Honey, ah sugar, sugar. Scrumptious liquid gold.
Honey is produced from nectar by bees. Honey can vary widely in color and flavor. The flavor will depend upon the type of flower the bee extracted the nectar from. When you visit a farmers market, a local farm stand, or small store with local goodies, look for raw local honey. As you taste honey from different local producers, you can easily distinguish subtleties and unique flavors. The most ubiquitous — as well as notably smooth and rich — local honey producer is Boston Honey Company. Sold in local markets and farm stands, their honey comes from from apiaries in fields and locations throughout Eastern Massachusetts, including Concord and neighboring Sudbury.
Honey as a sweetener is frequently lauded as being a “better” sweetener than table sugar, artificial sweeteners, and so on. Like so many things, there are a few considerations. Moderation is important. A teaspoon of honey is sweeter than a teaspoon of table sugar, so you are likely to use less. Honey does offer health benefits. For example, honey has higher levels of antioxidants than other sweeteners, contains components that aid and promote digestive health, and provides natural energy for athletes. Most of these benefits are available when you consume raw honey that has not been processed.
Here are just a few suggestions for enjoying honey: honey in your tea; added to a marinade; replace the “J” in your PB&J with some “H”; in hot water to soothe a sore throat; brie, French bread, and honey; added to a smoothie; atop vanilla ice cream; and the list goes on.
Honey cake can be special treat this time of year. For the Jewish New Year, families share apples dipped in honey and honey cake to symbolize the hope for sweetness in the New Year. Anyone can enjoy this honey cake and some sweetness.
Majestic and Moist New Year's Honey Cake:
Adapted from epicurious.com, A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking by Marcy Goldman.
3 1/2 cups pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
a couple of dashes of cloves, allspice and freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup vegetable oil (scant)
1 cup honey (raw, local)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (scant)
3 eggs (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coffee
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup whisky
Makes two nine-inch round cake pans, plus one small mini loaf — the perfect size for gift-giving.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter the pans.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Make a well in the center and add the oil, honey, sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee, orange juice, and whisky.
Using an electric mixer on slow speed, combine the ingredients well to make a somewhat liquidy batter, making sure that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom of the bowl.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Place the cake pans on two baking sheets stacked together and bake until the cake springs back when you touch it gently in the center. Bake 40 to 45 minutes — check mini loaf after 30 minutes. Let the cake stand for 15 minutes before removing it from the pan, then invert it onto a wire rack to cool completely. Tastes heavenly warm, and for several days following. Also, this cake freezes well. Happy New Year!