Baking with Honey
Honey is a fantastic natural sweetener for baked goods. You can plan your baking around honey or use it as a substitute for granulated sugar. Here’s everything you need to know to bake with honey!
Desserts made with honey won’t be the same as their sugar counterparts, but they are equally good in their own right. In general, cookies sweetened with honey are more chewy than crisp and cakes and cupcakes have a tighter crumb.
How to Bake with Honey
Substituting Sugar for Honey
Honey is a one-to-one substitute for granulated sugar, but you will likely need to modify your original recipe:
- If the recipe calls for 1 cup or more of sugar, reduce the other liquids in the recipe by ¼ cup for every 1 cup of honey.
- In recipes with no other liquids, increase the flour by 2 tablespoons for each cup of honey.
- For every cup of honey used, increase the baking soda in your recipe by 1/2 teaspoon to help neutralize the acidity of the honey and to help your baked goods rise.
- Honey browns faster than sugar so reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees to prevent over-browning.
Measure honey using a liquid measuring cup unless you are measuring ingredients by weight. (I explain a little about why it is important to measure liquids this way and solids with solid measuring cups in my posts about baking tools and how much a cup of flour weighs.)
When honey sits for a long time, it gets crystallized and may be difficult to remove from its jar. To remove the crystals and to make it easier to pour and measure the honey, take the lid off of your glass jar and microwave it for ten seconds at a time until it is smooth. If your honey is in a non-microwaveable container or if you don’t own a microwave, rest your sealed honey container in warm water for 15 minutes.
Make sure that you get all of the honey out of your measuring cup. To do so, you can grease the measuring cup with a non-stick spray before adding the honey to it or, if the recipe calls for oil, measure the oil first using the same measuring cup you’ll later use for the honey.
What Type of Honey is Best for Baking?
Depending on what bees are eating, honey can take on all different flavors and even colors. (Did you catch the story about bees feeding on remnants of colored M&M candy shells?) I was reminded of this during a recent trip to Florida where I did a honey tasting offered by a company called Keez Bees. Each honey tasted dramatically different than the next. Their mamey honey was the most distinctive, with a chocolaty flavor derived from the bees feeding on that unique fruit.
With such an array of honey options, surely choosing the right honey would matter tremendously in baking, wouldn’t it? I set out to find out.
To conduct my test, I did the following:
- I selected four honeys that tasted very different from each other.
- I baked some simple honey cookies four times, once with each honey. I made sure that honey was the predominant flavor of the cookie; the recipe has no other sugars and has no additional spices or flavors aside from a little vanilla extract.
- My husband, the professional photographer for this site, gave me a blind cookie taste test and I gave the test to other willing subjects.
My subjects kept asking if I was tricking them: “Are these all the same cookie?” I could taste no difference between the cookies baked with different honeys and neither could my tasters. I was surprised by this result because I’ve done similar tests with chocolate brands and there was a dramatic difference in taste. Clearly, honey is a more subtle flavor.
I would not suggest using your favorite specialty honey for baking with honey. It’s not worth it since you will most likely not be able to detect the honey’s subtleties in the end product.
The best time to use a specialty honey is in a honey drizzle that goes on after the bake because you will be tasting that honey all on its own and the different flavor will come through more.
Although any honey will do for baking, I always recommend buying local honey. Honeybee Conservancy has a great list that covers some key reasons to purchase local honey (help with allergies is a major one!).
Lastly, it doesn’t pay to buy raw honey for baking. It will no longer be raw once you bake it.
Other Natural Sweetener Ideas
If you want to experiment with some other natural sweeteners, consider baking with carob or maple sugar.
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