Pioneer cooks relied heavily on bee-sweetenin', or honey, for seasoning baked goods and fruits. Sweetening with honey may still be preferable to refined sugar as part of a healthy eating plan; it does have trace minerals, and since it is absorbed more slowly into the body than refined sugar, it's less likely to give a person blood sugar spikes. Honey can provide intense sweetness, perhaps as much as 1/3 more than an equal volume of sugar. However, its liquid state may mean adjusting familiar recipes. Seasoning tart cranberries with honey illustrates the challenges and rewards of bee sweetenin.'
Cranberry sauce is easily made at home and can be seasoned with honey. Since homemade sauce is usually juicy, you can substitute honey for granulated sugar on a one-to-one basis. This surprisingly simple sauce has a wide number of variations, including additions of citrus fruits and peels, along with whole spices like cinnamon stick and clove. Honey made from a single variety of flower, like orange-blossom or sage, may add even more spicy nuances. Because it does not have to be dissolved during cooking, honey may provide a more flexible sweetening source to obtain the level of sweetness your family regards as just right.
Cranberry Fruit Dishes
Only a small amount of honey may be needed to sweeten cranberries when they are combined with other already sweet fruits. In a cooked fruit compote of apples and cranberries, a juicy consistency makes it possible to start with a small amount of honey and correct to taste as simmering progresses. An apple-cranberry pie, however, offers less latitude for sweetening at will because an overly juicy filling can overwhelm the pastry crust. Blind-baking pie crust, partially cooking fruit filling and a brief finishing in the oven may prevent problems. You may also wish to experiment with adding or increasing a juice-thickener like arrowroot or cornstarch to the filling when using honey in place of sugar.
Quick Breads, Cakes or Cookies
When baking with honey, it makes sense to reduce the overall volume of liquid in recipes calling for 1 cup or more of sugar. Quick breads like orange-cranberry bread can often be made with less sweetening, but cakes and cookies rely on a careful proportioning of fats, liquids and dry ingredients to produce results. Depending on the recipe, decreasing another liquid like orange juice or milk or adding a little extra flour can restore the necessary balance.
Honey-Sweetened Dried Cranberries
Honey may perform as well as or better than granulated sugar when making sweetened dried cranberries in your oven or a food dehydrator. The sticky liquid can provide a more thorough coating of sweetener than granulated sugar, and parchment paper keeps honeyed cranberries from sticking to your baking pan as well as it does sugared berries. Making dried cranberries at home takes more time than effort and yields a valuable store of pre-sweetened fruit that can be stirred into fresh and baked dishes.