A Guide to Buying, Cooking, and Baking With Honey
From deep-flavored buckwheat honey to delicate linden honey, this golden nectar is prized around the world. With more than 300 different types of honey in the United States alone, going through each one would be a bit over the top for our purposes--so to narrow things down so it's most useful for homecooks, here's a handy guide to some of the more popular types of honey you'll find at your grocery store, plus favorite recipes using honey.
Types of Honey
Honey can be mild or spicy, buttery, fruity, herbal, or woodsy, depending on the source of the nectar. The general rule is: the darker the color, the stronger the flavor.
Clover honey -- the most common type--is light and neutral. It will sweeten, but not dominate, a recipe.
Orange blossom honey is also a good, light floral choice to use in recipes.
Buckwheat honey has a bold, musky flavor (think of buckwheat pancakes).
Linden honey is characterized by its herbal and aromatic notes.
Honeycomb is fun as a novelty -- try spreading it on toast -- but it's not useful in recipes. Honey butters and creams are generally in a crystallized and semi-solid form; they're best used as spreads, as they tend to be more expensive than liquid honey.
Honey is a wonderful ingredient in many sweet and savory applications--as well as in beer and fermented as wine. Honey can also be infused with herbs such as rosemary, thyme, or sage. These flavored honeys are especially nice for glazing meats.
Baking with Honey
Honey is the original all-natural, unprocessed sweetener. And, since it's sweeter than white sugar, you can use less of it when baking:
- Use ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon of honey for every cup of sugar
- Decrease the liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup
- Add ½ teaspoon of baking soda for every cup of honey
- Reduce your oven temperature by 25 degrees
Another reason honey is great to use when baking is because it's hygroscopic (water-attracting): it absorbs moisture from the air, keeping your baked goods moist and delicious for days.
Honey Storage and Safety
Honey is relatively shelf-stable, but it should be stored in an air-tight jar. Heat will cause it to degrade over time, so you may wish to store your honey in the refrigerator if you don't eat it very often. If your honey has crystallized, gently heat it in a pan of simmering water (or uncap the jar and microwave on medium power until fluid, checking every 30 seconds) to restore its consistency.
Note: Never give honey to children younger than one year old. Honey may contain trace amounts of botulism spores. While these spores are harmless to most people, immature digestive systems are susceptible. Infants can develop breathing problems or paralysis. (Pasteurization or cooking will not destroy the spores.)
Savory Honey Recipes
Honey Dressings, Sauces, and Condiments
Not Quite Honey
Think you can do it better than the bees? Try these faux honey recipes: