Beekeeping 101.1 – Local Honey and Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you have honey you need to make these cookies

Honey Chocolate Chip Cookie
What Sweet Tooth?

Honey Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you’ve read Clean Slate Farm at all you will no doubt recognize my love of baking…cookies in particular. Just check out the Recipe Box and you’ll see baking is a favorite past time around here.

I’ve written we will be keeping bees at Clean Slate Farm this year and while wandering around beekeeping sites I found a recipe for chocolate chip cookies made with honey. Sucker that I am for cookies, and with bee hives and honey harvests in our future I reckoned I just may have to make these seeing as we’ll have a lot of honey around here in the future.

This cookie is completely different from the Toll House Cookie we’ve made before in this one is soft, light, and chewy. The batch I just made, which is being enjoyed with a fresh latte as I write, was made with a local honey lighter in flavor. A heavier honey, buckwheat for instance, would change the taste accordingly. Why? Read on cookie lover, read on…

Beekeeping 101.1

Back to beekeeping. Let’s discuss honey and variety of color and taste it can have. Honey can range in color from dark to light, depending on the floral source of the nectar and the mineral content of the honey. Generally speaking lighter colored honey is lighter flavored, darker honey is usually more pronounced in flavor. Buckwheat honey is a great example of this being quite dark and having a malty, deep flavor. An exception to this would be basswood honey, which is light in color but heavier in flavor, so I’m told. This would be an example of the mineral content in the honey.

Color is graded by the USDA into seven categories:

    1. Water white
    2. Extra white
    3. White
    4. Extra light amber
    5. Light amber
    6. Amber
    7. Dark amber

The way honey is graded is by the Pfund scale. Google it and you’ll see that the Pfund scale is a measurement of mm on a gradated scale. When the honey matches the color on the scale it is graded with the the number it matches. Therefore honey with a rating of 35-5o is considered extra light amber, 51-85 is light amber, and so on.

So how do you choose what honey you like? Simply try different honeys and see what your preference is. Honey is very subject to terroir much like wine. Many would say, and I agree, the taste of local honey changes from year to year due to the changes in blossoming plants each year. At Clean Slate Farm the apple and cherry blossoms were incredibly lush in 2010 and 2013, while not so in 2011 and 2012. This would have an effect on the color and taste of the honey in this area.

There’s another reason for different tastes. Foraging bees will travel up to five miles to gather pollen and nectar. So unless the forage area is predominantly one plant the honey will not have a single specific flavor. Honey from these apiaries should be labeled wildflower honey as the beekeeper has little control of what the bees are foraging on.  Some beekeepers will label honey as “Strawberry Fields” or a similar name if the predominant forage source is strawberries for instance. Buyer beware is all I’ll say. The bees will eat what the bees have available and what humans want is of no concern to them.

Is there such a thing as organic honey? Sadly, no. Due to pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and GMO crops organic honey is impossible. Why? See the paragraph above. The beekeeper does not control what the bee forages. The best we can hope for is locally produced honey kept in a sustainable manner where the beekeeper uses natural pest control and  locally adapted bees to encourage good genetics for strong colonies. You would have to be living under a rock not to have heard about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which is (mysteriously?) killing tens of thousands of bee colonies worldwide. Some reliable European and well regarded North American studies have linked CCD to monoculture farming and pesticide/herbicides containing neonicotinoids, a neuro-active toxin used in monoculture pest control. Big Ag and agro-pharmaceuticals are arguing differently but the studies are becoming more persuasive. Just don’t use Round-Up on your lawn or let your neighbor use it either. It’s killing the bees.

In a future post I’ll talk about honey bee pests and problems the beekeeper must deal with. As we at Clean Slate Farm get deeper into the bee thing we’ll bring you a first hand perspective.

Now back to the recipe. Enjoy!

Local Honey Chocolate Chip Cookie - Beekeeping 101, A Diversion
 
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Found on the Rochester Beekeepers Blog http://www.rochesterbeekeepers.com/blog.html
Author:
Cuisine: American
Serves: 28-28
Ingredients
  • ½ cup local honey
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • ½ cup walnuts, ground
Instructions
  1. Cream honey and butter together. Add egg and vanilla. In bowl, mix flour, soda, powder and salt together. Add flour mix. Add nuts and chocolate chips. Drop onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

 

 

Five Minute Artisan Bread

Five Minute Magic
Five Minute Magic

I know people will say, “Dave, you graduated from The Culinary Institute of America. Of course you can make great bread.” Well they didn’t teach us this one, that’s for sure.

First let’s clear something up. It’s not five minute artisan bread. It’s more like 20 minute bread. But the beauty is it’s so simple to make there’s no reason not to. The only equipment you need is a cutting board, a pizza stone (maybe), and a 6 to 8 quart Tupperware tub or similar. The recipe pretty much says it all but here are some tips.

    1. Letting the dough sit in the fridge overnight allows the flavor to develop more. This  batch makes about four loaves so it should get better each time you make it. That’s right..it’s a two day process, but still only about 20 minutes of time.
    2. When you take your hunk of dough out of the Tupperware make sure your hand is covered in flour. The dough will be somewhat sticky and this helps a lot.
    3. If you don’t have a pizza stone use a cookie sheet pan turned upside down. It’ll work, just not as good.
    4. The water in the oven thing. It’s for a better, crispier crust. Don’t have a loaf pan? Put the water in the broiler pan instead.
    5. Put the leftover dough back in the fridge for tomorrow or later. It’ll last up to 14 days.
    6. Make sure you have plenty of olive oil, dried herbs, and a bottle of wine. You’ll probably eat the whole loaf in one sitting.

This is a master recipe. I just made another batch with steamed, chopped spinach and Feta cheese. Use one cup of steamed chopped spinach and 1/4 cup of Feta. Add them to the yeast, salt, water mixture before you add the flour. Done. Two different loaves with one recipe. Ya’ gotta love it.

That’s it. It really is that simple. Here’s some pictures of the process.

Five Minute Artisan Bread

Five Minute Artisan Bread
 
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So simple it's ridiculous. Even more so if you have a stand mixer.
Author:
Recipe type: Bread
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 6½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1½ tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 cups warm water, about 110 degree F
Instructions
  1. Mix the yeast, salt, and water in the bowl of the mixer. Whisk it a little to combine well. Let it sit while you measure the flour.
  2. Measure out the flour.
  3. Add the flour to the mixer and mix on low with the dough hook. It's going to take few minutes for every thing to mix up.
  4. Once everything in mixed up dump it in your Tupperware tub and cover but don't seal it completely.
  5. Let rest until doubled in size then put in the fridge overnight.
  6. Next day chop off a hunk a little larger than a grapefruit. Flour your hands so the dough doesn't stick to you.
  7. Dust the cutting board with cornbread mix or flour.
  8. Shape it into a round loaf. The bottom will look a little rough. Don't worry, you'll get the hang of it in a few loaves.
  9. Put the loaf on the board and let sit for 40 minutes. At twenty minutes turn the oven on to 450F.
  10. Dust the pizza stone with cornmeal or flour and slide the loaf onto the stone.
  11. Off to the side of the bread add a loaf pan or something similar with about 1½ cups of hot water.
  12. Close the oven door and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

 

Glazed Maple Walnut Cookies

A neighbor gave us some of his maple syrup so we made cookies!

Glazed Maple Walnut Cookies

 

Every year for the past three years we have a get together with our neighbors down the road, Trish and Jay. Each family bakes some cookies and we have a mid-winter gathering of sugary gluttony. Trish dubbed this soirée “geek fest” because we drag out the latest e-toys. This year Trish invited our new neighbors Lisa and John.

Cookies are a  favorite of mine. I love baking them, but mostly I love eating them. As I was wondering what to make this year I  picked up a copy of Fine Cooking magazine’s “Cookies” and started browsing through. Almost immediately after turning a page I knew what I was making. Glazed Maple-Pecan Cookies, which I adapted to Glazed Maple Walnut Cookies.

Our neighbor, Dick, who lives up the street a bit has a sugar bush that pumps out hundreds if not thousands of gallons of sap every year, which he boils down to syrup. Now maybe I’m prejudiced but Dick’s maple syrup is out of this world….and limited in supply. So when Dick offered us a small jug three years ago we took him up on it and enjoyed it rather quickly. French toast, pancakes, and drizzled over home-made yogurt.

When we ran out this year I asked Dick if he had any left and to our delight he did. One half-gallon, of which we are now the proud owners. It’s doubtful if it will last long, especially after finding this recipe. It’s an easy recipe and it’s made extra special by the use of Dick’s syrup.

The recipe below is slightly modified from the original Glazed Maple-Pecan Cookie recipe found at Fine Cooking. Lacking any maple flavoring except for syrup I wondered what a suitable substitute would be. I settled on Boyajian’s pure orange oil to add a whisper of orange.

Orange oil is a trick I learned at the Culinary Institute of America when working with chocolate truffles. Just a bit adds a complex, almost indistinguishable flavor profile. For this recipe I used only one-half teaspoon of Boyajian’s. It’s a really nice compliment to the maple syrup. The only other change I made was substituting toasted walnuts for the toasted pecans. I mean, walnuts and maple are part of the grand scheme of nature.

I’m also bringing the ground cherry pie from a previous post. Check it out here.

What maple syrup memory do you have that brings back springtime?

Glazed Maple Walnut Cookies
 
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Author:
Recipe type: cookie
Cuisine: North American
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • For the dough:
  • - 11-1/4 ounces (2-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • - ½ teaspoon table salt
  • - ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • - ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • - ¼ cup very firmly packed, very fresh dark brown sugar
  • - ½ teaspoon orange oil (Boyajian's)
  • - 6 ounces (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • - 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • - ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • - 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • - 8 ounces (2 cups) toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • - For the glaze:
  • - ¾ cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • - ¼ cup pure maple syrup, warmed
  • - Hot water as needed for thinning
Instructions
  1. Mix the dough: Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. In a food processor, pulse the granulated and brown sugars to blend and then add the maple flavoring. Pulse five or six times and then process for 15 seconds. Scrape the bowl to be sure all of the flavoring has been incorporated. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-low speed until very smooth, about 2 min. Add the sugar mixture in three additions. Mix until lightened in color, about another 3 min. Add the egg and then the maple syrup and vanilla, mixing just until blended. Scrape the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Mix in the dry ingredients in three additions, and then add the pecans and mix just until blended.
  2. Shape the dough: Have ready three 15-inch sheets of plastic wrap. Portion the dough into three equal pieces and roll each piece back and forth until it forms a log about 10 inches long. (You needn’t flour the rolling surface.) Position each log on a sheet of plastic wrap, centering it at the edge closest to you. Roll tightly, twisting the ends firmly to seal. With your hands on either end, push the log firmly toward the center to compact the dough. The finished log should measure about 9 inches long and about 1-1/2 inches thick. Refrigerate the logs until firm enough to slice, 2 to 3 hours, or freeze for up to three months.
  3. Bake the cookies:
  4. Tip: Meanwhile, make the glaze: Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Working with one log at a time, use a tomato knife or other small serrated knife to cut the dough into ¼-inch rounds using a gentle sawing motion. Set the rounds 1 inch apart on the prepared pans and bake until the cookies are lightly browned, about 18 minutes, rotating the pans as needed for even browning.
  5. Whisk the confecctioners’ sugar and maple syrup until smooth and pourable. Remove the sheets from the oven and let rest on the baking sheets for 2 min. While the cookies are still hot, use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of the glaze on top of each cookie. (If the glaze becomes too thick as it stands, thin it with a few drops of hot water.) Transfer the cookies to a rack; the glaze will become firm within minutes. Store the cookies, layered between sheets of waxed paper, in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze for up to three months.