Smile Politely

Baking cookies with local honey

Last week, I bet someone at my gym that I ate well enough not to need vitamins or fish oil. To prove it, I found myself tracking everything I ate and drank for five days. Of course, he was concerned primarily with total calories, carbohydrate sources, and protein. And, while these are interesting to me, I was more curious to see how many of the meals I consumed had at least one thing that was locally raised. Thirteen out of 15 would be the answer.


Because most of the food I eat isn’t commercially processed, I tend to eat less sugar than the average American. However, in five days, I still managed to rack up a fair amount: a scone here, a cookie there, the homemade jam with which I sometimes sweeten my yogurt. Even Pad Thai contains sugar — none of it locally grown.

What we do produce locally in the way of sweetners are corn syrup, molasses, and honey. Of these, honey has the smallest carbon footprint and has the most potential to help out your immune system if you have pollen allergies.

Substituting honey for jam or maple syrup is easy enough. However, baking with it can get tricky.

Honey has a higher fructose content, so substituting it one to one with granulated sugar can produce foods that are overly sweet. Despite its sweetness, honey also is acidic so you need to add a half teaspoon of baking soda for every one cup of honey to neutralize this. You may also need to reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe you are using and probably drop the temperature about 25 degrees to avoid burning. And, as if this isn’t complicated enough, sometimes you can’t substitute honey for all the sugar in a recipe. Granulated sugar is useful for forcing butter or cream particles apart, or holding air. Most cookies, cakes, and ice cream still need some sugar to achieve their respective textures.

Yeah, it makes my head hurt, too. So how can you tell what things will be good to substitute honey in and what things won’t? Think dense, moist, and/or less sweet. Most things that can be successfully made with whole grain flours, such as cornbread, muffins, pancakes, waffles, and yeast breads, also tend to be successful with honey.

All-honey sweetened cakes are possible. But, they are typically not the layer cake variety. The traditional polenta-based cakes of the Mediterranean are sweetened with honey syrups only after they are baked.

All-honey cookies are fairly rare. Most tend to use a lot of non-local ingredients like coconut to soak up the extra moisture. This one is a better fit for our area because it uses lots of rolled oats to soak up the extra moisture.

All-Honey Sweetened Oatmeal Cookies

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl, stir together:
  • 1 c stone ground whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 c rolled oats
  • ½ t baking soda
  • ½ t baking powder
  • ½ t salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/8 t fresh ground nutmeg

In another bowl, mix:

  • ½ c honey
  • ½ c canola oil
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 1 t vanilla

Mix wet ingredients into dry. Chill dough for 20 minutes. Roll into 1 ¼” balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Allow to cool for two minutes. Remove from baking sheet and finish cooling on a wire rack

Note: If you really miss the texture of raisins, most of which come from California, you can add ¼ c of dried, sweetened cranberries, some of which are grown in Wisconsin.

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