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How (and why) to substitute sugar with honey in your cooking

Founder, Julian Wolfhagen – After more than 40 years in the industry, he’s still passionate about producing honey.
“Every culture holds honey in a very reverential place and that’s because of the health that it brings,” Wolfhagen tells SBS Food. “It’s high in antioxidants, it has a low GI, which makes it quite suitable for certain types of diabetics. It also has all sorts of probiotic values so it’s pretty good for gut health. And it’s industrious.”

Honey can be used in baking, to make sauces and marinate vegetables and proteins. Wolfhagen personally uses a fair share of honey in his cooking.

“Generally honey is quite adaptable and can be used almost anywhere you’re using sugar. The only caveat is that is the moisture content of honey,” he says, so you may have to cut back other moisture content in whatever you’re cooking.

“The apparent sweetness of honey is higher than sucrose, or normal sugar, so you can also cut back the total quantity of sugar you use,” he explains.

The other great thing about using honey is that (like sugar) it’s hygroscopic, he says, “meaning it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. If you’re using it for baking, in cakes or breads, it keeps things permanently sticky.”

One of Wolfhagen’s favourite recipes is a panna cotta with Leatherwood honey. “Leatherwood has a spicy flavour that’s quite unique and goes well particularly well with dairy, … you should only use it if you want that flavour to come through.”

Honey also goes well with pome fruits (apples and pears); it’s good for poaching, glazing and baking. It’s also suitable for browning food. “But be mindful the enzymes in honey have the potential to burn,” he adds.

When deciding what honey to use, it really depends on what you’re cooking. “If you just want some sweetness, you’d go for what is typically a light-coloured honey, like a clover or meadow honey. For a fruity kind of honey, perhaps something with a eucalypt base like yellow-box honey.”

If you’re looking for a knockout appetiser, try the trusted combination of honey and cheese. Nigel Ward, head chef at the Merivale Group’s flagship restaurant Uccello in Sydney, says he uses either a “young sheep’s milk pecorino, which might be a little bit hard to come by, or some Roman pecorino”. He batters the cheese in a mixture of egg, flour, a pinch of salt and some sparkling water.

Article thanks to SBS Food

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