Recently I received a gift of local neighbourhood honeys from hives in Toronto.
Canada is a beekeeping paradise as there are small communities everywhere producing their own honey. My “Old Town” honey was darker than others; it was harvested from hives in downtown Toronto and had a big, bold flavour. Another city product, from Cedar Brae Golf Course in Scarborough, Ont., was more gentle and herbaceous, proving that terroir is a key to flavour. When bees suck the nectar from flowers and plants in an area, the honey will reflect these local flavours. I usually buy non-commercial honey as it is less processed and does not lose the grace notes that make honey special.
Honey has a rich history. In fact, not long ago a container was found in an ancient Egyptian tomb and when tested, found to still be edible. Your honey will outlast you.
Honey plays a large part in Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which starts on Sept. 25. Sweetness represents a sweet year. Traditionally the meal starts with apples dipped in honey (use your best honey) and finishes with honey cake. I find honey cake often dry and boring, so it was a challenge to produce a cake which has flavour, moisture and richness while still being easy to make.
Observant Jews can make this cake by using oat milk (which I did). Use an excellent extra-virgin olive oil for a real umami flavour although it can be made with any kind.
Recipe: Lemon Ginger Honey Cake
Serves 6 to 8
Before you begin, warm your measuring cup by rinsing it with hot water. Then pour your honey into the warm cup. I get a better honey flavour by using this method.
- 2 eggs
- Grated zest of 1 lemon, about 1 tbsp.
- 1 tsp. grated ginger root
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup oat milk or milk of your choice
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¾ cup honey
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
Line a standard loaf pan with parchment paper and oil the sides with a little olive oil. Dust with flour.
Stir together eggs, zest, ginger, oat milk, olive oil, sugar and honey in a bowl.
Mix together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a separate bowl.
Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients making sure there are no lumps. The mixture is quite liquid. Place in the loaf pan and bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cover with a piece of parchment if the top is browning too much. Cool for 10 minutes then turn out onto a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.
The sweetest tips
- Mix 1 tbsp. honey with 1 tbsp. Scotch, a little grated lemon zest and ½ cup icing sugar for an interesting drizzle over the cake.
- Never refrigerate honey. If it crystallizes, place the honey jar in a bowl of hot water and it will liquefy again. Honey flavour is volatile, and is destroyed by overheating. Use a regular honey in cooking and those fragrant, flavour-filled ones for eating, especially with cheese.
- If you are looking for pure honey, raw honey contains all the enzymes and micronutrients that are filtered out in regular honey
- In the cake use any citrus zest. If you don’t like ginger, omit. Cardamom, cinnamon or grated star anise all work well.
- Check this website to find a local honey near you. www.localhoneyfinder.org
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