How Sweet It Is: That Golden Touch of Honey


The color and flavor of honey differ depending on a bee's nectar source (the blossoms). In fact, there are more than 300 unique kinds of honey in the United States and even more available throughout the world, coming from such diverse floral sources as clover, eucalyptus and orange blossom. In general, lighter colored honeys are mild in flavor, while darker honeys are usually more robust in flavor.

Most of us know honey as a sweet, golden liquid. But, in fact, honey can be found in a variety of forms. There's liquid honey that is free of visible crystals; it's extracted from the honeycomb by centrifugal force, gravity or straining.

While all honey will crystallize in time, creme honey (also known as spun honey, sugared honey or whipped honey) is sold in a crystallized state. The crystallization is controlled so that, at room temperature, the honey can be spread like butter. In numerous homes around the world, creme honey is preferred to the liquid form.

Finally, there is comb honey. This is honey that comes as it was produced — in the honeybees' wax comb. The comb, as well as the honey, is edible.

Cooking with honey is always a good thing, and not just because we're supposed to incorporate honey into our lives at certain specific times of the year. Honey, you see, is really a healthy ingredient. Because of its high fructose content, honey has a higher sweetening power than sugar. This means you can use less honey than sugar to achieve the sweetness you desire.

And this, of course, translates into fewer calories. To substitute honey for sugar in recipes, start by substituting up to half of the sugar called for. With a little experimentation, honey can replace all the sugar in some recipes. When baking with honey, remember the following:

· Reduce any liquid called for by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey used.

· Add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of honey used. Reduce oven temperature by 25° to prevent over-browning. When measuring honey, coat the measuring cup with nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil before adding it. The honey will slide right out.

· Always store honey at room temperature; never put it in the refrigerator. If your honey becomes cloudy, don't worry. It's just crystallization — a natural process. Place your honey jar in warm water until the crystals disappear. If you're in a hurry, place it in a microwave-safe container and heat it on high for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Remember, never boil or scorch honey!

· And one final note: Honey should not be fed to babies less than one year of age.

This year, let honey lend its sweetness of tradition to some not-so-traditional recipes. Once you've set such a sweet precedent for 5770, you'll want to use these recipes all year round:

Honey-Lime Salmon

3 Tbsps. honey 
1 tsp. ground cumin 
1 tsp. ground coriander 
3/4 tsp. salt 
3/4 tsp. freshly grated lime peel 
1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper 
4 salmon fillets, 3/4-inch thick (about 6 oz. each), skin removed 
3 Tbsps. chopped fresh cilantro leaves 
lime wedges

In a cup, mix honey, cumin, coriander, salt, lime peel, pepper and 1 teaspoon very hot water until blended.

With tweezers, remove any bones from the salmon. With hands, rub the honey-spice mixture all over salmon.

Place the salmon on the grill over medium heat and cook 10 minutes, or just until fish turns opaque throughout and flakes easily when tested with a fork, carefully turning salmon over once with a wide metal spatula. You can pan-fry the salmon if you don't want to use the grill.

Sprinkle salmon with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

Serves 4.

Cinnamon-Honey Chicken

Marinade Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 cups dry sherry (white zinfandel may be substituted) 
2 Tbsps. cinnamon 
1 cup honey 
1/3 cup lime juice 
zest of one lime 
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed (or to taste) 
salt and pepper, to taste 

1 3 lb. chicken, cut into eighths

In a bowl, mix together all marinade ingredients.

Arrange chicken pieces in a single layer in a shallow, non-aluminum, ovenproof pan (or use a zip-lock bag, then transfer before cooking). Refrigerate overnight, turning pieces occasionally.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place the chicken in a baking pan and cook, uncovered, 40 to 50 minutes, turning once or twice. Or bake for a shorter time, then broil until done for crispy skin.

Serves 6.

Honey-Chocolate Bars

4 cups crisped rice cereal 
3/4 cup honey 
6 oz. pareve semisweet chocolate chips 
6 oz. pareve butterscotch chips 
1/2 cup peanut butter

Heat cereal in a shallow pan in 350° oven for 10 minutes.

While this is heating, bring honey to simmer over low heat, or (microwave) in a buttered dish. Remove the honey from the heat, and add the chips and cereal. Stir until well-coated.

Pat mixture into an 8×10-inch pan (or similar) that has been coated with a vegetable spray and refrigerate. Cut into squares when well-chilled.

Makes 20 two-inch squares.

Chocolate-Dipped Honey Cookies
(Dairy or Pareve)

3 eggs 
1 cup sugar 
1/3 cup butter or pareve margarine, melted 
1 cup honey 
4 cups flour 
1/2 tsp. soda 
1/2 tsp. salt 
1 tsp. cinnamon 
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs until they are light in color. Mix in the sugar.

Next, add the butter or margarine and honey; blend well.

Add the flour, soda, salt and cinnamon; mix well.

Drop by the teaspoonful on greased baking sheets.

Bake at 350° for 13 to 15 minutes, or until brown around the edges. Do not overcook!

Let the cookies cool, then dip half of one cookie in the melted chocolate.

Place the dipped cookie on waxed paper and refrigerate.

Makes 6 to 7 dozen cookies.

Fresh Fruit Salad With Honey-Rum Dressing

Dressing Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. chopped crystallized ginger 
1/2 cup unsweetened orange juice 
2 Tbsps. honey 
1/2 tsp. rum extract 

2 cups halved strawberries 
2 kiwi, peeled and sliced 
1 papaya peeled, sliced

In a small saucepan, combine all of the dressing ingredients. Heat just to boiling, then remove from heat. Cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, combine the fruit. Pour the dressing over fruit mixture; toss lightly. Refrigerate for 1 hour to blend flavors, tossing occasionally.

Note: Feel free to add melons, grapes, peaches, apricots or whatever else is in season — or change the fruit mix. As for the rum, this recipe can be modified, through trial and error, using regular rum. I would try using the light kind and not the dark kind. Serves 6. This can be doubled or tripled.

Dips, Sauces and Butters

Honey-Cocoa Dip — Combine 1 cup nonfat sour cream, 1/2 cup each honey and unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Cover mixture and refrigerate. Serve as a dip with fruit and chunks of angel-food cake.

Cherry-Champagne Sauce — Reserve 1/4 cup liquid from 1 can (16 oz.) of tart red cherries. Purée cherries in a blender; add reserved liquid and 1/4 cup honey. In large saucepan, bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until mixture is reduced by half. Cool. Stir in 1/4 cup chilled champagne. Serve over custard, sliced fruit or ice-cream.

Honey-Rum Sauce — In a small bowl, blend 1/2 cup creme honey, 3 tablespoons heavy cream and 1 tablespoon dark rum (or 1 teaspoon rum flavoring). Stir in 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts. Refrigerate in airtight container. Serve over ice-cream or frozen yogurt.

Honey-Fruit Spread

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened 
1/4 cup honey 
1/4 cup dried fruit (apricots, dates, raisins, etc.) 
2 Tbsps. chopped pecans 
1/2 tsp. grated orange peel

In a food processor, combine all ingredients.

Mix well, but make sure that you don't purée everything. You still want some small pieces to add to the flavor and texture.

Makes about 3/4 cup.

Honey-Hazelnut Spread

1/2 cup honey 
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened 
1/2 cup ground, roasted, skinned hazelnuts*

In a mixing bowl, cream together the honey and butter. Stir in the hazelnuts by hand. Makes about 11/4 cups.

* Roast hazelnuts in flat pan at 325° for 15 minutes, or until skins blister and nuts are lightly colored. Cool slightly; rub between palms of hands or with clean towel to remove skins.

Spiced Honey Butter

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened 
1/4 cup honey 
1 tsp. grated orange peel 
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

In a mixing bowl combine all the ingredients; mix well.

Makes about 3/4 cup.

Eileen Goltz, a chef and caterer, is author of Perfectly Pareve. The article comes courtesy of the Orthodox Union.


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