One joy of baking is digging into a moist and sweet cake or taking a bite of a soft, chewy cookie. Once you bake a few crumbly snickerdoodles and flaky scones using traditional recipes, you might feel the need to try something different. Exploring honey as an alternative to granulated sugar is not only a delicious way to change things up but it adds a different element to your baking.
There are different flavors and textures to use - not to mention, honey is sweeter than sugar anyway (and some would argue healthier). Here are some things to consider as you bake with honey.
Different Honey Flavors
Honey tastes differently depending on what kind of blossom or flower the honeybees used as a nectar source. In the United States there are over 300 different variations of honey available based on flavor and processing technique.
Generally, the lighter in color the honey is, the more mild the flavor. This type is ideal for baking and will not overpower the flavor. Darker honey has a more distinct flavor and can affect your baked good depending on what you are using it for.
The most popular flavors of honey are:
Clover Honey - This is a staple household ingredient you’ll find in most pantries. Clover honey is only mildly floral, making it a very versatile sweetener. Because of its light taste, this is the perfect substitute for granulated sugar in just about any recipe.
Orange Blossom Honey - This orange blossom honey is also relatively mild but has a citrusy twist to it, resulting from the orange blossom used as a nectar source. This is also a versatile sweetner that can be used in just about anything.
Buckwheat Honey - This thick and dark brown honey has an earthy flavor that almost resembles molasses. Buckwheat Honey can have notes of dark chocolate, vanilla, and coffee. It is distinct enough to possibly alter the flavor of what you are baking.
Blueberry Honey - This honey has a more bold flavor that is still not overpowering, but is reminiscent of its dark berry source. It is tangy and full flavored. It’s a popular variation for specialty honey.
Wildflower Honey - Much like its name implies, this is the wild card honey. No jar is just the same as another because the bees that produced it pollinated a number of different species of flowering plants in their natural environment. This results in a dark, amber color with a light, fruity flavor. The amalgamation of different flowers gives a unique taste worth trying.
Something to keep in mind when baking with honey is that the subtleties of the flavor do not necessarily translate into the taste. Any honey you use will make your baked goods sweet and moist, but the subtle notes of blueberry, blackberry, or Neem blossom will not be super apparent after being baked in the oven. Of course, this does depend on the quantity used and the nature of your baked good. A lot of bakers will say you’re better off using clover honey or alfalfa honey for mixtures. However, you can use the specialty honeys as dizzles on top of hors d'oeuvres, cheeses, and fresh fruit. It will make them taste oh-so-delicious!
Regular and Raw Honey
Aside from flavors to consider, there are different ways honey is processed. Regular honey is filtered and pasteurized to remove pollen, beeswax, and yeast. This makes it as clear as possible so it’s enticing to people in the grocery store.
Raw honey is close to how it already exists in the beehive. It’s considered to be more nutritious because it contains nearly 30 types of bioactive plant compounds. These compounds act as antioxidants which have amazing health benefits, including reduced inflammation and a lower risk of heart disease and certain cancers. This Raw Blackberry Honey from Glory Bee, for instance, is 100% pure and unfiltered honey, basically straight from the hive. It’s rich, warm flavor is great for making sauces and baking. Many raw and unfiltered variations of honey are out there that provide more natural benefits and make your baking treat taste extra special.
How To Replace Granulated Sugar With Honey
There are some adjustments you’ll need to make if you are using honey in place of sugar in a recipe. The most important thing to remember is honey adds moisture to your mix, which affects its chemistry. You’ll need to reduce moisture somewhere else in the recipe. A good rule of thumb is to subtract 1/4 cup of liquid elsewhere for every full cup of honey used.
Honey is also acidic. For every cup of honey you use, add ½ a teaspoon of baking soda to neutralize the honey’s acidity and help the dough to rise. You still want the dough to bake after all!
Honey bakes faster than granulated sugar. To compensate for this you will need to lower the temperature in your oven by 20-30 degrees.
Storage and Safety of Honey
A great quality of honey is that it doesn’t spoil, it only crystallizes. While you can’t stop it, you can slow down crystallization by storing it properly.
Crystallization is a slow process that occurs when the water molecules separate from the glucose in the honey. Lower temperatures accelerate crystallization so make sure you don’t store your honey in cool rooms. Room temperature is ideal for storing honey.
If your honey crystallizes, you can easily revert it back to its liquid form by heating it up. Just pop the top of you container and put it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. If the container it’s in is not microwave safe, then you can simply place it in a pan of warm water.
Crystallized honey is still edible. In fact, some people like to control the crystallization process to create “creamed honey,” which can easily be spread on toast. The smaller crystals give the honey some thickness
The Possibilities are Endless
As you can tell, honey is a fantastic ingredient to use in your baked goods. It’s sweet, adds moisture, and provides a healthier alternative to processed sugar. There are as many ways to use it as there are different kinds out there.
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