Honey is sweet – that’s a given. However, did you know that honey also adds a special touch to almost any recipe? It can be your secret ingredient with endless possibilities. Honey is a versatile ingredient and pantry staple in the kitchen. Honey gives recipes remarkable flavor and provides moisture to baked goods.
There are as many flavors of honey as there are flowers, since the flavor of the honey is directly influenced by the type of nectar gathered by the bees from various floral sources. Flavors can range from mild to aromatic, spicy, fragrant, or medicinal and are often combined to create gourmet flavors for the discriminating palate.
Honey color ranges from nearly colorless to dark brown, and its flavor varies from delectably mild to distinctively bold. As a rule, light-colored honey is milder in taste and dark-colored honey is stronger. Texture can also vary from thin to heavy.
While there is no official U.S. federal definition of ‘raw’ honey, the National Honey Board defines raw honey as “honey as it exists in the beehive or as obtained by extraction, settling or straining without adding heat.” Raw honey will crystalize quickly because it is unfiltered. Filtering helps delay crystallization, helping the honey to remain liquid for a much longer period than unfiltered honey. Pasteurized honey is heated to prevent crystallization and yeast fermentation during storage.
Each tablespoon of raw honey contains about 65 calories and is fat-free, cholesterol-free and sodium-free. The average composition of raw honey is approximately 80 percent carbohydrates, 18 percent water and 2 percent vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Composed primarily of fructose, glucose and water, honey also contains small amounts of a wide array of vitamins and minerals, including niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
Honey not only imparts a unique flavor to any dish, but it also balances and enhances the flavor profiles of other ingredients used in a recipe. Honey is slightly sweeter than sugar, so less can be used to achieve the same sweetness intensity. Honey acts as a binder and thickener for sauces, dressings, marinades, and dips. Honey is also an excellent choice to use in salad dressings, since its emulsifying qualities make it a perfect stabilizer. Honey provides and retains moisture to a variety of dishes and can even extend the shelf life of baked goods.
One pound of honey is about 1-1/3 cups. If you are measuring honey by weight, 1 cup will weigh 12 ounces.
For best results, use recipes developed for using honey. Honey can be used to replace some of the sugar called for in many recipes. Use these guidelines:
One-half of the sugar in a cake recipe can be replaced with honey. For every 1 cup of sugar replaced, reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup.
The amount of sugar that can be replaced with honey varies with the kind of cookie being made. For brownies, half of the sugar can be replaced. For fruit bars, honey can replace two-thirds of the sugar called for in the recipe. Only one-third of the sugar can be replaced in gingersnaps.
Add a pinch of baking soda to recipes that do not call for sour cream or sour milk, so as to reduce the acidity of the honey, which may cause overbrowning. When making either cakes or cookies, first mix the honey with the fat or the liquid. Then mix it thoroughly with the other ingredients. If this is not done, a soggy layer will form on the top of the baked product.
Products made with honey brown faster than foods made with other sweeteners. So when you bake products made with honey, set the oven temperature 25°F lower than what is indicated in the recipe.
Beat honey candies longer, and seal them more tightly when storing them to keep the honey from absorbing atmospheric moisture.
For easy measuring and clean-up, coat measuring cup or spoon with cooking spray before adding honey and it will slip right out without any waste!
Honey keeps best in a dry place at a cool temperature between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If properly stored, honey will not spoil. However, honey will ferment if it is diluted by moisture from the atmosphere or by other liquids. Prevent fermentation by keeping honey containers tightly sealed before and between uses.
Honey will start to form crystals as it gets older or if it is refrigerated. It is not an indicator of spoilage, impurity, or quality. To make it liquid again, place the honey in an open container in a pan of warm water and stir until the crystals dissolve, or place the honey container into near boiling water that has been removed from the heat. Do not have the honey in a plastic container and do not overheat it, which may alter flavor and color because of carmelization of the sugars.
Warning! Raw honey is not for babies! Honey and products made with honey must not be fed to infants younger than one year, because honey can cause “infant botulism” as their immune systems are not yet developed. Spores of the bacteria that cause botulism are present in honey. Remember that these spores in honey are not destroyed by regular cooking or baking methods.
Honey is a wonderful ingredient for cooking. Honey enhances browning and crisping in baked goods and in glazes for meat and vegetables. It helps food retain moisture and aids as a binder. Honey adds multifaceted notes to your favorite dishes.
OVEN-FRIED CHICKEN WITH HONEY-BUTTER SAUCE
- 1/2 cup (1/4 pound) butter
- 1 tender chicken, cut up for frying
- 1 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 teaspoons paprika
Melt butter in a shallow baking pan in a 400°F oven – watch carefully. Remove baking pan from oven. Dip chicken pieces into mixture of flour, salt, pepper, and paprika. As pieces of floured chicken are placed in pan, turn to coat with butter, and then bake skin side down in a single layer. Bake for 30 minutes in the 400°F oven. Turn chicken. All poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of no less than 165F. Pour honey butter sauce over chicken. If chicken cannot be served at once, reduce oven heat and brush chicken again with the sauce.
Honey butter sauce
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
Melt butter in a saucepan. Add honey and lemon juice. Stir. Glaze chicken after it has baked for 30 minutes.
(Sources: Cooking with Honey by The Carolina Bee Company; Michigan State University Extension; National Honey Board)
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