Last week, I mentioned that I use honey to replace regular white or brown sugar in all of my recipes. Since it's difficult to find recipes for doing this, I thought I should elaborate on the why and how's of doing this.
The primary reason that I don't use white or brown sugar (which, by the way, is basically just white sugar with a bit of molasses added back in for flavor and color) is because they are highly processed, at very high temperatures and with the use of chemicals, that render them absolutely useless for nutrition of any kind. Although there are many foods that have only a very small nutritional benefit to them, sugar is one that I would actually consider to be on the negative end of the scale. It's not just a 0 on the scale, but maybe a -5.
The reason is that sugar not only doesn't offer any nutrients, but it also skyrockets blood sugar (which then drops significantly after, leaving you with a greater desire for sweets and carbs, and ultimately creating a vicious cycle of instable blood sugar levels), temporarily stuns the immune system so that it is not effective in fighting illness, uses our bodies precious nutrients and energy to digest and deal with the sugar (such as Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, Potassium, Magnesium, Manganese, Chromium, Zinc and possibly others) and gets no new nutrients in return.
So why do I choose honey instead? Well, it has a lower glycemic index, thus messing with your blood sugar less, is not heavily processed, and in it's raw (unpasteurized) state, actually contains many minerals and vitamins. Yes, it is still sugar. You cannot gorge yourself on honey just because it isn't white sugar. Yes, it can still compromise your immune system, and if you are fighting an illness, I would not recommend it (use Stevia instead). However, given the option between the two for those times when we would like a sweet treat, I will take honey anyday!
I could go on, but I will get off my soapbox for now, and just give you the scoop on substituting honey for sugar in baking!
Basically, honey is slightly sweet than sugar, so you can use it at a slightly less than 1:1 ratio. When I am using a small amount, such as 1 Tbsp in a loaf of bread, I will just keep it 1:1. But if a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, I will reduce it to about 3/4 cup.
Since honey is partially water, being a liquid, you will also have to adjust the liquids in your recipe. I have read a few different ideas about how much you need to reduce the liquids by. Usually it is suggested to reduce the liquids by 1/4 to 1/2 cup per cup of honey used. I usually find it sufficient to reduce by about a 1/4 cup only, but it sometimes depends on the recipe and the texture that you are looking for (firm cookie dough vs runnier sweet bread batter).
For instance, if I am baking a loaf of pumpkin bread that calls for for 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of milk, I might use a little over a cup of honey (maybe up to 1 1/4 cups), and about 2/3 cup milk. It sometimes takes a bit of experimenting to perfect a recipe.
Also, it is wise to turn your oven down slightly when baking with honey (by around 25 degrees), because honey browns a bit faster than sugar. You just need to keep on eye on your baking the first times that you try it. Of course, if you also bake with alternative flours, as I do (I primarily use spelt flour, but also sometimes use barley, kamut and rice flours), then you need to be aware that baked goods made with these flours can take longer to fully bake through, but can still brown faster with the honey, so a longer time in a lower temperature oven is your best bet. I have come to learn that baking in an unconventional way is a bit of an art form!
That said, it also becomes easier the more you do it. I barely think about how to substitute anymore these days. It has become (almost) second nature. I only purchase honey, in gallon tubs, and keep my granulated sugar for guests only. We have come to love the taste of honey sweetened, whole grain baking!
Check out Tammy's Recipes for some other great kitchen tips today!