Honey exists in a league of its own

by Laurie Gorton
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Batting clean-up in the formulating game, honey can be a heavy hitter for bakery teams.

“The commercial baking industry has always used honey, but its popularity is booming as consumer trends align perfectly with the benefits of honey,” said Catherine Barry, director of marketing, National Honey Board (N.H.B.), Firestone, Colo.

The name “honey” is its biggest benefit, she noted.

“Honey is not created from chemicals in a processing plant,” she said. “Instead, it comes from Mother Nature and is produced in a beehive.”

This oldest of bakery sweeteners delivers great taste and functional benefits alike, and it is highly popular with today’s consumers looking for indulgent sweet products made with natural ingredients and carrying clean labels. Honey lends a recognizable flavor to baked foods and contributes naturally occurring organic acids that enhance the flavors and aromas of spices, fruits and nuts. The aroma boost occurs at the relatively low level of 6%, flour weight basis, in sweet cakes, biscuits, bread and similar products.

Because honey contains more fructose than cane and beet sugars, it is sweeter to the tongue, allowing bakers to use less honey than sugar to achieve the desired level of sweetness. When replacing sugar with honey in bakery formulas, N.H.B. experts recommended using half the amount of the original formula’s sugar. Honey’s fructose bonus promotes a more evenly browned crust at lower baking temperatures. At pH 3.91, honey’s comparatively high acidity helps inhibit mold growth to extend shelf life.

“Honey can be used as a complete or partial replacement for almost any sweetener,” Ms. Barry said. “However, differences in formulas and baking environment make substitution guidelines slightly different depending on the formula.”

Honey’s hygroscopicity, its ability to attract and bind water molecules, aids product freshness and texture.

“Products that contain honey dry out more slowly and have a lesser tendency to crack,” Ms. Barry explained.

And because honey is water soluble, it may be pumped or extruded and is easy to add to mixes.
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