Paul’s note: Joy is a foodie’s foodie. Even among my gourmet friends, her knowledge and culinary skills standout, so I am honored to have her as a guest author. Joy occasionally publishes to her own blog, where the prose and pictures can create intense cravings. She has graciously agreed to write for us about honey, a subject where her passion for collection will soon outstrip her pantry’s storage capacity. Joy writes:
It’s time to face the facts: somewhere along the road between occasional curiosity and constant coveting, I have become a honey hoarder. I stash honey like a bee hunkering down for winter, compulsively buying it at a rate that greatly exceeds even the most optimistic projections of consumption. The sad reality is that my purchases are oft-neglected, left on most days to collect dust and crystallize. And yet, on occasion, I’ll remember to open a jar and share its contents with friends. We swirl it into yogurt, slather it on scones, churn it into ice cream, and drizzle it atop cheese. Best of all, we eat it straight from the jar, the slow, steady trickle of honey from the spoon a sweet seduction as it pools in a glowing puddle on our tongues.
One of my favorite uses for honey is in Madeleines au Miel: little golden cookies (cakelets, really), scalloped on one face and smooth, save the characteristic hump, on the other. I’m not sure whether they are “authentic”—Proust’s madeleine was reportedly a dry affair that disintegrated upon being dunked in hot tea—but I like them anyway, particularly just-baked, when they are still slightly crisp with a tight, tender crumb. The recipe I usually follow is from Paris Sweets, by Dorie Greenspan, and is an adaptation of one from Boulangerie-Patisserie Poujauran in Paris.
Honey Madeleines (Madeleines au Miel)
Makes about 12 large or 36 small madeleines
3/4 c (105 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 c (66 g) sugar
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
2 t pure vanilla extract
1 T honey
5 T (70 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1. Sift together the flour and baking powder and keep close at hand. Working in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed until they thicken and lighten in color, 2-4 minutes. Beat in the lemon zest, vanilla, and honey. Switch to a large rubber spatula and gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Cover the batter with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal, and chill for at least 3 hours, preferably longer -- chilling helps the batter develop its characteristic crown. The batter can be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
2. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400F (200C). If your madeleine pan is not nonstick, generously butter it, dust the insides with flour, and tap out the excess.
3. Divide the batter among the molds, filling them almost to the top. Don't worry about smoothing the batter, it will even out as it bakes.
4. Bake large madeleines for 11-13 minutes, small ones for 8-10 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed and golden and spring back when touched. Pull the pan from the oven and remove the cookies by either rapping the pan against the counter or gently running a butter knife around the edges of the cookies. Allow the madeleines to cool on a cooling rack. They can be served ever so slightly warm or at room temperature.
Any type of honey will work in the recipe above, but the madeleines come out particularly well with a strongly flavored honey. Floral honeys work well too: favorites of mine include a jar of Bonny Doon’s lavender-infused honey, with a lavender sprig suspended in its amber depths, and the miel de lavande that Elaine hand-selected and brought back for me from Provence.
Where to buy honey
If you happen to find yourself in Japan, L’Abeille is a honey-lover’s haven. But if not, there are plenty of stores that stock a wide range of honeys right in the Bay Area. Upscale supermarkets like Andronico’s, Draeger’s, and Whole Foods often carry a good selection, and you can usually find local honey at the farmer’s market. Two other sources are worthy of special mention as well:
Marshall’s Farm 159 Lombard Road, American Canyon, CA (707) 556-8088
There’s no need to go all the way out to their farm, unless you’re interested in taking a tour. They have a regular spot at the SF Ferry Market, where you can taste honey to your heart’s content—or, as in my case, until you’re dizzy from the sugar! Helene Marshall, the beekeeper’s wife, is incredibly friendly and willing to tell you anything you’d like to know about the varieties of honey that they offer. My favorite Marshall’s Farm honeys include the complex, slightly bitter Almond Blossom, the uniquely-flavored Five-Star Sage, and the pale, intensely floral Orange Blossom. It’s also worth seeking out their Pumpkin Blossom honey. Many renowned Bay Area chefs use Marshall’s Farm honey at their restaurants, from Alice Waters at Chez Panisse to Thomas Keller at The French Laundry.
The Pasta Shop 1786 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710 (510) 528-1786
This well-stocked little shop is crammed with mouth-watering gourmet items, including several shelves of honey. I recently purchased some Italian chestnut honey there, a deep, rich mahogany elixir in a squat round jar. They also sell white truffle honey, whose heady earthiness is a perfect complement for a silky Brillat-Savarin.