The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking with Honey...heated controversy

Alfie's picture

Baking with Honey...heated controversy

Honey is thought to be a healthy good tasting sweetener.  I have heard that people from India

avoid baking with honey because there is a centuries held idea that heating honey causes it to

become toxic or poisonous in some way.  We have all heard that honey looses some of its healthy

benefits when heated.  We also have heard that heating and processing reduces potential for certain

bacteria.  Our food processing industry tries to make things attractive for the consumer and more

profitable for themselves.  Unheated crystallized honey is not as sellable as the golden almost clear

honey that comes in the squeezable plastic  bear.  In India honey may be thought to be more of a

medicine than a food.  Personally, I substitute rice syrup or sugar, maple syrup etc. when honey is

called for in a recipe that requires heating.  It is a switch for me because when I grew up honey cake

was thought to be a treat. 


Any further information will helpful. 


Thanks for this exchange of ideas and baking techniques.



pmccool's picture

Wikipedia has an article about honey that addresses some of your points.   It notes the loss/destruction of some compounds during heating.  In addition, it points out that the botulinum spores in honey may be hazardous to infants and that honey is an effective anti-bacterial agent for some types of infections.

That's just a skim of the information available on the web.

I love the stuff and it isn't just because I used to keep bees when I was younger.



happylina's picture

I think when you heat honey just lose something not everything

Even you heat honey it's still sweet and honey taste. 

In fact, When you fry vegetable, you same lose some A, B, C. If you like honey on you bread. It's better than sugar for health I think.

Honey egg cake popular in China so many years than any other baking cake.  Even in countryside have small shop only baking this cake.  I have many memory to this cake.  If you ask "who never been taste honey egg cake?" Difficult to find reply in China.  Nobody talk about no good for health. 



Alfie's picture

I am a big fan of honey on bread and in tea. 

Anyone comments from India?  Just curious.

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

When honey is heated over a certain temperature it increases the amount of HMF (hydroxymethylfurfuraldehyde) which, in large quantities, can be poisonous. It's also a function of age.

In LARGE quantities.

Don't worry about it.

I never cook with honey because it loses some of the floral flavours, might as well use sugar. It also, in my experience, makes cakes dry and causes swift caramelisation of crusts.

Eating honey because it's good for you is like drinking fine malt whisky because it's good for you. Keep some for topical healing of small injuries, burns especially. A customer of mine used to buy lots of honey because 'it massaged the heart on its way down'.

There are very many Old Wives Tales ...

I could go on, and on, and on but I shan't.


gary.turner's picture

Mary, I have to agree about the loss of flavor. It seems a waste to use honey in the bread; much better on it. Molasses, on the other hand, brings its flavor right to the table.



Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

One difference, among several, between honey and molasses is that honey has a far more delicate flavour when raw (except for heather honey). Molasses is so robust that I don't think any treatment could damage it :-)

You're right about honey being better ON bread - good bread with lots of good butter ... <drool>


Aussie Pete's picture
Aussie Pete

Hi There Alfie,

For years I have cooked with honey in biscuits, cakes, a baste for a christmas ham glaze and a sweetner in my tea. I'm 55 and still going. So don't worry too much. Cooking changes the natural structure of any natural product anyway.

As for crystalised honey. When honey is stored a cold environment such as a cold winter climate or the home fridge it's natural sugars will crystalise. It has a wet sugar look about it. This is a positive healthy sign. Here in Australia we say the honey has turned to "candy". It is a sign the brand of honey you have purchased has no glucose or any other additives in your product and is 100% natural. Some producers will take this crystalised honey and whip it into a thick creamy looking product and sell it as "creamed Honey". It is very popular here.

Some producers will add a glucose to their honey. Why I do not know as it is only interfering with nature at it's best. If your honey does not crystalise in a cold environment it means it has some form a glusose or outside product added to it. If your honey goes to crystal just bring a pot of water to the boil and turn the heat off. Place your jar of honey into the hot water and place the pot's lid back on. Let the heat do the rest. It will not cook the honey but melts it back to a natural runny liquid.

I guess we are lucky where I am living at present as we can go to a farm gate and buy direct from a local farmer and not a supermarket shelf. So remember do not fret over crystal honey or cooking with it. It's nature at it's best.

I guess overcooked and large quantities it could be dangerous, but hey.......what product isn't?.............Cheers   Pete


Alfie's picture

Sorry about the pun.  As they say in the U.S. you covered all the bases.  I do try to buy unheated honey from a local bee keeper.  There is also a whipped honey product here which is probably called whipped honey.  When I was a kid there was a grocery store item which mixed honey and butter together and was sold in the refrigerated case. Will try to be more fearless...

Thanks for help, /alfie

Daisy_A's picture

Hi Pete,

Thanks for covering this. When I've had honey crystallise like this before I assumed there was something wrong with it or that I had stored it badly. Am reassured now. Will look for those that do crystallise when cold, rather than those that don't. There are some good local honeys available in the UK.

Best wishes, Daisy_A

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

Honey is a mixture of different sugars and they're determined by the source of the nectar collected by honey bees. It there are more of some kinds than another it will granulate and vice versa. Very few honeys will never granulate, some, like oil seed rape, can granulate in the comb, before it's extracted.

If it takes a long time to granulate you get large crystals, if it's quick you get very small crystals but you can have some control over the rate.

Using a small amount of a fast granulating honey to 'seed' a slow one by mixing the two (but not by whipping which introduces air) will result in a very smooth honey because of the small crystals.

Honey will granulate rapidly if kept in the fridge but it's unnecessary to do that, as long as the lid is kept tight it will be OK. Surprisingly, though, honey kept at low temperatures such as in a freezer will NOT granulate!

Agitating most honeys, for example by stirring, will accelerate the rate of granulation. This can be a problem with the honey in squeezy  'honey bears'. To avoid this the honey is kept at a certain temperature for a while before packing. It's not boiled and the heating isn't to sterilize it. Honey is a sterilant in its own right.

I'm in UK too, Yorkshire, we do have some excellent honeys but we can't, sadly, get some of the honeys available in USA, simply because we don't have the acreage of the same plant or tree. The only 100% reliable single source honeys we have are rape and the Queen of honeys, ling heather. both present problems of extraction for the beekeeper but the result is worthwhile.

Heather is slow to granulate so when it does you have very large, crunchy crystals which our children loved and you can't 'liquefy' heather honey by heating so you're stuck with it :-)



Alfie's picture


It is an interesting fact about how honey won't crystalize when frozen.  You probably have access to French and other honey with many subtle differences.  Here we have a great deal of clover honey.



PS.  I knew we have orange blossom honey but there are many more.


Aussie Pete's picture
Aussie Pete


Hi all,

A lot of our Australian honey (as with other countries) is named after the tree and flower that the bee is collecting it's nectar from. So a few of our honey types are Iron Bark, leatherwood, yellow box, red gum, blue gum, manuka(from the tea tree)jarrah and a apple honey just to name a few. My favourite comes from a weed that sometimes gets out of control known as Patersons Curse. It is a purple flower weed and despite it being a curse to the farmer it allows our bees to produce one of the nicest honeys I have tasted.

Honey production process occurs where nectar from flowers is gathered from the flowers until it is stored in the honeycomb bee hives. As honey is a byproduct of the pollenation process carried out by our bees, each flowers nectar is aimed to a attract the bees to their species. So honey styles can be determined by the seasons and what part of the country is in flower. Bee keepers will travel miles to place their hives chasing the nectar. As bees take honey from only one type of flower on each forage trip I have read it can take 300 working bees to produce 450g of honey. That my friends is what you call team work. So we really need to respect one of natures true gifts to man....Bees and Honey.

Getting back to bread who has tried the wheat germ and honey loaf that appears on this site?

Cheers for now............Pete

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

 ... Norman Rice, the queen breeder of Beaudesert,  told me that Paterson's Curse an echium) was also known as Salvation Jane because of its value to beekeepers. It's beautiful but toxic to grazing animals, you can't have everything! He gave me some of the honey, it was very good.

Beekeepers all over the world travel extensively for the best honey crops, even here in England people will take hives from the far south to the far north - 500 miles! - , where the finest ling honey is produced. They do have it in the New Forest but it's not a patch on ours :-)

Intensive bee farming involves hauling enormous truck loads of hives for thousands of miles, especially in USA. This is known to stress bees and is considered to be a possible contributory factor in 'Colony Collapse Disorder'. 

Sorry, folks, you've excited one of the bees in my bonnet ...