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Using Honey In Cookery

As beekeepers often admonish others to use honey rather than sugar for sweetening, this is 'practicing what you preach'.

Most recipes are compounded to include sugar as a sweetener as it is inexpensive and widely available. Those of us that wish to use honey instead, can do so, but we cannot make a direct substitution weight for weight.

If we were to just swap honey for sugar we would get a result of sorts, but the finished product may be rather soggy and sticky. By looking at the rest of the ingredients in a recipe, we can establish which items will absorb some of the fluid in the honey and increase them to compensate. Or we may find liquid items in the list that can be reduced a little to restore the correct consistency.

Diabetics (I am one - DAC) have a different problem, both the sugar quantity and the speed of absorbtion of sugars is an issue here. We can reduce the stickiness by simply reducing the honey, but there is another way that we can work this one out to good benefit. If bran is added to the recipe, it will add bulk and fibre and absorb some of the fluid content of the recipe. It will also absorb some of the sugars in the food and release them slowly during digestion, which avoids peaks in blood sugar that can occur more quickly than the body can deal with them.

Those with heart complaints (I am also in this category - DAC) may need to reduce fats in their recipes and some trade off can be made with honey, as it helps to bind the mixture together in a similar way to fat.

There are no hard and fast rules to substituting honey and sugar in recipes. I give some examples of equivalent quantities below.

The following comes from Jim Fischer's wife Laura's cookery notebook, Via The BEE-L mailing list...

Sugar... 3/4 cup of honey replaces one cup of sugar. Reduce other liquids by one-half cup for each cup of honey you add to the recipe.

Molasses... To substitute honey for molasses, use exactly the same amount. The resulting flavor and colour will be "lighter".

Corn Syrup... To substitute honey for corn syrup, use exactly the same amount, but consider reducing other sweet ingredients, as a honey has a sweeter taste than corn syrup.

Brown Sugar (Demerara)... Follow the equation for "sugar", but also substitute molasses for a portion of the honey to retain the expected flavour (brown sugar is just white sugar where the molasses have not been completely removed by refining).

Raw Sugar (Soft Brown Sugar) is similar to Demerara, but has much smaller crystals and a higher portion of retained molasses, so to mimic the flavour in a recipe will require a larger percentage substitution of molasses.

You must experiment for yourselves to find what suits you best. Some of your early attempts may not be pretty to look at, but they will still be edible, so you will lose nothing.

Some cake recipes still tend to be a little soggy and sticky even after the compensations have been made, in these cases I would add an extra ingredient... A small quantity of wholemeal bread flour.