June 2012 Issue

Honey — Sweetly Sticky and Oh So Flavorful
By Bryan Roof, RD, LDN
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 14 No. 6 P. 66

“Honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.” (Proverbs 24:13b)

While writing this article, my elbows were appropriately stuck to my kitchen table, thanks to the remnants of honey that doused my kids’ Saturday morning French toast and berries. There’s honey on the chairs, too—and the floor.

Ever since Bee Movie and its willy-nilly use of honey for everything from hair gel to gasoline, my kids see nothing wrong with spreading it everywhere. And despite our best efforts to clean it up, they grossly under appreciate its stickiness.

Domesticated European honeybees make most of the honey we eat and spread on the furniture. They start by collecting nectar from flowers and bringing it back to the hive. Once home, they ingest and regurgitate the nectar repeatedly, which enzymatically breaks down the sucrose within the nectar into its main components of glucose and fructose. It’s through this process that the honey is created. From there, it’s stored in a wax honeycomb in the hive to allow excess water to evaporate, a process the bees hasten by fanning the honeycomb with their wings.

Honey is graded by color, with the characteristic clear, golden amber often commanding a higher retail price than darker varieties. Honey flavor, however, differs as a result of the flower varieties from which the nectar is harvested. Clover, tupelo, and orange blossom honey are derived from nectar specifically from those types of flowers, whereas wildflower honey comes from an assortment of flowers.

Honey is available most often in raw or pasteurized form. Raw honey is unprocessed, meaning it’s removed from the hive and bottled. It will contain trace amounts of yeast, wax, and pollen. Consuming raw honey is believed to lessen the effects of seasonal allergies. Pasteurized honey has been heated and processed to remove impurities and kill any potentially harmful bacteria. However, it still may contain botulinum endospores, so you shouldn’t give it to children under 12 months of age due to the inability of their immature digestive systems to destroy the spores.

When it comes to cooking—and baking in particular—honey can be problematic and isn’t necessarily a straight swap for sugar. Honey is sweeter and more hygroscopic (water absorbing) than sugar, which can cause excess browning and moisture in the finished product. Making a honey swap in savory dishes is a little more reliable, but experimentation is key—and luckily my kids are always happy to volunteer for kitchen experiments.

 There could be worse things, I suppose, than wiping up a slightly tacky table after a well-devoured breakfast. And while I like to think that my closely guarded French toast recipe is the reason for my kids’ mealtime enjoyment, I know they really just love honey. Incidentally, they hate maple syrup—and I happen to buy the good stuff.

— Bryan Roof, RD, LDN, is a chef, dietitian, and food writer living in Boston.


Honey-Glazed Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Serves 6 as a side dish

A pastry brush is the perfect tool for applying the honey glaze to the potatoes.

3 medium sweet potatoes, halved lengthwise, each half cut lengthwise into three wedges
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 T honey
1 T low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400˚F. Toss potatoes, oil, salt, and pepper together in large bowl until potatoes are thoroughly coated with oil. Transfer, skin side down, to rimmed baking sheet. Bake until potatoes are lightly browned and tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

2. Whisk honey and soy sauce together in small bowl. Transfer potatoes to platter and brush liberally with honey mixture. Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper, and serve.

Nutrient Analysis per serving: Calories: 130; Total fat: 2.5 g; Sat fat: 0 g; Trans fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 240 mg; Total carbohydrate: 26 g; Dietary fiber: 3 g; Sugars: 10 g; Protein: 2 g