Honey 101: What you might not know

Honey Bread
Honey is versatile ingredients with many benefits and applications.

How does honey change the flavor and appearance of bakery foods?
Honey has the ability to decrease the bitterness and sourness intensity in bakery foods while increasing the sweetness and improving the saltiness perception. Honey’s sugars are precursors to the Maillard reaction, which means that they provide natural color and browning to the finished product. This increases the consumer acceptability of the product by producing caramel notes.

How does honey’s sweetness level compare to other sweeteners?
Primarily fructose and glucose, honey provides more sweetness than sugar. This means that bakers can cut back on the total amount of sweetener added, if necessary, by using honey. 

How does one replace sugar with honey?
When substituting honey for granulated sugar in formulas, begin by substituting honey for up to half of the sugar called for in the recipe. For bakery foods, make sure to reduce the oven temperature by 25°F to prevent over-browning and reduce any liquid called for by 25% for each part of honey used.

Can honey actually be used to extend the shelf life of bakery products?
The high acidity of honey (avg. pH 3.91) helps inhibit mold growth in bakery products.  Numerous research studies have documented the ability of honey to soften bakery products, inhibit staling and extend shelf life.  The addition of honey can increase the life of a bakery product by days.

What is the moisture content of honey and how does it influence bakery foods?
The moisture content of honey varies considerably throughout the year, by region and by floral source. On average, honey’s moisture content is about 17%.  Honey itself does not spoil, so long as its moisture content remains below 17%.  However, because honey has a low pH, is hygroscopic and contains antibacterial properties, honey has the ability to prevent bacterial growth.

Can honey be used in low-moisture products like cookies and crackers?
Honey may be used as the sole sweetener in many cookie and cracker formulations. In soft style cookies, honey may be used at 8% to 15% of the formula weight. In crisp cookies, honey is typically used at 3% to 5% of the formulation. For most cookie or cracker applications, use mild and light colored honeys because they do not mask the flavor of spices, fruits and nuts.

How should honey be added to a dry mix?
Most bakers initially believe that only dry honey can be used in dry mixes. However, researchers discovered that the best type of honey for use in dry mixes is liquid honey.  Liquid honey performed better than dried honey when added by using a ribbon blender.  Researchers were able to develop a successful mix with 13.5% honey.

Can honey be used in frozen dough?
Honey offers potential advantages in improving texture and browning reactions in frozen doughs. Research determined that honey at a level of as little as 4%, improved frozen dough strength, increased volume, reduced staling and produced a loaf of bread that was rated significantly better than breads without honey.

What is the benefit of using honey in artisan breads?
Honey sugars caramelize during baking and add a wholesome, golden color. In addition, naturally occurring organic acids in honey, such as gluconic acid, enhance the flavors of spices, fruits and nuts.  When used with cinnamon, herbs, spices or other flavors, honey helps bring out those tastes and aromas.

Can honey be used in gluten-free recipes?
Honey is naturally free of gluten. It contains no wheat, barley, rye or oats or their by-products.  In gluten-free recipes, where texture and flavor often suffer, honey offers bakers distinct flavor, color and textural enhancement by retaining moisture.
Source: Bakery Kit, National Honey Board

What is the best way to store honey?
Honey is best stored in a sealed container at room temperature, between 64-75°F. Cooler temperatures, between 35-60°F hasten honey’s natural crystallization process. Honey stored at temperatures above 85°F for extended periods of time will darken in color and be subject to subtle flavor changes