Chat Leftovers: Honey, I want to make cookies

May 8, 2013

It’s party time! Spring calls for a Memorial Day party, graduation party, wedding shower, whatever. Someone has to give it, and it might as well be you, now that we’ve brought you some ideas from the pros.

Start with the Deans, two Charleston, S.C., socialites who specialize in effortless entertaining and launched the Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits to teach others. Cathy Barrow visits them and passes along some of their tips.

You’ll want your party food to look great on the plate, and for that, we give you food stylist Lisa Cherkasky, who takes plating seriously. She turns ho-hum into yum; find out how.

And if you’re the rollicking sort — or just aspire to be — Kate Parham introduces you to the porron, a Spanish carafe that makes everyone the life of the party. Just make sure your guests wear black.

Still have questions about entertaining? Ask them at today’s Free Range chat. We’ll be there at noon sharp to answer whatever you throw at us. Or if we can’t fit your question in, I might just answer it in this space next week. Which is what I’ve done here, with a leftover query from last week’s chat:

I want to try using honey to bake cookies. If I was starting with a recipe that called for white and brown sugar, any idea how to effectively substitute honey? I would think you could consider it akin to the molasses in brown sugar, but not entirely sure.

You can do it, but some experimentation will be involved, and first there are a couple of things about honey you need to know. It is hydroscopic, meaning that it attracts moisture, and any cookie that has a high honey content will be soft and moist. So if you like your cookies crispy, honey will work against you. That same factor means that cookies and other foods baked with honey will keep longer and won’t get hard and dried-out.

Honey is slightly sweeter than sugar, so you might not want to substitute on a one-to-one basis, especially if the recipe calls for more than a cup of sugar. In that case, substitute 3/4 cup of honey for 1 cup of sugar.

Honey also browns faster, so lower your oven temperature by 25 degrees and set your timer earlier than what the recipe calls for; you’ll need to be watchful to prevent burning.

Finally, I’ve read — but haven’t tried it — that if you add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for every cup of honey in your recipe (unless the recipe already calls for baking soda), that will make the cookies less acidic and cause them to get a nicer rise.

So you can do it, but with each recipe you use, there will probably be some trial and error until you get it just right.

One more important thing: Honey does not taste like sugar. It will impart its own flavor, and the darker the honey, the more pronounced that flavor will be. A strong honey taste might not pair well with some of the ingredients in your cookies. So keep that in mind as you proceed. And happy experimenting!

Here are two cookies from our Recipe Finder that use honey. They also use some sugar, and that’s another idea you can try: swapping out just part of the sugar in a recipe for honey.

Sherill’s Secret Soft Gingerbread Boys — We offered them as a holiday cookie, but they’re great year-round.

Honey-Lemon Cookies — Don’t worry, you don’t need the bee-pollen topping!

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