Mix It Up, Honey

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If you’ve read the About Our World page on this blog, you know that Paige is an avid baker. It’s Zen-like for me (yes, this Paige speaking here).

I have a friend from high school who is in his final summer as a bee apprentice. You know, I didn’t know that was a thing, either, until I offered him lodging along his journeys up and down the East coast, and he has stayed with us several times. We’ve talked a lot about bee keeping, honey, and baking. He’s a canner (love that in a dude!), like me, and we talked for hours and hours about the above topics. We get each other like that. Yeah, I’m gonna make a shameless pitch for his business here – it’s Lover’s Honey; you can buy into the co-op, or just buy honey. Besides, I love the name because it plays back to Virginia’s old state motto, Virginia is for Lovers. Especially, if you’re local to the general Richmond, VA area, then this is your gig – it’s local honey, and there are so many health benefits to local honey, especially if you have allergies! Even if you’re not a VA resident, this is just good honey.

In our chats, George and I talked about creating recipes that could go with the honey sales, and this has been my mission lately – playing with recipes that involve honey. I found Real Housemoms recipe for Blueberry Crumb Muffins online, and decided since I had black bananas (don’t throw them puppies out, it just means the sugar is ripe, so the banana flavor will be more intense) and freshly picked blueberries, these muffins were worth a try. But since my goal was baking with honey, I made some prominent changes to the recipe- I swapped out all of the white sugar for honey, and added pecans to the crumb topping for the extra crunch I personally like in muffins (I kept the brown sugar for the topping). I used this guide for baking with honey to figure out how to do the substitution of honey for sugar.

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There’s something about these pictures that I love. When the dry ingredients are mixed, it’s the start of magic to come.

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Now, the mixture of the mashed bananas and wild blueberry honey (a specialty of George’s while he’s apprenticing in Maine) might not look like the most appealing thing, but this is a sweet gift from the busy little bees, right here… I wanted to eat the whole darn bowl!                                                                                                IMG_1986

Look at those gorgeous blueberries adding to the batter! I’m so happy just seeing it, it makes me weepy, and my mouth water!

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Then came time to add the chopped pecans I love – I get a 5 lb bag shipped right after harvest in the fall from Georgia, and freeze them so I can have year round… yeah, I like them that much!

As the baking with honey guide notes, you need to lower your oven temperature and gives you a time estimate for baking… each oven is different, but remember, you’ve removed a solid structure and added in a liquid one. Watch these muffins the first you make them. Set it for the lowest time (or a smidge lower), and go from there. I set my oven for 17 minutes, and ended up baking them 19. You can always add time; it should be obvious you can’t take away time from a burnt muffin.

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The final product!

Ta-da! I’m working on the whole taking good food pictures thing.

If you’re a baker, you’ll note these muffins don’t puff up like other muffins. Honey is more acidic, and the guide I’ve offered suggests adding 1/4 to 1/2 tsp more baking soda. I only added 1/4 tsp, so when I make these muffins next, I’ll likely add more and hope for a better rise.

These are ridiculously moist with the substitution of honey as the primary sweetener, and the subtle berry flavor in the wild blueberry honey really enhanced the blueberries. If you don’t have access to wild blueberry honey, then a good wildflower honey would suffice wonderfully. What stands out is the gorgeous honey flavor!

I would also reduce the amount of blueberries in the overall recipe. Since the moistness factor is upped through the use of honey, the whole cup of fresh blueberries almost made the base of the muffin unstable in some of the muffins. I’d reduce to at least 3/4 cup if nota bit more. You won’t lose anything, and the blueberries will pop in vs. overwhelm the muffin.

Overall, I’m looking forward to playing around with substituting honey for white sugar in more recipes. It will take some research, some tweeking, and patience, but the rewards – both in flavor and in health – are worth the exploration!

Honey image attribution

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