Honey: Clean and Sweet
A natural multi-tasker, honey performs many functions in baked foods while maintaining a clean label for consumer appeal.
BakingBusiness.com, June 14, 2011
by Lucy Sutton
Sweetener, mold inhibitor, shelf life extender. Honey can add new dimensions to a variety of baked foods, including pan breads, artisan breads, cookies, cereals and crackers. The National Honey Board recently worked with AIB International to develop nine bakery food formulas that can be scaled to the commercial baking industry. The available formulas include gluten-free pound cake, fruit nutrition bars, honey cinnamon biscuits and honey whole-wheat flour tortillas.

“Honey is the ideal sweetener because it not only imparts exceptional flavors in all bakery foods, but it also sweetens bakery foods naturally and gives bakers a ‘clean label’ alternative to other sweeteners,” said Emily Manelius, communications specialist, National Honey Board, Firestone, CO. “Honey also has many functional benefits in bakery foods.”

HONEY’S BENEFITS.

Chief among honey’s functions is the ability to retain moisture. Because honey contains 17.6% water, bakers can use it as a substitute for sucrose to maintain a soft texture and desirable mouthfeel — especially in gluten-free products.

Honey can also be beneficial in formulating products with nutraceutical inclusions such as prebiotics. Ms. Manelius pointed out that the flavor profile of honey can help mask off-flavor notes of these ingredients as well as whole grains. Its high acidity (average pH of 3.91) also functions as a mold inhibitor.

Bakers wanting to add sweetness and carbohydrates to energy bars can use honey for both needs. “Honey is the ideal sweetener for each of these segments, offering a sweetener that provides a natural energy boost through its 17 g of carbohydrates per tablespoon,” Ms. Manelius said.

The small amounts of enzymes in honey can provide an unexpected benefit. Honey contains diastase (amylase), invertase (alpha-glucosidase) and glucose oxidase, and these enzymes can make up for deficiencies in damaged flours. “Some flours do not contain sufficient amounts of diastase due to poor climatic conditions under which the wheat was grown,” Ms. Manelius said. “Because honey contains diastase, bakers can avoid adding specially prepared diastatic malts when using such flours.”

WORKING WITH IT.

Honey’s makeup allows bakers to use less volume, on average, than they would when working with other sweeteners. “Honey is about 25% sweeter than sucrose on a dry weight basis,” Ms. Manelius noted. “It is composed of numerous sugars, including fructose (38.5%), glucose (31%), maltose (7.2%) and sucrose (1.5%).”

The various kinds of honey, more than 300 in the US, give bakers flexibility when developing the precise flavor profile they’re looking for in their products. “For example, a product with buckwheat honey offers a robust flavor, while a clover or alfalfa honey provides a simpler, lighter honey taste,” Ms. Manelius said. “In general, lighter-colored honeys are mild in flavor, while darker honeys are stronger in flavor.”

FIND IT, TRACE IT

“Honey is honey,” Ms. Manelius said. “Wholesale bakers should work closely with their suppliers to ensure the honey they purchase is 100% pure honey.”

The National Honey Board offers a Honey Locator website at www.honeylocator.com, where bakers can find suppliers based on floral source, location of origin, form of honey and container sizes available.

One way to track honey from the hive is through the True Source Certified honey traceability program, which offers resources at www.truesourcehoney.com.

The National Honey Board provides scalable formulas for baking with honey, as well as a breakdown of honey compositions and techniques, at www.bakingwithhoney.com.