Michelle Darmody: Baking with uncooked honey

A reader requested that I print some recipes that contain uncooked honey. She commented that I use honey quite often but it is generally heated.

She is correct and it has set me a bit of a challenge.

 For various reasons honey is usually heated in both baking and cooking but, as the reader rightly pointed out, it is better for you when it is kept at room temperature. 

Honey is said to have antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antioxidant properties that come from the collection of vitamins, enzymes and other nutritional elements that it contains. Keeping these at room temperature preserves more of the goodness.

The most obvious uses for cold honey is drizzled over a slice of brown soda bread, added to salad dressings, or to flavoured butters or as a sweetner in fruit smoothies. I also use honey in place of processed sugar in icings such as cream-cheese icing for carrot cakes.

Pure Irish honey is the most desirable, when you are buying have a close look at the label. 

Many manufacturers purchase honey from countries where it is cheaper to produce and bring it to Ireland, this is called blending and must must be stated in accordance with government labeling guidelines.

Beekeeping is a therapeutic and methodical pass-time. The National Honey Show each July at the annual Gormanston Summer School is a place where Irish beekeepers congregate. 

Anyone can take up the hobby and it is worth investigating if you have the space and finances to have a hive. 

You need not be in the country, urban beekeeping is becoming more popular. With the threat of colony collapse disorder, which is mysteriously killing bees, the more hives being set up the better.

Cold honey is also a beautiful addition to facial cleansers. Mix two tablespoons of ground almonds, with one tablespoon of honey and half that amount of lemon juice. 

It can be gently applied to your face then rinsed off with some warm water. Another mixture that I like to make is two and a half tablespoons of oats, with one and a half of honey and half a tablespoon of rose water. Once mixed spread it on your face, relax for a half an hour to allow it to work before washing it off.

The three recipes here contain room temperature honey. The honey cake uses both cooked honey as a main ingredient and a glaze of apple and cold honey to finish it off.

Honey and coconut bites

90g of oats

110g of coconut butter, at room temperature

50g of hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

50g of almonds, toasted and chopped

30g of ground almonds

25g of desiccated coconut and 2 tbs extra for coating

85g of honey

2 tbs of warm water

Blend all of the ingredients briefly in a blender. Roll the paste into bite size balls. Roll the balls in the extra desiccated coconut. If they need to be firmed up you can place them into the freezer for ten minutes or so.

Oat and honey bars with mixed fruit

40g of golden sugar

60g of soft butter

100g of honey

50g of dried apricots, chopped

50g of dates, chopped

1 tsp of ground cinnamon

15g of oats, toasted

50g of dried cranberries

Line an 8in square tin with parchment.

Heat the sugar and butter together until melted, the sugar is needed to caramelise with the butter.
Allow to cool.

Stir in the honey, apricots, dates, oats, cinnamon and cranberries.

Press mixture into the prepared tin place into the fridge until completely cold then cut into bars.

Honey cake with apple glaze

140g of butter

70g of muscovado sugar

170g of honey

200g of self raising flour

1 tsp of dried cinnamon

1 tsp of ground nutmeg

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 medium cooking apples, cored, peeled and cut into small cubes

2 tbs of honey

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line a 1 lb loaf tin with parchment.

Melt the butter and sugar together in a saucepan. Add a table spoon of warm wtaer to the honey and stir it into the butter.

Add the flour, spices and eggs and form a batter. Scoop the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool slightly then place on a wire rack.

While the cake is baking stew the apple pieces until soft. Once the apple has cooled stir in the honey.

Spoon the apple and honey sauce over the cake as you are serving.


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