TASTE OF HONEY

Taste of HoneyMaybe it is because of all the Winnie the Pooh I read in my early years, but I am crazy about honey.  I am constantly on the lookout for local varieties.  My favorite sources are specialty food shops and farmers markets which I visit in my area and when I am travelling.   Each honey has a distinctive flavor, color and texture based on the types of flowers that the bees have visited.  Right now, I have some local honeys — one produced on Manhattan rooftops — and several others from Mexico, Italy and France.  Some are mild while others are robust.  Every day, I enjoy honey, either stirred into tea, or drizzled on toast, yogurt or fruit.   But except for the bare facts, I really didn’t know much about honey until I read a new book called Taste of Honey:  the Definitive Guide to Tasting and Cooking with 40 Varietals, written by my friend Marie Simmons.

In the book, which is full of gorgeous photos, Marie describes the whole process of how bees make honey.  Did you know that the average honey bee makes about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her entire lifetime?  It takes about five million visits to flowers and flights totaling 100,000 miles to make a pound of honey.  No wonder bees are always so busy.

In addition to fascinating facts and honey history, the book contains recipes for everything from appetizers to snacks and desserts.  I can’t wait to try the Baby Back Ribs with Chipotle Honey Barbecue Sauce and Salted Honey Peanut Brittle.  Just thinking about  the sweet and savory Grilled Dubliner Cheese, Bacon, Dill Pickles, and Honey Sandwich makes me hungry.   Marie also includes a trove of “quick hits”, easy ideas to dress up everyday foods.  She suggests glazing sauteed pork chops with honey and balsamic vinegar, for example, or using a mix of honey and Dijon mustard as a coating for grilled lamb chops.  How about her fast, low calorie dip for vegetables made with plain yogurt, honey and mustard.  Marie is a big fan of honey  with cheese and devotes a section of the book to organizing a honey and cheese tasting.

Peanuts and honey have a natural affinity for one another.  These fabulous cookies will taste great with a glass of cold milk.

CHUNKY PEANUT BUTTER AND HONEY COOKIES

Marie recommends a full flavored honey for these cookies, such as, wildflower or mesquite.

Makes about 3-1/2 dozen

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup honey

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder, sifted

1/2 teaspoon baking soda, sifted

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

3/4 cup coarsely chopped, unsalted dry-roasted peanuts

1. Arrange a rack in the top third of the oven.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with pachment paper or coat with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Place the butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar in the large bowl of a stand mixer and beat for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until the mixture is well blended.  Beat in the honey in a slow steady stream until blended.

3. Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.  Gradually beat into the batter on slow speed until blended.  Add the peanuts and stir in with a rubber spatula.

4. Drop the batter by rounded tablespoonfuls about 1-1/2 inches apart.  Bake one sheet at a tie for 10 to 13 minutes, until the edges are browned, but the centers are soft. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets before removing with a spatula.  The centers will firm up as the cookies cool.

Variation:  For Chunky Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies, decrease the amount of peanuts to 1/2 cup and add 1/2 cup of semisweet chocolate chips.

Copyright 2013 Taste of Honey:  The Definitive Guide to Tasting and Cooking with 40 Varietals,  Marie Simmons, Andrews Mc Meel Publishing

Honey

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    • Michele Scicolone