I’ve been going through my kitchen cabinets, and refrigerator…and freezer…and desk drawers, which has meant unearthing all sorts of odds and ends. Some were long-forgotten for a reason, and others brought back fond memories. Like the Pyrex glass container in my refrigerator encasing some remarkably well-preserved slices of candied citron. When I pulled the sticky citrus sections out, I realized that they don’t look quite as pretty as they did last year – which is okay, because neither do I – but they still tasted great. And the flavor of candied citron prompted me to make something I love: panforte.
Results tagged honey from David Lebovitz
For some reason, fresh fig season seemed to have slipped right past me this year. Either that, or I wasn’t looking very hard because normally when I see fresh figs, I can’t help bringing home a big sack of them and snacking on them all week. Figs have two seasons; the first is usually late summer and the second begins mid-fall. The second crop is better-tasting and toward the end of the season, the prices drop as the bounty increases.
Last weekend at the market I saw some very nice looking figs and even though I thought the season had passed me by, I sneaked a squeeze when the vendor wasn’t looking and I could feel through their skin the juiciness of a ripe ‘n ready fig, so I took a gamble and bought a very big bag. And when I got home, I was happy to find that when sliced open, they were a bright ruby-red inside and indeed, just perfect. So to make them last a wee bit longer, I decided to oven-roast a portion of them to conserve my late season windfall.
I was actually thrilled to see a market of producteurs that was happening this weekend in Paris. We have some great food available in Paris but I don’t get the opportunity often to meet and shop directly from the people who are producing the food. This is especially true with meat, which is sold by butchers and not the people who raise it, but I also wanted to see some of the more interesting roots and vegetables that don’t always find their way in to Paris from the countryside.
Generally speaking, a lot of these tasting salons that are held around the year in Paris are well-stocked with three things: foie gras, mountain cheeses, and sausages. Wine doesn’t count as one of the three, as that’s a given.
There are lots of people offering tastes of wine. It’s one of the few things where samples of it at markets are gladly given. I remember a few years ago at a wine fair I told the seller that I’d take a bottle of his Muscadet, since I was having oysters that night, and he was rather shocked that I didn’t want to try it first. (So I did, just to be polite.) But I’m actually happier sitting in a café and enjoying a glass rather than manoeuvering around other people en masse, Costco-style, jostling for a little sip.
Every year I spend an inordinate amount of my time poaching fruit. It’s usually because I’m powerless to resist all the pears in baskets at my market, and buy far more than I need. Yes, much of my sweet bounty find its way into sorbets, cakes, ice creams, and jams. But one of my favorite ways to keep those pears around a little longer is to poach them.
Poaching is gentle, stove-top cooking, and winter pears are ideal candidates since they keep their shape. Poaching also improves the taste of ho-hum pears. That’s especially good news for you do-ahead folks out there; the longer the pears sit in the flavorful syrup after poaching, the better they’ll taste. Since there isn’t a big variety of fruit tumbling my way in the winter, to get my fruit-fix, I’ll keep some poached pears in the refrigerator and enjoy them diced and mixed with my mid-morning yogurt and granola.
Be sure to start with firm, ripe pears.
Because this comes up frequently, I’d like to take a moment to explain why and when one uses corn syrup in recipes. I use it judiciously, when I feel it will make a discernible difference in a recipe. For those of you who are regular readers of the site and my books, you’ll notice almost all of the time, I hardly ever use pre-packaged or convenience foods in my baking. So when I do call for something, like corn syrup, it’ll often be in amounts of one teaspoon or a tablespoon. And since most recipes feed eight-to-twelve people, proportionally, that’s a pretty small amount.
For example, the recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies with Salted Butter Caramel has one tablespoon of corn syrup added to the caramel, to keep it smooth. Since the recipe makes fifty cookies, that means each cookie contains less than 1/16th of a teaspoon of corn syrup.
Yes, people who live in America probably do eat too much corn syrup. (High fructose, or otherwise.) That can be controlled and monitored by using less-packaged foods and reducing the amounts of fast foods that you consume. If you’re worried about corn syrup “hiding” in foods, read labels, cook for yourself as much as possible, and buy locally-produced products from smaller producers who are less-likely to put additives in foods, so you’ll be in control of how much you’re eating. I am a fan of natural and alternative liquid sweeteners, such as agave nectar, maple syrup, honey, rice syrup, and golden syrup, and do have recipes that use them, and encourage folks to give them a try, where applicable.
There’s a lot of studies, medical reports, advertising, propaganda, and all sorts of information being disseminated from a variety of sources. Evidence does point to high-fructose corn syrup contributing more than other sweeteners, to obesity and other health issues, and you can search around and come to your own conclusions. Since I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, or medical researcher, I’ve provided some links at the end of this post for further reading and you can draw your own conclusions.
My personal philosophy about corn syrup consumption: Like other foods that don’t meet a nutritionally-ideal profile, I limit my consumption, but don’t obsess about it. I drink alcohol and coffee. I sometimes eat red meat and cheese, plus chocolate, ice cream, sugar, and marshmallows, all of which have their detractors, too. I walk and ride a bike as much as possible and try to eat a healthy diet that includes a lot of fruits and vegetables, proteins, and whole grains, which offset treating myself to those indulgences.
Corn Syrup FAQs
Why do some recipes have corn syrup in them?
Corn syrup is an invert sugar, which means that it prevents sugar crystals from forming. Microscopically, sugar has jagged edges and when you melt it, sugar liquefies. But if you keep cooking it to a syrup, those jagged edged-fellas want to re-attach themselves to others. Corn syrup acts as interfering agent, which ‘interfere’ with that process. Honey, agave, and the like, don’t have the same properties.
If making a caramel, and a recipe calls for corn syrup, you can substitute a dash of lemon juice or cream of tartar, which performs nearly the same function.
In other cases, like my Best Chocolate Sauce, corn syrup is used to give it a shine. (See below.)
Is the corn syrup one buys in the supermarket the same at high-fructose corn syrup?
No. According to Harold McGee, high-fructose corn syrup goes through an additional process to make it sweeter than standard corn syrup. Karo, the company that makes most of the corn syrup found on supermarket shelves in America, has come out with Karo Lite, which contains no high-fructose corn syrup. I haven’t used it so I can’t comment on how it works, or if its nutritional claims are sound or not.
Will corn syrup make you fat?
So will sugar, as well as other sweeteners. And so will French fries, red meat, chocolate, dried apricots, heavy cream, honey, nuts, beer, wine, maple syrup, martinis, croissants, and tacos, if you eat too much of them.
When can another liquid sweetener be substituted for corn syrup in a recipe?
Like the aforementioned chocolate sauce, the corn syrup is there for the shine and body. Not to prevent crystallization. So you can use another liquid sweetener, although I’d use one that was mild-flavored (like agave) or close to neutral, to keep the chocolate flavor pronounced.
I can’t think of any cake recipes that have corn syrup in them, but my Butterscotch-Pecan Cookie Cups uses it to keep the batter smooth and to make sure the cookies will caramelize properly in the oven. In a recipe like that, I would not use another liquid sweetener.
When can one not substitute something for the corn syrup called for in a recipe?
For candy making, I strongly suggest sticking to the recipe. If a recipe calls for boiling a sugar syrup, unless specified, stick to using corn syrup. Especially ones cooked to a higher temperature. Honey, and the like, tend to burn when cooked down, so care should be taken to avoid that.
If the recipe calls for cooking a syrup to a relatively low temperature (below 230F, or 110C), you can experiment with other liquid sweeteners, but I can’t advise in each and every case. You’ll just have to try it and see.
If one wants to substitute another liquid sweetener, such as corn syrup, honey, or golden syrup, for granulated sugar, what proportion can one use?
In general, liquid sweeteners should be used in a 3/4s proportion to granulated sugar if substituting. That is, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, use 3/4 cup honey, or another liquid sweetener. If baking a cake or cookies, lower the baking temperature 25ºF and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup per cup of liquid sweetener you’re using.
If substituting another liquid sweetener for corn syrup, use equal amounts.
Why do some recipes for ice creams and sorbets have corn syrup in them?
I very rarely use corn syrup in sorbets, and don’t use it in ice creams. Because it has more viscosity than sugar, some recipes call for corn syrup to keep the churned and frozen sorbets and ice creams smoother and creamier.
In my recipes, this is infrequently done in sorbets that have a lot of water, such as lemon, lime, or grape sorbets, which tend to freeze very hard and get icy. If a recipe calls for corn syrup, it’s usually a minimum quantity. In those cases, another liquid sweetener can be used, or granulated sugar. If using sugar, increase the amount by 25%.
What can be used if corn syrup isn’t available where I live?
Glucose is what most professionals use and can be substituted 1 for 1. It can come from different sources, including corn or wheat. You can look for it online or visit a professional baking supply store in your area.
Further Reading and Related Links:
Looking at the Health Claims of Agave Nectar (Wall Street Journal)
Corn Syrup (Culinate)
Corn Syrup vs HFCS (Serious Eats)
On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee
King Corn (Documentary film)
Care for Some Mercury with Your Oatmeal? (The Ethicurian)
Is High-Fructose Corn Syrup Making Us Fat? (Seattle Times)
Karo Corn Syrup (FAQs)
A Few Favorite Sweeteners (101 Cookbooks)
Agave Nectar: the High-Fructose Health Food Fraud (Natural News)
The Omnivore’s Dilemna by Michael Pollen
The Whole Truth About High-Fructose Corn Syrup (Consumer Reports)
A Sweetener with a Bad Rap (New York Times)
Agave Nectar: A Sweetener for Any Occasion (Popular Science)
Corn Syrup (Wikipedia)
Agave Nectar (Amazon)
Lyle’s Golden Syrup (Amazon)
Americans have a funny relationship with honey. To many of us, it’s that sweet syrup in the jar with the feather-topped woman, or the gloopy stuff stuck inside the crevasses of a plastic bear.
In France, honey is a Big Deal and there’s boutiques like Maison du Miel, and vendors at the outdoor markets, which sell nothing but honey and honey-related products. (And believe me, you’d be surprised how many there are.)
Various types of honeys are said to have healing properties, although I don’t eat them for my health: I’ve learned to enjoy the many different varieties available in France, and I switch them around and use a particular kind, depending on what I’m baking or simply for eating.
In Paris, there’s a few ruchiers (beehives) in the city, the most well-known being in the Jardin du Luxembourg, whose honey is available sporadically. But few folks know that in our National Veterinary Museum, there are hives as well. And the good news is it’s almost in the middle of Paris.
Here’s my list of Ten Great Things To Eat in Paris – things that I think you shouldn’t miss!
When I take folks into épiceries in Paris, I invariably drag them to the honey aisle. I start explaining how the French love honey, and buy it based on what varietal it is…rather than just stopping in the supermarket and picking up a jar of that vaguely interesting looking syrup that you know is going to leave an annoying sticky ring from the bottom of the jar in your kitchen cabinet that you’re going to have to get a damp sponge and clean up, and then when you start cleaning that up you’re going to notice that maybe you haven’t cleaned your cabinets in a while, and since you have the sponge already in your hand, you start emptying out the cabinet, pulling everything out jars and bottles of everything, etc…etc…(then there goes your morning).
Still, I hope to engage them, get them as excited as I am for honey. But mostly they respond with a somewhat glazed-over look, similar to the look that perhaps I had when I tried to read the road signs to the Miellerie de la Côte des Légendes, in Brittany.
But I love honey and it’s become my habit to enjoy a slick spoonful on my morning toast, which I saturated with beurre au sel de mer, or butter with crunchy grains of sea salt, that I buy from the big, golden mound at my cheese shop. So now my job is to convince at least a few of you to give honey another look.
I’ve fallen so much in love with honey, that I’ve become a bit of a collector and when I travel, I try to scope out unusual flavors of honey, like Marshall’s Pumpkin Blossom honey, collected from hives in the San Francisco Bay Area. When I go to Italy, I bring back jars of tiglio, made from linden flowers. But my absolute favorite honey in the world is collected at the Miellerie de la Côte des Légendes, on the north coast of Brittany.
Last summer I met Martine Prigent, who sells her honey at various outdoor markets in the region and has quite a following. At least at my breakfast table, she does. When we visited for the first time, my friend was raving about her honey, and we made a beeline for her stand. I tasted a few of them, asked a lot of questions in between contented lick-smacking, and bought as many jars as I could schlep (and afford). But they’re definitely worth their higher price and when I went back this year, I bought a whole lot more. Enough to get me through to next summer.
Curiously, she offered me a sample of something I’d never had before: honey made from bees which buzzed around the wild thyme flowers in the nearby dunes of Keremma, an ocean-front site under national protection. This particular honey has an unusual graham cracker-y, buttery-nutty quality and one little taste was so scrumptious that she had to close the container to prevent me from double-dipping. But boy, was that good, and I’d never had any honey with such a deep, complex, curious flavor, and a few jars went into my shopping basket tout de suite.
Having a particular affinity for very dark, flavorful honey, I gravitate towards flavors like sarrasin (buckwheat) and châtaigner (chestnut).
Can you can see the difference between the two? The honey in the back is the ordinaire buckwheat honey, and the one in the front is the superb honey from Martine. Quelle difference! I also like very much châtaigner honey which is so bitter than many people can’t eat it plain. I couldn’t the first time I sampled it. But drizzle chestnut honey over buttered-toast, or plain yogurt, or vanilla ice cream, and it’s instantly palatable. I also like bourdain honey too, which is called ‘black alder’ in English.
In France, honey is not just eaten for flavor but each variety of honey is reputed to have specific health-giving properties for what ails you. For example, bruyère (heather) honey is said to be good for your urinary tract (no, I’m not obsessed…), lavender honey is taken for respiratory ailments, and chestnut honey is taken to improve circulation. Sapin, fir-tree honey, is said to be good for your throat, and aubépine is a relaxant.
And what can you do with honey? Try puddling a bit of it on a creamy, pungent wedge of Roquefort as a sweet counterpoint, or atop a round of fresh goat cheese with some dried fruit or pomegranate seeds. I spoon honey over fruit that destined for the oven. When baked, the honey forms a lovely, syrupy glaze for the warm, delicate fruit. Swirl honey over hot oatmeal and add a bit to a glaze for roast pork. I also like to poach dried apricots in a honey syrup, adding a splash of sweet dessert wine, such as Sauternes or late-harvest Riesling. I serve the honey-rich apricots with my favorite Almond Cake.
So if you happen to find yourself in Brittany near the north coast…and can read a Breton road sign while your French-speaking partner tries to make sense of you frantically try to give directions and mangle incomprehensible Breton words with lots of z‘s and pl‘s, like Trégarantec and Plounénour-Trez, it’s certainly worth a visit to Martine and her husband, Pascal.
They offer weekly tours of their miellerie, just 200 meters from the ocean, which are quite popular (call for availability in off-season). Inhaling the odor of the fresh, breezy, salty air, you can watch them demonstrate collecting honey; scraping the thick beeswax from the hives then separating the delicious syrup from the chunky wax. There’s an amazing boutique with floor-to-ceiling shelves stocked with all kinds of honeys and locally-baked spice bread, known as pain d’épice, dark brown and fragrant with various spices and a good dose of honey.
So instead of buying bland honey at the supermarket, why not start trying some of the locally-produced honeys collected in your area? And believe it or not, I recently discovered that there’s even honey collected right here in Paris.
Miellerie de la Côte des Légendes
Tél/Fax: 02 98 69 88 93
(Offers weekly tours on Fridays, and will ship internationally)
Their honey is available at the outdoor markets in Lesneven, Saint-Pol, Saint-Renan, and in season at Roscoff, Plouguerneau, and Plouescat.
You can find a limited selection of honey from the Miellerie de la Côte des Légendes in Paris at:
36, bis rue de Dunkerque
Tél: 01 45 96 08 92
(Update: This honey has become quite pricey in this shop. It’s very good honey, but be aware of a recent price spike.)
Locally-collected honey in Paris:
Union Nationale de l’Apiculture Francaise
26, rue des Tournelles
Tél: 01 48 87 47 15
In the San Francisco Bay Area, visit Marshall’s Honey, which is sold at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, and is collected from bees buzzing around unusual places in the region.