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October 9, 2007

Honey (Recipe: gingerbread cookies)

The second post for my friend Peter, an American chef who's running a lovely inn and restaurant in the mountains of Minas Gerais, in southeastern Brazil. I'm revisiting some favorite posts this week on The Perfect Pantry, featuring recipes that he might adapt to local Brazilian ingredients. 

Honey

Do bears really love honey, or was that just Winnie-the-Pooh's thing? And what about honey bears? Do they love honey, too?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Beekeeping, and extracting one's own honey, are all the rage in rural Rhode Island. This summer, my friend Barbara, an organic farmer, set up her first beehives. So did Tom — a writer. And Kate — a graphic designer (not much left in our jar of her very first crop of honey, pictured above). Of course, bees are the super-pollinators of our vegetable and flower gardens, but does that make honey, the world's oldest sweetener, a superfood?

Inquiring minds want to know that, too.

If you define "superfoods" as those that contain vitamins, nutrients and/or minerals believed to benefit health, disease prevention and/or longevity, does honey make the grade? Yes and no. A lot has been written about honey's antioxidant properties; while honey is not nearly as rich as, say, blueberries or spinach, the darker varieties of honey do provide an additional source of antioxidants in the diet. On the down side, honey also contributes 64 calories, and 17 grams of carbs, per tablespoon.

For cooks, however, honey brings more to the table than sweetness. Honey is hygroscopic (meaning that it attracts water), which makes it good for baking, as it keeps cakes and muffins more moist. In many cases you can substitute honey for half of the sugar called for in the recipe. The National Honey Board offers these tips for baking and cooking with honey:

  • Reduce any liquid called for by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey used.
  • Add a half teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of honey used.
  • Reduce oven temperature by 25°F to prevent over-browning.
  • Microwave the honey for a few seconds before measuring. The warm honey becomes thinner and flows much faster, and allows for easier and quicker measuring.
  • Coat a measuring cup with nonstick spray (like PAM) before adding honey; the honey will slide right out.
  • Store honey at room temperature; if stored in a sealed container, honey will remain stable for years, though it may darken and lose flavor over time.
  • If your honey crystallizes, place the jar in warm water until the crystals dissolve, or microwave for a few seconds.

I don't bake very much, or very confidently, but I do use honey in a delicious teriyaki glaze for salmon, made with dark soy, mango juice, and black pepper. A little bit of sweet also balances the flavor in savory dishes like soup, eggplant, cardamom-honey chicken, and baked squash.

By the way, honeybees are the only insects that produce food for humans.

(And, yes, bears do love honey.)

Gingerbread cookies

From The Pooh Cookbook by Virginia Ellison, published in 1969. Don't feel constrained; if you'd rather not cut these cookies into Poohs, go right ahead and make Tiggers or Roos! Makes 30 3-inch round cookies. 

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp powdered ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp each powdered cloves and nutmeg
1/2 lb butter, cut into dots
1/2 cup honey

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Sift the sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg together into a mixing bowl. Work the dots of butter into the dry ingredients with your fingertips. When thoroughly worked in, add the honey and stir until blended. Refrigerate for an hour, or longer if possible.

Roll the dough out about 1/8-inch thick on a floured board or between sheets of waxed paper. Cut it into the shapes of Gingerbread Men or Houses or Pooh (bear). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes on a cookie sheet. Remove from oven and, after a minute, from cookie sheet with a spatula to cool on cake racks.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Kicked-up gingerbread
Honey and lemon green tea cupcakes
Banana raisin scones
Apple spice bread

Comments

Lydia, honey is one important ingredient in our house. We love having it for breakfast on fresh rolls, or in tea or simply in baked goods. I always seem to have a huge variety of honey in my pantry . the most recent find was a eucalyptus flavored honey. These cookies sound really good and perfect for our honey madness!

I've been very into flavored honey lately I bet it would be good in the cookies.

Thanks for sparking a reunion with my Pooh Cook Book. I took the book off the shelf this morning and it immedidately fell open to that batter-spattered page! Those cookies are good! The book also has a recipe for cream scones which call for a mere 1/2 tsp of honey,but it makes a wonderful difference. Delish!

I wanna make these cookies! ;-)

Paz

I recently bought some honey from Vermont that is almost like a spread -- golden and creamy. I love the recipe from the Pooh Cookbook!

Hurray for the honeybees! I do love using honey in savory cooking...it's the perfect foil to complement apple-cider vinegar! Ooh...and I love Pooh! In fact my dog's name is Pooh Bear!

I adore honey, and I always try to eat local honey for its allergy-preventing benefits. I don't know if works, but it sure is sweet medicine!

How does one know if the honey is organic or not? Do the bees check their source of pollen? Honey is wonderful when eaten by bears or humans. The cookie are a must make.

Great post - thanks so much!

I don't really try a variety of honey. I used to buy Manuka Honey when I was in New Zealand for vacation - the honey was good.

Lydia, I have a friend going to Brazil at the end of October - I should recommend your friend's restaurant. I love gingerbread cookies too so that recipe of course sounds great. I'm not sure if it's the picture or not, but your honey looks lighter than mine :)

Meeta, I'm so lucky that a few friends have gotten into beekeeping, and my supply of honey is often replenished! Enjoy these cookies.

Peabody, I think orange or lemon honey might be nice here.

Marcia, I'll have to try those scones now!

Paz, oh I hope you do!

TW, the Pooh Cook Book isn't just for kids (obviously...). Try these with your Vermont honey; I think it would be lovely.

Veron, clearly this recipe was meant for you and your Pooh Bear pup!

Lisa, one of my friends who started keeping bees told me the same thing, that he is eating honey as an anti-toxin. I absolutely believe that this works.

Gino, a good question. I had to ask my beekeeping friend Kate about this one. She says there is really no way to know, but that (a) bees tend to feed close to home, so if your farm is organic, the bees will probably eating organically; and (b) you can ask the beekeeper if he/she uses any chemicals to treat the hives for disease.

Sabina, thank you for visiting!

Tigerfish, I don't have much of a sweet tooth so I don't use a lot of honey, but I'm finding it more often in savory dishes than in desserts.

Hillary, I can tell you from experience that my friend Peter can cook circles around most of the chefs I know! Rhode Island's loss is Minas Gevais' gain. This honey, which comes from my friend Kate's hives, is quite light in color.

I love this recipe, I find your blog today and I like so, really, I like Honey too and Winnie, Thanks for the recipe. Gloria

Gloria, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. I'm so glad you found your way here. Please try some of Winnie the Pooh's cookies!

I'm simply crazy for gingerbread and honey, so I am definitely making these cookies. Soon. Very soon. Perhaps tomorrow. Oh, they sound fabulous.

Lydia! I just made my way to your blog, and I love it. I am going to start at the beginning and work my way through. I love finding to places to enjoy and yours hits the spot. And thank you for visiting mine!

Regarding honey -- we go through a ton of it at the our hut... honey-glazed carrots every Monday night are a standard.

I used to buy these flavored whipped honeys at Dean & Deluca when I lived in NYC... can't find them anymore... they were so good on toast! I've got to try to find them again.

I love cooking with honey. You can always buy the best quality honey out there in a large quantity for a better price because it lasts forever.

Susan, the combination of gingerbread and honey takes me right back to childhood, and to Winnie the Pooh, of course. Enjoy!

Maya, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Flavored whipped honey does sound wonderful; I don't think I've ever had whipped honey. I'll keep an eye out for it in our local gourmet markets.

Kelly, today I used the last of the honey in this jar -- my friend Kate, whose bees gave us this honey, refilled it for me a year ago, and I've been saving it and saving it because she didn't get any honey this year. Now, alas, it's almost gone, and I'm hoping another of my honey-producing friends reads this and takes pity on me.

Oh, we love honey in our house...and gingerbread. I especially like red gum honey on crumpets, it's one of the darker varities. Bees aren't the only insects to produce honey, Australian honey ants do too.

Neil, I've never heard of honey ants. Fascinating! Does the honey taste like bee honey?

They say honey is very good for the health, as well as for the skin!
Your cookies sound delicious, I'm now gonna read your post about the honey & lemon green tea cupcakes!

My favorite is Tupelo Honey. It never gets granular--ever! And bears certainly do love honey. They will tear apart a hive, eating the comb as fast as they can, while the bees sting them madly. When they finally can't take anymore stings, they run away. But, they can cause great damage to a hive.

Valentina, I think you'll like the cupcakes -- you are such a wonderful baker.

Sher, sounds like you have some experience with bears...and bee hives!

I've never tried this honey, it's only in our desert areas to the north. It's a source of food for Australian aborigines and apparantly is quite sweet with a touch of acidity. Unfortunately, the ants don't survive the process as the honey is stored in their abdomens.

I did a honey tasting once and it is remarkable the differences in flowers!

Neil, the closest I've come to eating something like that was the witchety(?) grub I ate in Australia. And it was cooked, or I don't think I'd have been able to get near it! Honey ants are new to me -- thanks so much for the info.

Steamy, a honey tasting sounds like a wonderful idea for my cooking groups!

Link, nice to see you back in the Pantry! Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe; I know many readers are serious jam makers, and I think they will love this one.

I heard that bears actually eat the larva inside the comb and the honey is a bonus. But I love, love, love honey.

Amy, I never knew that -- wouldn't you think the honey would be the goal?! Thanks for the info.

I've always wondered if bears actually like honey too! Lovely cookies, mmm.

Kelly-Jane, it seems that they do. And they would surely like these cookies!

This is what I have been searching for a gingerbread recipe without molasses. My hubby loves gingerbread but hates the molasses often found in them. So glad I stumbled across your blog while looking for Christmas recipes...Di

Faux Woods, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Nice to know that Winnie the Pooh came to the rescue once again! Hope your hubby likes these cookies.

Loved these cookies!! Great to find a cookie with honey in it!

Kate, Winnie the Pooh comes through again! Glad you enjoyed the cookies.

I had a question. IS it half a pound of butter or sticks of butter? I notice that the other measurements are not by weight, so it threw me. I remember making these as a kid, and I am glad to see the recipe, since I am sure the book has disappeared from my mom's kitchen! Thanks, great website by the way,Iwill be checking back!

Christine, 1/2 pound (2 sticks) of butter!

How strong is the taste of the honey in these cookies?

Eric, it's not overly sweet, if that's what you are asking.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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