Sweet Choice of Honey
Dozens of varieties of honey are produced in the United States. Some, like creamed honey, are best used as spreads on bread, while others make delightful substitutes for sugar in cooking. The most healthful that we know of is organic.
If you cannot find a particular variety in your local store, check the National Honey Board Web site for information on suppliers: National Honey Board.
Forms: Peruse the honey section in a large supermarket, and you are likely to find honey in a variety of styles.
- Liquid honey is extracted from the comb, filtered and packed into jars.
- Creamed or spun honey is honey that has been spun to create a thick, creamy texture that is ideal for spreading.
- Comb honey is packaged in the comb, just as it comes from the hive. Squares of larger comb are cut and fitted into boxes. The beeswax of the honeycomb is completely edible and comb honey can be eaten like chewy candy. Sometimes you will find a jar of liquid honey to which a piece of cut comb has been added.
The specific flavor of each honey depends on the particular nectar the bees gather. When bees collect nectar from large growths of one certain blossom, the honey is labeled "single-flower" honey; examples are clover, lavender, sunflower and star thistle. Sometimes bees gather nectar from a variety of sources, making multi-floral honey called "wildflower". Flavors range from light and fruity to tangy and rich.
As a general rule, light-colored honey is mild in flavor, while dark honey is more assertive. Clover, acacia, basswood and orange blossom are some of the lighter varieties; they make wonderful sweeteners for cereal, tea, fruit salads and salad dressings. In the middle range, you find star thistle, Florida tupelo, sage, alfalfa and honeys from berry blossoms, which add a stronger flavor. Dark honey, such as buckwheat, is used like brown sugar or molasses; it works well on oatmeal and in pancakes and whole-grain breads. Flavored honeys are those to which flavoring agents, such as fruit or herb essences, have been added.
Honey Taste Test
Doing a honey taste test will help you discover the distinctive flavor differences between varieties and you can choose the one that pleases you most. It only takes a few minutes. When you open the jar, notice the aroma of the honey, which is strongest at this point. Spoon out a small amount of the honey, less than one-eighth teaspoon, and taste it slowly, noticing how the flavor spreads in your mouth. Notice, too, the aftertaste, which is an important component in the flavor of honey.
If you are comparing several different kinds of honey -- one each of the light, medium and dark varieties makes an interesting combination - give your palate a short rest between tastes. Dairy products help you taste the nuances of a particular honey; try honey drizzled on plain yogurt.
- Use liquid honey, not creamed or comb, in cooking.
- Honey tastes sweeter than sugar. When substituting honey for sugar (other than in baked goods), start by using half as much honey as sugar; then adjust to taste. Choose a mild honey when you want to sweeten a dish without making a major flavor change.
- In baking, honey changes the texture of breads and cakes and it keeps them from going stale. To substitute honey for sugar in baked goods, begin by replacing half the sugar called for with honey. For example, if a cake recipe calls for 2-cups of sugar, use 1-cup of honey and 1-cup of sugar. For every cup of honey used, reduce the liquid in the recipe one-quarter cup and add one-half teaspoon baking soda. Because honey causes baked goods to brown faster than sugar, you need to reduce the oven temperature called for in the original recipe by 25-degrees.
- Almost all honey crystallizes; it is a natural change and does not mean the honey has spoiled. Some packers strain and heat the honey to slow the crystallization process, but doing so can reduce the aroma and flavor of the honey. To re-liquefy crystallized honey, place it in a container of warmed water and allow to stand several hours or overnight. Repeat as necessary.
Honey-Cardamom Cake with Orange Blossom Cream
Honey lends its distinctive flavor to this delicately spiced, wonderfully moist cake. It is lovely with just a dollop of honeyed whipped cream, or serve with sliced peaches or nectarines. Use orange blossom honey or another mild honey, such as clover.
3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 /2 teaspoon salt
3 /4 cup mild honey
1 /2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 /4 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 /3 cup honey
1 /3 cup hot water
2 cups whipping cream
1 /4 cup orange blossom honey
Heat oven to 325-degrees. Spray a 13 x 9-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, cardamom and one-half teaspoon salt.
In large bowl, beat three-quarter cup honey and butter at medium speed two minutes. Slowly add sugar, beating constantly. Add eggs one at a time, beating one minute after each addition. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Spread evenly in pan.
Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack ten minutes.
With a long wooden skewer, poke holes in cake, poking through to bottom of pan. Brush cake with syrup. Cool completely.
In medium bowl, beat cream at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Add one-quarter cup honey, beating just until blended. Serve cake with cream. Store in refrigerator.
Recipe makes 12 servings.
Nutrition per serving:
Total Fat: 22g
Saturated fat: 13.5g
Chewy Honey Bars
This very low-tech recipe fits right into summer schedules, when you want to spend plenty of time outdoors. You use only a small saucepan, bowl, spoon and pan to make chewy bar cookies that travel and keep well.
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 /2 teaspoon salt
1 /2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 /4 cup unsalted butter
3 /4 cup mild or dark honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts
Heat oven to 325-degrees. Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick spray. In small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, ginger, salt, cinnamon and cloves.
Melt butter in medium saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat. Stir in honey until well blended. Let stand until saucepan is just warm to the touch.
Whisk egg into honey mixture. Stir in vanilla and flour mixture. Batter should be smooth and thin. Stir in walnuts. Pour into pan.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out almost clean, with a few crumbs remaining. Cool in pan. (Bars will sink slightly as they cool). Store in airtight container.
Recipe makes 16 bars.
Nutrition information per serving:
Total Fat: 8g
Saturated Fat: 2.5g