like clover, orange blossom, tupelo – are made from the nectar of one type of flower.  They have the most distinctive color and flavor. The honey you find in your regular old grocery store – the one in that cute little bear jar – is a blended honey, which means it’s a mixture of two or more different kinds.  You can read up on some different honeys here

If you don’t think honey is cool by now, I should also tell you that it contains a wide array of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Hello antioxidants!

In baking, I substitute about 3/4 cup honey for 1 cup sugar.  Honey is sweeter, so you can use less!  I also reduce the other liquid in the recipe and add a bit extra baking soda.  “Experts” are very precise and say to reduce liquid by 1/4 cup and add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup honey.  But I just go with whatever seems to be a nice, rounded amount for the recipe I’m using.  They also say to reduce the oven temperature by 25*F to prevent over-browning, but I only do this if I’m feelin’ it.  So reckless, I know.

Fun tip – Coat your measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray before adding the honey.  It’ll be way easier to get out!

What’s your favorite way to use honey in baking?


14 Responses to “Honey”

  1. 1 Pearl February 12, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    i love using honey as a replacement for corn syrup and also in my japanese honey cake. it’s so delicious and it adds the subtle flavor and sweetness needed. i’d love to swim in a vat full of honey. LOL 🙂

  2. 2 VeggieGirl February 13, 2009 at 7:51 am

    I’m an agave nectar girl 😉

  3. 3 Courtney (The Hungry Yogini) February 13, 2009 at 8:10 am

    I LOVE honey…I’ve never really baked with it but I put it in EVERYTHING!

    That’s cool that you were about to go to NGI! Did you not like it? Just curious if it was something about the school that made you not want to do the program. I’d love to hear your story =)

  4. 4 Sweet and Fit February 13, 2009 at 10:40 am

    wow thanks so much for all the great info =)

    I love using honey in granola bar recipe as a sweetener and binder

  5. 5 Amy February 13, 2009 at 11:54 am

    I need to start baking with honey more. But for now, I’m going to eat a waffle with almond butter and honey 🙂

  6. 6 Hangry Pants February 13, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    I love baking with honey! I like it in bread recipes especially. I also like to coat tofu in it and bake it.

  7. 7 sweetandnatural February 13, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Pearl – Your honey cake sounds so yummy!

    VeggieGirl – I love agave too. You know that! 🙂

    Courtney – I love NGI! Practicality just got in the way. Someday I hope!

    Sweet and Fit – Honey does see made for granola bars!

    Amy – I LOVE almond butter and honey together. Or any nut butter and honey together…

    Hangry Pants – Honey sweetened bread is delish for sure!

  8. 8 Bridget February 13, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    I love honey! For baking, I have put it in muffins and bread and they were delish!

    I’m having a honey-ish week, I watched The Secret Life of Bees earlier this week. It was such a good movie, I highly recommend it, but have tissues handy!

  9. 9 Hayley February 13, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    In class we use honey as a stabilizer sometimes…like this week we made ganache-based fillings for bon bons, and some of the recipes included honey for both sweetness and stability. Funny, I don’t really like straight-up honey, but I usually like it in things and I love love love candy corn.

  10. 10 Kati February 14, 2009 at 7:39 am

    non-stick spray huh…I’m sure that WOULD work better than using my finger to scrape it all out 🙂

  11. 11 Mariposa February 14, 2009 at 8:39 am

    i love honey.. i wish i could use it more often. i sometimes put it on my oatmeal if i forget to bring brown sugar to work. but i always always put it in my decaf green tea!! : )

  12. 12 sweetandnatural February 14, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Bridget – It keeps muffins and breads so moist!

    Hayley – Oh wow – honey ganache sounds amazing!

    Katie – But that way you get to lick your finger when you’re done! 😛

    Mariposa – Yum to oatmeal and honey. 🙂

  13. 13 ttfn300 February 14, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    hmm, right now i only have used it when called for in a recipe, but now that I know those substitution tricks… life might just get exciting 🙂

  14. 14 sweetandnatural February 16, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    ttfn300 – Go crazy! 🙂

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