As Winnie the Pooh would be quick to point out, honey is very, very delicious but very, very sticky. Cooks can’t resist the uniquely sweet amber goo, whether it comes from bees who have indulged in a field of clover or alfalfa, but when it comes to cleanup time, most wish there was an easier way. Dried honey, which is processed from the golden, sticky stuff into a dry, pourable product, is the answer.
Dehydrated, or dried, honey is offered in flaked form, as granules, or as a powder. It’s not only useful because it’s easy to clean up after use but because the drying agents make it stable and gives it a long shelf life of a year or more. As a relative newcomer to the food manufacturing and packaging world, its potential is vastly underexplored.
It isn’t possible to find a product that is pure. The dehydration process requires processing materials to help the dried material maintain its pourable personality because it is high in fructose and would otherwise tend to clump. In addition, ingredients such as sugar syrup and maltodextrins are found in most dried honey products, although some manufacturers dispense with any sweeteners other than the honey itself. In most cases, however, there is between 50% and 70% actual honey in commercially available dried honey.
To keep the dehydrated honey from caking up, soy flour or wheat starch is often used. Alternatives are bran, lecithin, and calcium stearate. These additives contribute to the drying process as well as providing a certain amount of bulk.
The higher the percentage of honey in a dried honey product, the more strongly the honey flavor will come out. The less bulk or filler added to dried honey, however, the more expensive it will be. In order to produce dried honey with consistent flavor, manufacturers favor using a mix of types of honey.
There are a number of approaches to creating a dried honey product. Some manufacturers employ a process that involves spraying a liquid honey concoction and then drying it. Others use a drum roller method. Freeze drying, vacuum drying, and microwave drying are also being explored.
The physical differences between dried and natural honey means they aren’t readily interchangeable. In commercial food production, it is used in peanut butter honey products, in potato chips, and frozen dough as well as other products. It’s found in rubs and coatings for meats and other foods as well as in seasonings and dry bakery mixes.