Cooking with honey

Cooking with honey, French honey loaf, Honey Anzacs
Cooking with honey, French honey loaf, Honey Anzacs
Cooking with honey, French honey loaf, Honey Anzacs
Backyard Bees, French honey loaf, Honey Anzacs
Pam and Ted Lowick, beehives, Ogunbil
Learning how to cook with honey has become an interest after reading about the health benefits of using produce as close as possible to its raw form in Ngaire Hobbins' book, 'Better Brain Food'. Ngaire says that while honey is a sweetener and should be used sparingly as a treat, not an everyday food, less refined sweeteners like honey contain small amounts of minerals so are more attractive than granulated table sugars. She gives the tip, the darker they are, the more extra nutrients they contain. 'I am Food' author, Anthia Koullouros suggests using honey like a spice, sparingly, and buying good quality, organic raw honey.
We always have honey in ample supply, my parents Don and Margaret Dixon having kept bees for about 40 years, and our shop buying honey from local beekeepers, Pam and Ted Lowick, in 20 litre drums to bottle and sell under our Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores brand. Driving past a group of hives amongst gum trees in a paddock always makes me a smile.
I asked Mum about cooking with honey, and despite having a cupboard shelf stacked with honey in various sized jars and buckets, she doesn't use it in cooking, not being sure of the quantities to use. A conversation with customer and beekeeper, Maggie Stewart from @farmandfeastproduce, revealed a helpful place to start. "I imagine the sweet ingredient in a recipe in liquid form, and substitute it with honey."
Experimenting with honey took me to 'Backyard Bees' by Doug Purdie to cook French honey loaf, and Honey Anzacs. After an afternoon of cooking, Duncan returned home from the shop and asked, "What's the honey smell?", the kitchen taking on the unmistakable sweet scent of honey. The French honey loaf is just like a giant honey jumble. We like ours toasted and buttered, or sliced fresh, buttered and packed in a lunch box. Our sons specifically ask for it. It would be fun to make a batch with a traditional pink or white icing for the full honey jumble effect. The Honey Anzacs were popular too. Both recipes have a chewy consistency and a distinctive honey flavour. If you have honey on hand it makes sense to use it rather than making a special trip to buy Golden Syrup, conventionally used in Anzac biscuits.
Talking with 'Backyard Bees' author, Doug Purdie, he pointed out some additional benefits of cooking with honey. "Honey is hygroscopic, meaning it will hold moisture for a lot longer than an ingredient like sugar, which tends to crisp," Doug says. "It is a matter of tweaking a recipe, substituting a lesser amount of honey than sugar, and adjusting to achieve the right batter consistency."
Doug says he has a favourite syrup cake recipe that he substitutes honey to make a granulated sugar syrup. In other recipes he uses half honey, half sugar, or uses honey to glaze a cake, which helps preserve it.
Doug added that all honey is antibacterial and the medicinal properties of Manuka honey, including pre-biotics to promote gut flora, are not lost in cooking.  
From Backyard Bees, Doug Purdie 
French honey loaf
Preparation 10 minutes, cooking 2 1/2 hours, makes approx 12 slices
Ingredients: 225g honey, 225g caster sugar, 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), 250ml (1 cup) boiling water, 450g (3 cups) plain flour (spelt flour works well too), 2 teaspoons ground ginger, pinch salt, butter, to serve. (The first time I made French honey loaf I made the mistake of buying butter and eggs, then realising I didn't need them. It is strange to make a cake without butter and eggs.) 
Method: Preheat oven to 120C. Grease and line a loaf tin with baking paper. Set oven shelf to the lower third of the oven to prevent loaf overbrowning. Place honey and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (with a paddle attachment if available). Mix bicarbonate of soda and boiling water in a jug and pour in. Mix on low speed until the honey dissolves. Sift flour, ground ginger and salt into a bowl and add to the mixer. Mix on low speed until flour is incorporated, then mix on medium speed for 1 minute until it becomes a smooth batter. Bake for 2 1/2 hours until the centre springs back when gently pressed. To serve, slice thinly and spread with butter. Also toasts well. The loaf keeps for five days in an airtight container. If hot or humid store in the refrigerator. 
Honey Anzac biscuits
Preparation 25 minutes, cooking 20 minutes, makes approx 20 biscuits
Ingredients: 150g (1 cup) plain flour, 100g (1/2 cup) very lightly packed brown sugar, 90g (1 cup) desiccated coconut, 95g rolled oats, 125g (1/2 cup) butter, 115g (1/3 cup honey), 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
Method: Preheat oven to 160C. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Sift flour into a large bowl. I used spelt flour successfully. Add brown sugar, coconut, and oats, and combine. Heat butter and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until butter melts. Remove from heat. Mix bicarbonate of soda with 1 tablespoon of boiling water, add to honey-butter mixture and stir in. Pour into dry ingredients and combine. Roll level tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place 5cm apart on pre-prepared baking trays. Flatten each ball with damp fingers to 1cm high. Bake for 12-13 minutes until deep golden brown, swapping the trays halfway through cooking time. Leave to cool on trays for five minutes before transferring to wire racks. Store in airtight container. 

Megan Trousdale
Megan Trousdale

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