Ever wondered how old honey is, and how to substitute it into a recipe? Now you know!
Honey has been a source of calories and a symbolic substance and talisman for humans for thousands of years. Technically, honey is as ancient as the written word: references to it have been found in the cuneiform writings of Babylon and Sumeria, and the Hittite Code. A Mesolithic cave painting in Spain gives early evidence of human honey collection dating back about 8000 years! The painting depicts two human figures collecting honey and comb from a wild bee nest, using ropes to reach the nest. So far, the earliest source of honey found in the ancient world is located in Georgia, where archaeologists found honey remains on the interior surface of clay vessels in a tomb dated to about 4,700-5,500 years ago. In this case, the honey would have been packed as sustenance for the tomb’s inhabitant to take with them to the afterlife.
Honey in cooking dates back at least to ancient Egypt, if not further, where it was used to sweeten cakes and biscuits (as well as a substance for embalming!). In India, honey makes an appearance about 4,000 years ago in the Vedas and Ayurveda texts, where it takes more of a spiritual and therapeutic role. Honey was also cultivated in Mesoamerica, and used in Mayan cooking. Before cane sugar became widely available, honey was the primary sweetener for most populations in Europe and the Americas.
Honey is also prized for its nutritional benefits: though it is a sweetener, it has a much higher nutritional content than cane sugar. Raw honey is antibacterial, extremely high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, and anti-inflammatory! Though the nutritional benefits of honey are decreased when heated (ie in a cooked recipe), it remains a better choice than cane sugar, nutritionally. Enjoy it raw for full benefits!
Tips for Cooking
Honey is measured by weight: a 12 oz jar equals a standard 8 oz cup, and a quart weighs three pounds.
Honey enhances browning and crisping, so is excellent for glazing roasted and baked foods to promote browning
Honey is a natural preservative, and prolongs the shelf life of pickles and preserves
Honey is a natural emulsifier, making it perfect as a binder in salad dressings
Tips for Baking
Honey is hydrophilic, meaning it attracts water and absorbs moisture---which keeps baked things hydrated for a longer period of time (especially good if you’re mailing someone a treat!)
Honey is twice as sweet as baked goods, so if the recipe calls for 1 c of granulated sugar, it is safe to replace that with ½-¾ c of honey (adjust sweetness level to personal taste preferences).
Since honey is up to 18% water, you’ll need to reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe proportionally (about ¼ c for each cup of honey added). Typically, in recipes using more than one cup of honey, ¼ of a cup of liquid for each cup of honey should be removed.
Reduce the oven temperature by about 25 degrees, as honey browns and crisps more quickly than sugar. Just think lower and slower for baked goods with honey! The same goes with things sticking or burning a little faster: stir a bit more, and reduce the heat as necessary!
Add the smallest pinch of baking soda (unless the recipe calls for buttermilk or sour cream) to offset the slight acidity of honey and help counteract excessive browning
Choose your floral source carefully: some have a stronger flavor profile (like wildflower or clover) and your finished product will taste strongly of honey. If that’s your end goal, great! If not, use a honey like star thistle, which has a much lighter, sweet flavor, and is perfect for flavoring baked goods when you don’t want an overwhelming honey taste profile. Darker honey typically has a stronger flavor profile than lighter colored honeys.
Banana Bread with Coconut oil and Honey
If you’re not a coconut fan, don’t worry! There’s no coconut flavor noticeable in the bread—use a refined coconut oil that can take high heat. This bread is the perfect balance between hydrated and dense, with a nice crumb. The riper the bananas, the sweeter the bread! Whole wheat, refined sugar free, and full of healthy fats. Yield: 1 loaf. Recipe from Wait, Are Those Cookies, here!
1/3 c refined coconut oil, slightly melted+softened
1/4 c local honey
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 c mashed, dead bananas (usually 4-5 small ones)
1.75 c whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
a few sprinkles of chia seeds
Preheat the oven to 350, and lightly grease a loaf pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sea salt, and chia seeds. In a smaller bowl, mash up ripe bananas.
Stir together coconut oil and honey until they’re creamy and mixed. Slightly beat eggs and then stir them in as well, followed by vanilla. Mix lightly until combined, then stir bananas. Adding the dry ingredients a bit at a time, stir them in until the dry is just incorporated–don’t over mix! Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, and pop it into the oven for 45-50 minutes (a tester should come out clean). Let cool in the pan for a bit, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Store wrapped in foil on the counter for immediate consumption, or in the fridge for a few days.
Homemade Graham Crackers
These are a better version of the original! Chewy-crumbly, lightly sweet and better for you than the processed versions. Enjoy with a large glass of (dairy or non dairy!) milk for childhood nostalgia. Whole wheat and refined sugar free. Yield: about 23 crackers, about 2″ by 2.5″. From Wait are those Cookies, here!
1 c almond flour
1 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp fine grain sea salt (do not substitute coarse)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
5 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp raw, local honey
1 tsp vanilla
a small splash of almond extract, optional
Preheat oven to 350.
Combine dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl, and stir until combined. In a small bowl, combine butter and honey in a saucepan until melted and combined. Stir in extract(s). Pour wet into dry, and stir until mixed.
Roll dough out between two pieces of parchment paper, approximately the size of your cookie sheet. I rolled mine out to about 1/8″ thick—-go thinner if you want really crunchy cookies. Score into rectangles using a butter knife, then get fancy and poke little holes in the tops with a fork. Trim the excess dough off the edges and re-roll it into more squares and a few circles.
Bake for 13-15 minutes, until lightly golden. I took both batches out around 13, let them cool on the sheet for a few minutes, then moved the parchment paper to the cooling rack.
Almond Butter Brownies
Super fudgy, tall brownies with a chewy crust. These are honey sweetened, and they have a prominent honey taste. Gluten free, grain free, refined sugar free, and full of healthy fats! Yield is one 8 by 8 square pan.
1/2 c raw, runny honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c organic almond butter (mine was unsalted)
6 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
generous pinch of salt
1/3 c extra dark chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 325, and lightly grease pan of choice with coconut oil.
In a medium bowl using an electric mixer, beat together eggs, honey, and vanilla until smooth. Beat in almond butter. In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir dry into wet, mixing until just combined and adding in chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake 25-30 minutes. The center should be slightly puffed, and a toothpick should come out mostly clean (a teeny bit of fudgy is okay). Let cool completely before slicing, and store any leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge.