Cleopatra is said to have ruled Egypt with an iron fist. Apparently, it was also a smooth fist, since she was one of the more famous people in history to use honey for its skin-enhancing properties. In fact, Cleopatra's legendary milk and honey baths are just one of many historical examples of people using honey to pamper their complexions. While Cleopatra didn't know why honey softened her skin, new research suggests the queen of the Nile was definitely onto something.
Madame du Barry, the infamous last mistress of Louis XV, used honey as a form of facial mask, lying down for a rest while the honey did its work. It was said that Queen Anne of England used a honey and oil concoction to keep her long hair lustrous, thick and shiny.
Honey is composed primarily of carbohydrates and water, and also contains small amounts of a wide array of vitamins and minerals, including niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
Of recent interest is the antioxidant content of honey. Honey contains a variety of flavonoids and phenolic acids which act as antioxidants, scavenging and eliminating free radicals. Generally, darker honeys have higher antioxidant content than lighter honeys.
Most of us know honey as a sweet, golden liquid. But, in fact, honey can be found in a variety of forms.
Comb Honey - Comb honey is honey that comes as it was produced — in the honey bees' wax comb. The comb, as well as the honey, is edible!
Cut Comb - Cut comb honey is liquid honey that has added chunks of the honey comb in the jar. Also known as liquid-cut comb combination.
Liquid Honey - Free of visible crystals, liquid honey is extracted from the honey comb by centrifugal force, gravity or straining. Because liquid honey mixes easily into a variety of foods, it's especially convenient for cooking and baking. Most of the honey produced in the United States is sold in the liquid form.
Naturally Crystallized Honey - Naturally crystallized honey is honey that part of the natural glucose content has spontaneously crystallized from solution as the monohydrate.
Whipped (or Cremed) Honey - While all honey will crystallize in time, whipped honey (also known as cremed honey or sugared honey) is brought to market in a crystallized state. The crystallization is controlled so that, at room temperature, the honey can be spread like butter. In many countries around the world, whipped honey is preferred to the liquid form.
For best results, use recipes developed for using honey. When substituting honey for granulated sugar in recipes, begin by substituting honey for up to half of the sugar called for in the recipe. With a little experimentation, honey can replace all the sugar in some recipes.
When baking with honey, remember the following:
• Reduce any liquid called for by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey used.
• Add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of honey used.
• Reduce oven temperature by 25°F to prevent over-browning.
Because of its high fructose content, honey has a higher sweetening power than sugar. This means you can use less honey than sugar to achieve the desired sweetness.
When measuring honey, coat the measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray or vegetable oil before adding the honey. The honey will slide right out.
A 12-ounce jar of honey equals a standard measuring cup.
Storing honey in the refrigerator accelerates the honey’s crystallization. Crystallization is the natural process in which liquid in honey becomes solid.
Honey stored in sealed containers can remain stable for decades and even centuries! However, it tends to darken and lose its aroma and flavor over time. This is a temperature-dependent process, making the shelf life of honey difficult to define. For practical purposes, a shelf life of two years is often stated.
If your honey crystallizes, simply place the honey jar in warm water and stir until the crystals dissolve. Or, place the honey in a microwave-safe container with the lid off and microwave it, stirring every 30 seconds, until the crystals dissolve. Be careful not to boil or scorch the honey.
Note: Honey should not be fed to infants under one year of age. Honey is a safe and wholesome food for children and adults.