April 8, 2013
You know what I love more than pure maple syrup? Honey. Sweet, pure, local honey. Maybe it’s a Greek thing.
A long time ago, in ancient Greece…
Just kidding! (It’s also a Greek thing to connect everything back to either Greece or being Greek.) Let’s try again.
A long time ago, when I was doing research for ChowBaby foods, I asked several nutritionists to speak to me about sweeteners. I had burning questions about whether less processed sugars like evaporated cane juice and sucanant were better than regular old sugar, whether agave was really so great, and such like. I followed up their answers with lots of research. So much research that, to be honest, I got kind of overwhelmed.
The good news is that I’m ready to dig back into that research to serve you useful answers. More on that soon but, in the meantime, here’s the bottom line: the best sweetener is the one that will achieve the flavor you want with the least amount. Processed or unprocessed, at the end of the day, most nutritionists will tell you that you want to keep your added sweetener intake to as little as possible.
For me that means using honey which, of all the unprocessed options, gives the most sweet for your buck. It’s also surprisingly high in vitamins, particularly vitamins B6 and C, and antioxidants. Plus, if you get your hands on raw honey you’ll get all kinds of additional B vitamins, minerals and antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal benefits. (And who doesn’t want antifungal benefits? Hello!) If your honey is local, it may even help with your allergies.
No wonder Dr. Oz calls raw honey “liquid gold.”
I also love maple syrup—more on that one day soon—but honey, which has a reputation for one dimensional flavor, can have just as complex a taste. And there are so many varieties! Buckwheat honey is as dark as molasses and funky with malt undertones, while basswood honey is bright, fruity and clean. I keep nearly four varieties in my cupboard at all times: a raw basswood from Pennsylvania that I love; a honey from local rooftop Brooklyn Grange that tastes like golden chamomile; and a couple of varieties of Bee Raw, a brand I love that’s bringing raw honey to a wider marketplace (you know, relatively speaking).
My kids have come to love honey as much as I do and we even use it on pancakes, waffles and french toast almost as much as we do maple syrup. So, it’s no wonder that I decided to top a recent Saturday morning dutch baby with Orange Honey Butter instead of the same old maple syrup.
It’s the move. Really, it is.
Use the best honey that you can find. And remember: if it doesn’t taste good to you spooned straight out of the jar, it won’t taste good to you in this recipe. And if you’re thinking of using the supermarket squeezie bear stuff, well, it’s going to taste a little flat. Don’t believe me? Refer back to my earlier point: if it doesn’t taste heavenly, subtle and delicious eaten off of a spoon, then it won’t taste heavenly, subtle and delicious in this recipe. It may still be yummy and it’s definitely better than fake breakfast syrup, but it may not be all that I’ve built it up to be here. Use your best judgement.
Oh, and back to the original point: one of the reasons I like honey so much is because, in some recipes, I can get the sweet taste I want using a smaller amount that other sweeteners. So, yea, try to restrain yourself. Because you will want to dump a whole batch of this Orange Honey Butter over whatever you’re eating. Toast, toast with ricotta, roasted sweet potato wedges, oatmeal, a pork loin being prepped to roast, ice cream, simply sautéed dark, leafy greens (especially ones that tend to taste bitter), roasted brussels sprouts and bacon… you get the point.
Orange Honey Butter
(can be shared with kids 12+ mos)*
Makes about 1/4 cup
1/4 cup raw honey, your favorite variety
3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
Zest of 1/2 a medium orange
1. Add honey to a small sauce pan set over medium heat. As the honey heats up, it will loosen; use a whisk to keep it moving. Do not let the honey boil at any point.
2. Once the honey has thinned out and is hot to the touch, add the butter, piece by piece, whisking until each piece nearly melts before adding the next. Add the zest with the last piece of butter. Keep whisking until the sauce is smooth. Take off of the heat and, if serving immediately, keep warm. Otherwise, allow to cool completely before sealing in an air tight container; you can store this honey butter in the fridge for at least 2 weeks.
*Note: Honey cannot be shared with kids younger than 12-months-old due to risk of botulism, even when cooked (heat does not kill the spores that cause botulism). This recipe is strictly for kids over 1-year-old.
P.S. I’ve never worked with Bee Raw, nor have I ever received free product from them. I name checked them here because I love their product and, despite having grown up in a honey-centric, Greek home, I’ve learned more about how varied and complex honey can be from their products than from any experience or product I was exposed to growing up.