Honey, that most natural of sweeteners, holds an important place in every culture of the world. Honeybees, so crucial to the development of flowering plants, thrive in temperate regions around the globe, busily spreading pollen and concentrating the sweet, energy-rich nectar of the flowers that they visit into that prized substance, honey.
The flavor of honey varies tremendously, depending on the type of flowers visited by the bees who store the precious honey in the waxy combs of their hive. It seems only logical that the infusion of saffron and vanilla into honey tastes so heavenly. Saffron, the most valuable spice in the world, is made from the tiny dried stigmas of the flower of the saffron crocus. Each flower bears only three stigmas each year, which must be carefully harvested by hand. These stigmas are the pollen receptors of the crocus, capturing tiny grains of pollen as the flowers are visited by bees seeking their nectar. No wonder that there is such a strong affinity between the flavors of honey and saffron!
Likewise, vanilla is derived from the seed pod of a flowering orchid. The production of vanilla is highly dependent on pollination, a step that is crucial in the development of the flower. While artificial hand-pollination is now used in commercial vanilla production, vanilla orchids were originally pollinated only by one local species of stingless bee native to Central and South America, the home of the vanilla orchid.
These three simple, ancient ingredients – honey, saffron and vanilla – combine to create a never-to-be-forgotten flavor that is beyond words. It’s easy to make, stores indefinitely and will change the way you think about that simple gift of the bees – honey.
Saffron & Vanilla Infused Honey
Drizzle this luscious, fragrant honey over mild or sharp cheeses, fruit, yogurt, freshly baked goods, waffles and desserts – it’s equally fantastic with grilled or smoked meats and fish.
- 1/2 tsp saffron (40-50 threads), or to taste
- 1 tsp real vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup wildflower or clover honey
Place the saffron threads in a small bowl. Add the vanilla extract and stir until the saffron is well-moistened. Allow to “steep” for at least 10 minutes.
Gently warm the honey over low heat or for a few seconds in the microwave – just enough to slightly warm and liquify it. Remove the honey from the heat and stir in the saffron/vanilla mixture until evenly distributed. Allow to stand at room temperature for an hour or two before serving so the flavors can mingle.
Honey. being the excellent preservative that it is, allows this mixture to be stored indefinitely. The longer it stands, the more harmonious the flavors will become.
Beghrir (Moroccan “Honeycomb” Pancakes)
Adapted from “Near and Far” by Heidi Swanson
One of our favorite ways to enjoy Saffron & Vanilla Infused Honey is on Beghrir, the crepe-like pancakes traditional in Moroccan cuisine. Crisp and golden on the bottom, pale and tender on top, their delicate flavor comes from semolina flour and a leavening with yeast. Saffron, cultivated in North Africa since ancient times, flavors the honey that is poured over the top, soaking into every nook and cranny of the honeycombed surface.
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/2 tsp wildflower or clover honey
- 2 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
- 1 1/2 cups semolina flour
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1 3/4 cups water
- Butter for cooking pancakes
Place the warm water in a small bowl and stir in the honey. Sprinkle the yeast over the top, stir well, and set aside while the yeast develops, approximately 10 minutes. In the meantime, whisk together the flours, salt and sesame seeds in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk and water. Pour this mixture over the flours, add the yeast liquid, and use a hand mixer to combine until the batter is smooth and light (and blowing soft bubbles). The consistency should be that of a thin batter, a little thicker than heavy cream. Cover with a towel and place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for an hour.
When you are ready to cook the beghrir, preheat a large non-stick pan or a griddle over medium to medium high heat. When hot, swirl a little butter around the pan to coat it. Ladle approximately 3 tablespoons of batter onto the pan to form a small circle. The batter should spread to form a thin pancake, about 1/4 inch high. If the batter is too thick, add a little water until you reach the desired consistency. Adjust the heat as necessary.
Ladle circles of batter into the pan or griddle until it’s full, but the pancakes are not touching. Cook on ONE side until the surface is covered with tiny holes, the bottom of the pancake is crisp and golden-brown, and the top has set. Remove the pancakes from the pan and transfer to a low oven to keep warm.
Serve with a generous drizzle of saffron & vanilla infused honey and more butter if desired.
Refrigerate any unused portion of the batter overnight, or up to 3 days.
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