When Bees Fly the, Er…Coop

What do I know about colony collapse disorder (CCD)? Not that much, reader Kelly, but then none of the beekeepers I know have a very good handle on it either. Experts are sharply divided over the causes since a single “smoking gun” has yet to be found. The latest thinking is that colony collapse disorder — in which hive populations simply vanish leaving all their honey and unhatched brood behind — is a result of a combination of causes, possibly pesticides, maybe some natural and/or invasive parasites, maybe changes in habitat. …

Read on…

Filed under:  Pastry | 2 Comments

They Call it “Honey Laundering”

Several readers have mentioned the Chinese honey flap from a few years ago, specifically the allegations that Chinese producers ultra-filter their honey to remove any traces of pollen, thus making it easier for them to sneak their ultra-cheap product onto global markets, as there is no longer any micro-evidence of its origin. The process was said to remove anything that’s unique or beneficial in the honey, leaving nothing but the sugars. “Honey that isn’t worthy of the name ‘honey’” was the line you heard a lot in those days, or something close to it. The story was initially spread by an American attorney who owns a website called Food Safety News and who frequently represents plaintiffs in cases against large food interests. …

Read on…

Filed under:  Pastry | 2 Comments

HFBS

Ever heard Van Morrison sing the lyric “she’s as sweet as tupelo honey”? Well it turns out that the reason tupelo honey is so sweet is because tupelo nectar is mostly fructose, which, as longtime readers of joepastry.com know, has no more calories than sucrose, but tastes about 20% sweeter on the tongue. That means that tupelo honey is technically a high fructose bee syrup…clearly a plot by unscrupulous southern bees to addict our children to junky, nutritionally vacant foods. Will this sort of shameless profiteering ever stop?

Filed under:  Pastry | Leave a comment

Is honey and invert sugar?

…asks reader Ed. The answer is that while some people commonly refer to honey as an invert sugar, it’s more accurate to say that honey contains invert sugar. Though it looks like a homogenous liquid, honey is really a hodgepodge of all sorts of stuff: sugars (some invert, some not), proteins, bits of wax, pollens of all sorts, the list goes on. That only makes sense. Bees forage so widely, they harvest nectar from all sorts of sources, and that introduces quite a bit of random…stuff…into honey….

Read on…

Filed under:  Pastry | 2 Comments

In Praise of City Honey

I’ll say unreservedly that the honey that Mrs. Pastry and I harvested from our Chicago rooftop hives was the best I’d ever tasted. Not because it was fresh, not because it was ours, but because it had a character unlike any honey I’d eaten before. No, that’s not because it was made from sugars collected from street corner trash cans or city dumpsters (though that’s been known to happen), it’s because it was made from an extremely wide variety of flower nectars. Allow me to explain….

Read on…

Filed under:  Pastry | 18 Comments

Kindly place the money in the bag.

The nuns at my Catholic grade school were always fond of saying that there’s no such thing as a circumstance in which good grammar isn’t appreciated. This new story is the perfect illustration of the point. Evidently there’s a bank robber in Colorado who grasps that just because you happen to be pointing a gun at someone and demanding all their money, it doesn’t mean you were brought up in a barn. There’s always a place for the little niceties like good punctuation and proper verb use. It may be armed robbery, but it can also be civilized, yes?…

Read on…

Filed under:  Pastry | 4 Comments

Honey Madness

Reader Erica wonders why, if bees have evolved such an effective defense against microscpoic honey thieves, they couldn’t have evolved a more effective defense against larger ones like beekeepers. You know, Erica, I’m not entirely convinced that they aren’t working on that very thing right now. Since antiquity, honeys harvested from parts of northern Turkey have been notorious for their toxic effects. The reason, because they’re produced from the nectar either of of two species of rhododendron, R. luteum and R. ponticum which is known to contain compounds known as grayanotoxins….

Read on…

Filed under:  Pastry | 7 Comments

What, you kept bees?

Yes, Mrs. Pastry saw the movie Ulee’s Gold a few too many times and before I knew it I was at the University of Illinois taking a weekend bee husbandry course. We don’t keep them anymore (Mrs. Pastry eventually developed an allergy to stings) but it was one of the most interesting hobbies I’ve had. Bees are endlessly diverting as pets. You never know what those little suckers are going to do or why. Sting you, sure. But over time, as you start falling in love with your hives, you come to regard the stinging as nearly pleasurable. …

Read on…

Filed under:  Pastry | 6 Comments

Bee Syrup

You can’t talk bee sting cake without talking honey and bees, now can you? Bees are hands down the world’s premier syrup manufacturers. It’s little wonder why, they’ve been refining their technique for about a hundred million years. The process they use is the same one we employ for making syrup out of tree sap or sugar cane: reduction. They start with a thin 80% water-to-sugar solution that they extract from flowers, then slowly reduce it down until it has a moisture content of right around 18%. At that point they deposit the syrup in a cell in the honey comb, cap it off with wax and await the winter (or the beekeeper).


Read on…

Filed under:  Pastry | 6 Comments

What about single-acting baking powder?

I’ve received a couple of questions on the subject this week. Honestly I didn’t know single-acting powder was still out there for anything other than commercial/industrial use. As I mentioned below, double acting baking powders deliver two “actions”, one that happens fast when the batter is being mixed, and another that happens slowly as the batter gets hot. The effect is achieved by combining two different acids with a specific quantity of baking soda (plus a little corn starch to keep the chemicals from reacting in the can). For the fast reaction baking powder manufacturers either use …

Read on…

Filed under:  Pastry | 4 Comments