We have a lot of great honey in Alberta, particularly on the prairies — Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba account for almost 80 per cent of our national production, and bees provide vital pollination to farmers growing other crops as well.
At the market, we’re lucky to have access to jars of honey in a range of colours and clarities, in shades from pale gold to amber to deep mahogany. Generally speaking, the darker the colour, the stronger the flavour, which is ultimately determined by the flowers on which bees feed, like clover, alfalfa or manuka. Terroir, weather conditions, and even time of year can contribute to the nuances in the taste and texture of honey — if you’re tuned into it, you can choose your honey like you might pick a specific jar of jam to spread on your morning toast.
When you’re cooking or baking with it, the subtleties in honey will come through in simpler dishes like creme brûlée or buttery cakes that are unobscured by chocolate or other ingredients. Keep in mind honey is sweeter than sugar, so you won’t need as much of it. It’s also a liquid, which can throw a recipe off when used in place of dry sugar, and it has humectant properties, meaning it draws moisture from the air — both these factors make it better suited to cakes, muffins and other baked goods that have a naturally cakey texture. And because its primary sugar is fructose, honey also browns more quickly, so whatever it is you’re baking will turn golden earlier in its baking time than if it was made with sugar. Most honey is thick, clear and pourable, but creamed honey is more solid and opaque; if you need a liquid honey, warming will transform both creamed and crystallized back to its liquid state.
If you really love honey, here are a few things to do with it: make a batch of baklava, which puts honey on a pedestal; or pour it over oats, nuts and seeds to make a batch of granola. Or if you like things sweet and spicy, add chilies and pour it generously over fried chicken and waffles.
Fried Chicken & Waffles with Hot Honey Butter
- 1 cup buttermilk (or plain yogurt thinned with water), 250 ml
- 1 egg
- 1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast or thighs, 500 g
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 185 ml
- 1 tsp garlic powder, 5 ml
- 1 tsp salt, 5ml
- 1/2 tsp black pepper, 3 ml
- Canola oil, for frying
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, 250 ml
- 2 tsp baking powder, 10 ml
- 1/4 tsp salt, 1.25 ml
- 1 cup milk, 250 ml
- 1 large egg
- 2 tbsp canola oil, 30 ml
Honey Hot Butter
- 1/3 cup butter, 80 ml
- 2-3 tbsp honey, 30-45 ml
- 1-2 tsp sriracha, 5-10 ml
- In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk and egg. Cut the chicken into ½ to 25-mm (1-inch) strips and add to the buttermilk mixture, coating them all well. In a shallow dish, stir together the flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
- Remove the chicken pieces from the egg mixture and dredge in the flour, pressing as much onto the chicken as you can (particularly those damp bits of buttermilk and flour). Transfer to a rack set over a baking sheet. (If you want extra coating, dip them again in the buttermilk and another batch of seasoned flour.)
- Heat 25-50mm (an inch or two) of oil in a heavy medium saucepan or deep skillet until it’s hot, but not smoking — a scrap of bread should sizzle when dipped in, or it should be about 175 C (350 F) on a thermometer. Fry the chicken strips in batches, without crowding the pan, until crisp and deep golden, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
- To make the waffles, in a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. In another bowl or measuring cup, whisk the milk, egg and oil. Add to the dry ingredients and stir just to combine. Cook in a preheated waffle iron until golden and crisp.
- Serve the fried chicken over the waffles, passing the spicy honey butter at the table.