Baking with honey

Tips from a professional.

Honey (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Rosh Hashana is definitely the “honey” holiday, and most of you will be going wild baking and cooking various dishes that include honey. To assist you in your sweet labors, here are a few professional tips to get the best results using honey in your baking.
How does honey compare with sugar? Regular sugar, or sucrose, is a 50%:50% mix of glucose and fructose, while honey leans slightly toward the fructose side with a 40%:27% ratio of fructose to glucose (with a few other ingredients such as waxes, etc.). Subjectively speaking, honey is perceived by most people as identically sweet to sugar. This means you may substitute honey equally for sugar, i.e., 1 cup sugar = 1 cup honey. However, since this is a subjective perception, some may find honey slightly sweeter than sugar, and you may need to experiment by reducing the honey gradually until you reach your own personal preference.
But things are a little more complicated than that, since honey is a liquid, while sugar is a solid. Therefore, substituting honey for sugar will raise the hydration factor in the recipe. To balance things out, you have to reduce the other liquid content by ¼ cup for every 1 cup of honey.
For example, if a bread recipe calls for 8 cups of flour, 4 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar, the honey equivalent would be 8 cups flour, 3¾ cups water and 1 cup of honey. In recipes with only egg as the liquid, it is easier to increase the dry content than reduce the liquid content. In this case, increase the flour by 2 Tbsp. for each cup of honey.
Another difference between using sugar and honey is related to the higher fructose content of honey. Fructose caramelizes at a lower temperature than glucose, between 90º and 110º. Since honey has more fructose than sucrose, the baked item will brown more quickly and at a lower temperature. Therefore, bake honey items at 4º lower than sugar items. Honey can also be added to the egg wash used to baste hallot. If so, the same temperature rule applies.
Honey adds viscosity to the batter, so it needs some additional assistance in rising. For cookie dough/batter, add an extra ½ tsp. baking powder for every cup of honey.
Some recipes, especially cookie recipes, rely on the granulated structure of sugar to achieve the final texture, such as in the creaming butter and sugar stage. Using honey instead of sugar will most likely not produce the same results. In these cases, instead of substituting all the sugar for honey, substitute only a half or one-third.
Honey has an additional level of flavor complexity provided by the type of pollen the bees use to create the honey. In selecting honey for your baking, choose the flavor that most suits the final product.
When measuring honey, spray or dip your measuring utensil in oil first. That way, the honey will slide out easily and cleanly into the mixture.
Some types of honey crystallize more quickly than others. If your honey has crystallized and does not flow, soak the honey jar in a pot of hot water for 30 minutes before use to re-liquefy it.
So for all you adventurous bakers out there, switch sugar for a taste of honey this year and herald in a sweet year.

✔ 4½ cups flour
✔ 6 tsp. instant powdered yeast
✔ 4 tsp. salt
✔ ½ cup honey
✔ 2 eggs
✔ ¾ cup water
✔ 1 Tbsp. oil
✔ 1 apple, grated
Mix all ingredients until fully incorporated. Knead for 10 minutes by hand (7 minutes by machine). Leave to rise covered for 1 hour. Punch down and divide into 7 equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball. On a baking tray, place one ball in the center and baste with egg wash (50:50 egg:water mix). Arrange the remaining six balls in a circle, symmetrically around the middle ball, using the egg wash as the “glue” to stick them together. Leave to rise for another 1½ to 2 hours. Baste again with egg wash. Bake at 180º for 20 to 25 minutes.
Master baker Les Saidel is CEO of the Saidel Artisan Baking Institute, which specializes in training and education in the field of organic, healthy, artisan baking, and inventor of Rambam Bread. He also lectures and works as a consultant in the fields of cereal chemistry, health and nutrition.