“If everything is honey, and I am what I eat, I must be made of honey, and life is very sweet” Winnie The Pooh
Honey has many uses – we use it baking, in our tea and smoothies, drizzled over a delicious dessert, to soothe sore throats or as a health supplement, and more. Honeys have distinct flavors depending on where they came from and what flowers sustained the bees, sort of like fine wine or olive oil. There is not one go-to honey that is good for all uses. Honey experts recommend experimenting with different honeys to see which you like for which use.
Based on research from chefs and food folks, here are the recommendations for superior honeys to fill the various categories.
Every pantry needs a versatile honey that can be used in most situations. It should be mild. Often a blended (processed in a facility that uses many beekeepers) honey from many sources will suit many purposes. This Nature Nate’s 100% Pure Raw & Unfiltered Honey is 16 oz. for $18.49.
A recommended honey for baking is Dr. Pescia’s Chestnut Honey. The chestnut blossoms the nectar comes from are in Chianti. The bees are transported to the chestnut woods so that it is a monofloral honey. It has a potent and molasses-like taste and in addition to baking, it goes well as a condiment to cheese. $15.99. See below for a delicious recipe for Honey Cake with chestnut honey.
Another honey recommended for baking is Mieli Thun French Honeysuckle Honey. It is delicate and sweet with a floral and woody flavor. It is monofloral and has no pasteurization or additives. $21.99.
If you like a subtle fruity, citrus flavor, orange blossom honey is great for using in salad dressings and marinades. This 3 oz. jar of Savanna Bee Company Orange Blossom Honey is $11.95. See below for an orange blossom honey glaze recipe link.
A great honey to use in tea or brush on pastries or fresh bread is the Savannah Bee Company’s Tupelo Honey. it comes from the Apalachicola River Basins of Georgia and Florida. It has an earthy, buttery and rich flavor and the color is a lovely amber. In its pure form, it will not crystallize. 12 oz. is $19.00.
A good honey to use to ‘finish’ fruit or other desserts is blueberry honey. It has a delicate fruity taste and pairs well with yogurts, fruit and nuts. It can also be added to sour cream or crème fraiche when used to finish a dessert. King Arthur Flour has a wonderful Blueberry Honey Scones recipe I’ve included at the end of this article. 10.5 oz. $14.04.
New York Magazine recommends Andrew’s Honey Ambrosia as the best medicinal honey. It is a mixture of honey, pollen, propolis and royal jelly which Andrew claims is ‘good for what ails you’. One teaspoon daily is recommended. It should be stored on its side to keep the good stuff from all sinking to the bottom. $20 a jar.
Another medicinal honey is Manuka honey from New Zealand. It is a monofloral honey that is reported to aid in healing wounds and be useful in many other home remedies like soothing sore throats. It is used in DIY beauty regimes and is said to increase energy. On top of all that it is delicious. This 17 oz. jar from Wedderspoon is $34.33.
If you’d like to sample different kinds of honey, here are some sampler sets:
Savannah Bee Company’s Southern Selections include 3 12 oz. jars of Orange Blossom, Wildflower and Tupelo. $53.00.
Sandt’s Unfiltered Raw Honey Varietal Bundle includes Buckwheat, Wildflower, Blueberry. $28.47.
Blueberry Honey Scones
Yields 6-8 servings
2 cups (240 grams) King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (113 grams) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons honey (we recommend blueberry)
1/2 cup (120 mL) heavy cream, plus extra for brushing
6 ounces (170 grams) fresh blueberries*
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the cubed butter and rub the butter between your fingers until the dough resembles coarse sand with a few larger pieces remaining. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, vanilla, honey, and heavy cream. Pour over the scone batter, add the blueberries, and lightly mix until the dough comes together. The dough will be somewhat sticky.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. With floured hands, form the dough into a circle. If you need to fold the dough over to evenly distribute the moisture, you may do so, but no more than a few times. Flatten the dough until it is about 1-inch thick. Using a sharp knife, cut 6-8 equal pie wedges. Transfer scones to a baking sheet using a flat spatula and brush the tops of the scones with heavy cream. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Drizzle the scones with honey and serve with a side of creme fraiche.
*Frozen blueberries (not thawed) will also work, but the berries will dye the scone a bright blue.
Recipe courtesy of Pastry Affair blog and King Arthur Flour.
Majestic and Moist Honey Cake
Adapted from Marcy Goldman’s Treasure of Jewish Holiday Baking
3 1/2 cups (440 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons (about 8 grams) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup (235 ml) vegetable oil
1 cup (340 grams) chestnut honey (orange blossom honey may be substituted depending on preference)
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (95 grams) brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 cup warm (235 ml) coffee or strong tea
1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh orange juice
1/4 cup (60 ml) rye or whiskey- optional
1/2 cup (45 to 55 grams) slivered or sliced almonds (optional)
Fits in three loaf pans, two 9-inch square or round cake pans, one 9 or 10 inch tube or bundt cake pan, or one 9 by 13 inch sheet cake. I made mine in two full-size loaf pans plus two miniature ones.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease pan(s) with non-stick cooking spray. For tube or angel food pans, line the bottom with lightly greased parchment paper, cut to fit.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Make a well in the center, and add oil, honey, white sugar, brown sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee or tea, orange juice and rye or whiskey, if using. (If you measure your oil before the honey, it will be easier to get all of the honey out.)
Using a strong wire whisk or in an electric mixer on slow speed, stir together well to make a thick, well-blended batter, making sure that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom.
Spoon batter into prepared pan(s). Sprinkle top of cake(s) evenly with almonds, if using. Place cake pan(s) on two baking sheets, stacked together (this will ensure the cakes bake properly with the bottom baking faster than the cake interior and top).
Bake until cake tests done, that is, it springs back when you gently touch the cake center. For angel and tube cake pans, this will take 60 to 75 minutes, loaf cakes, about 45 to 55 minutes. For sheet style cakes, baking time is 40 to 45 minutes. Let cake stand fifteen minutes before removing from pan.
For an additional chestnut honey recipe see this New York Times recipe for Chestnut Honey Squares.
Orange Blossom Honey Glaze
1 c. orange blossom honey
1/4 c. chicken stock
Place honey and stock in a small saucepan and whisk over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until smooth. Using a pastry brush, brush on chicken, pork or sweet potatoes before cooking. Reserve 1/3 cup for additional sauce.