The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

bees and bread

slaughlin's picture

bees and bread

I've noticed that there has been a number of posts about bee keeping and honey.  Its seems to me that bread making and beekeeping somehow goes together.  I'm a hobby beekeeper, just 2 hives this year, and I'd love to have any bread recipes with honey or info on the status of other folks hives are doing.  My hives are doing really pretty well though the drought in this area has reduced honey production.  I don't want to stray from a bread content on the fresh loaf and I hope this is not a inappropriate post. 


Atropine's picture

Well, I dunno if it does violate the purpose of the forum, but I would say no, because it is an ingredient!  If we discuss the source of our flours, then the source of our honey SEEMS like it would be appropriate as well :-).  However, I might be ENTIRELY incorrect.

I get my honey from my "honey man"--a guy at the college who has hives.  He has the most wonderful honey.  It is AMAZING the difference in flavor from stor bought (pasteurized) stuff and actual, real, untampered with honey!  And then the difference here in the late honey (fireweed) and early honey (willow and dandelion). 

One of those honeys is dark and strong, the other is light and delicate.  Does anyone know if different honeys have a different ACTION in bread?  Not taste, but actually affect the mechanics of bread (like, is there a higher sugar content in early vs late season honeys?  different trace minerals or materials?)?  Or is honey only a flavoring?  I have used one honey in the bread, but not the other.

Oh another question--since at least raw honey does have fairly significant antibacterial properties, does that affect the lactobacillus growth (hence the flavor) in a sourdough, if enough honey is added early in the dough making process?


Ramona's picture

Hello, I also use honey in my baking recipes. In fact,
we use ALOT of honey in our household. I can easily go
through a gallon a month. We drink suntea just about every day with it. I have always had a strong suspicion that the bee disappearances were from pesticides and recently, I got my Countryside magazine and there was a man that is part of the official group that is studying this ( I can't remember his name or the offical group's name because I gave the magazine to my husband and can't find it now) and
he confirmed that the bee problem in out country IS NOT affecting bees that are bred with no chemicals(for the most part) and are not exposed to pesticides. Bees only go so far, as you know, for their foraging and so it can be controlled as to what they are exposed to. I have also read a couple of months ago, that France had a problem similiar to this and they found it was a pesticide they were using and once they stopped using it, the problem disappeared. I know that in Arizona the bees are not having a problem. I am able to buy a 12 pound container of honey (choices are wild desert flower-which is dark and has a great flavor and is my favorite, or mesquite or catsclaw) for $30.00 (if I go to the source or $37.00 if I have it delivered to a farmer's market. Alot of people don't know about all the health properties of honey. It's very healthy. And raw honey is the only way to get these benefits. Just like raw milk, which the government has scared most not to want to use. Raw milk is very beneficial to a person's health, but not homogenized milk, which is detrimental. Just a side note. Anyways, using honey will put extra moisture into a recipe and gives whole wheat recipes better flavor.

KipperCat's picture

Any form of sugar (including honey) is food for the yeast and will affect the dough somewhat.  But unless it is a very sweet dough, I wouldn't expect a huge difference.  As far as the differences between various honeys, that's a good question.  I always thought I liked all honeys, even though I noticed flavor differences. Then I bought one made by local bees.  It was pretty awful.  I'm curious what those bees were eating!

naschol's picture

I no longer buy the pasturized honey, not only because of the health benefits of raw, unfilterd honey, but also because of the burnt taste.  I never noticed that it WAS a burnt taste until I tried them side by side.  Now, that off flavor stands out every time I eat pasturized honey.



Cooky's picture

Though I have no experience with beekeeping, I can testify that honey makes a terrific addition to breads. As Ramona noted, it does something lovely to whole wheat recipes in particular.  I substitute honey in almost every bread recipe that calls for sugar, and I am always happy with the results. There is a taste difference, although it's pretty subtle in recipes with small amounts (a tablespoon or two).



"I am not a cook. But I am sorta cooky."

browndog's picture

Time for a recipe. Here's one of my favorite give-away breads, because nobody expects a loaf yellow and redolant with curry:Honey-Curry Pull-Apart Bread

1/2 c warm water

1 tbsp active dry yeast

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp good, fresh curry powder

2/3 c honey

2 c buttermilk or 2 c water + 1/4 c dried buttermilk powder

2 tsp salt

6-7 c unbleached flour

melted butter for brushing dough

Proof yeast in 1/2 c warm water. Melt butter in a small pan and stir in curry. Cook over low heat one minute, stir in honey and remove from heat.

Combine all ingredients, adding enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead til smooth and elastic, 5-10 minutes. Cover and let rise in a warm place til doubled, 1-2 hours.

Divide in half. To make pull-apart loaves, roll out one half into a rectangle about 12 X 18". Brush with melted butter. Cut lengthwise into 3 equal strips, then stack them one on top of the other. Then make 3 or 4 equally-spaced cuts crosswise in the stacked strips. Place the stacks on edge in a buttered loaf pan so that the layers form a long row down the length of the pan. Paint liberally with melted butter. Cover and let rise about 45 minutes. 375 * oven 40-50 minutes, begin checking at 35 minutes. Loaves should be deep golden brown. You can also make regular pan loaves or rolls.  Makes 2 loaves.

adapted from The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook by Rosso & Lukins

slaughlin's picture

That is just beautiful........definately on my list to try this next week.  Thanks for the recipe


bluezebra's picture

That is simply too cool for school ladybug! Awesome presentation, so fun. Does it taste as incredible as it looks? I'm thinking this will go into the "Must try soon or cry" Folder!

Paddyscake's picture

I made stuffed peppers that were stuffed with barley, veggies and spiced with Madras curry and ginger. The Honey Curry bread was the perfect compliment to the peppers. It was easy and a fun loaf to make. I did have to cut the strips into eight pieces rather than four. The four stacks only half filled the pan. The bread is pillowy soft and the taste and aroma of the curry is awesome. Definite keeper!! Thanks Browndog! Bow-Wow!!

browndog's picture

Your stuffed peppers sound awesome too, Paddyscake. Barley is my favorite grain easily. I'm glad you liked this bread, it's a favorite at our house. Did you use the full 2 tablespoons of curry?

No pictures, whine...

Paddyscake's picture

I did indeed use the full 2 T of red curry..we love it! I didn't take any pictures because it looked just like yours and I didn't think anyone would be interested. I only made one loaf because we have been eating way too much bread ..and butter!! I said to my husband that I should have made both loaves, then on second thought it was probably just as well that I didn't!

manuela's picture

I can tell you about one type of starter that is made in Italy, an old method described also by the Simili sisters, who are rather famous bakers in Italy and wrote books on bread and baking.

It is very simple, but it takes longer than other methods.

200 g flour (low protein is best)

90 g water

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp extra-vergin olive oil

you mix everything into a rather stiff dough, then let it ferment in a covered glass container for 48 hrs (room temperature).

After 48 hrs you should see some signs of fermentation. If you do, you take half of the fermented dough and refresh it with 2/3 of its weight in flour and 1/3 water (no more honey or oil).

You continue doing refreshments for at least 2 weeks, and the wild yeasts will become increasingly strong. The starter will be ready when it doubles in 3 hours at room temperature.Usually it itakes a full month for the culture to be strong enough. At that point you cankeep it in the refrigerator and feed it twice a week or so. It must be refreshed prior to use for bread.

When everything works fine, the starter has a fruity aroma and a low acidity, very pleasant smell and a firm consistency.

In my experience if it is left to ferment at too warm temperatures it becomes gooey, and smells like cheese--not pleasant. In that case you have to start over.

Usually it is used in a proportion of 150 or 200g per 500 g of flour. The bread that it produces has crumb with medium to small holes and a very pleasant taste, very mildly acidic. The bread also keeps well for a long time.

It is this type of starter that is used traditionally to make panettone or pandoro and a variety of other breads, both sweet and savory.