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    Sweet sensation

    Honey takes a starring role.

    Honey muffins and honey-nut butter.
    Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty
    Honey muffins and honey-nut butter.

    Winnie-the-Pooh is, arguably, the enduring superstar of the honey pot, but with all due respect to his creator, A.A. Milne (whose January 18 birthday is around the corner), Pooh was but one of many honey fanciers throughout time and place.

    Honey is said to have been used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, and it’s still revered today as an ingredient in cooking on every continent — OK, perhaps with the possible exception of Antarctica.

    Here, honey flavors both muffins and a nut-laced butter to spread on them, as well as a chicken dish of North African inspiration.


    Makes 12


    This recipe was developed using a nonstick muffin tin with a medium finish. With so much sweetener in the batter, the crusts (in the muffin cups) darken quickly, so a dark tin finish (which absorbs more heat) is likely to overbrown the crusts.

    Cooking spray

    3 cups all-purpose flour

    1 tablespoon baking powder

    ½ teaspoon baking soda


    8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

    ½ cup, packed, light brown sugar

    2/3 cup plus 1½ tablespoons honey

    1¼ teaspoons vanilla extract

    1 cup buttermilk

    2 large eggs

    ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

    ¼ cup sliced almonds

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    With the rack in the middle position, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a light- or medium-finish nonstick standard-sized 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray (or use paper liners), and set aside.

    In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and soda, and ¾ teaspoon salt, and set aside. In another large bowl, whisk the melted butter, brown sugar, 2/3 cup honey, and vanilla into a uniform slurry. Add the buttermilk and eggs, and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the dry mixture and, using a flexible spatula, fold and stir until ingredients are just incorporated (small lumps are fine). With a large spoon, divide the batter among the muffin-tin cups and bake for 10 minutes.

    Meanwhile, in a small microwave-safe bowl, warm the remaining honey until fluid, about 15 seconds. Add the cinnamon and whisk to incorporate. Add the almonds and stir to coat. After the 10 minutes, remove the tin from the oven and, working quickly, top each muffin with about 1 teaspoon of the almond mixture (take care not to deflate the muffins, which won’t be fully set). Immediately return the muffin tin to the oven (rotated 180 degrees from its original position) and continue baking until the muffins are light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in a muffin’s center comes out clean, about 8 minutes longer (do not overbake). Cool the muffins in the tin for 5 minutes, turn them out, stand them upright on a wire rack, cool 5 minutes longer, and serve warm with honey-nut butter (recipe below).

    Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty
    TIP If you’re using oil and honey in a recipe, measure the oil first. Residual oil in the measuring cup will ensure the honey releases easily. If there’s no oil to measure, use cooking spray.


    Makes about 1 cup

    I use a salted nut mix, but any combination of lightly toasted cashews, pecans, or walnuts is also good. If your nuts are unsalted, add a pinch when processing.

    2/3 cup salted mixed nuts

    8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

    2½ tablespoons honey, or more, to taste

    Salt, optional


    In a food processor, pulse the nuts to chop finely, about 6 2-second pulses. Cut the butter into eighths, add it, the honey, and a pinch of salt, if using, to the food processor, and process to combine well, about 10 seconds. Taste and adjust seasoning with more honey or salt if desired and process to combine. Scrape the mixture into a small serving dish and serve at room temperature.


    Serves 4

    This is a riff on a Moroccan tagine adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden.

    1 chicken, about 3 pounds, cut into 8 serving pieces, or 3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, rinsed, dried, and trimmed

    Salt and pepper

    2 teaspoons olive oil

    1 large onion, chopped

    3 garlic cloves, minced

    1 teaspoon ground ginger

    1 cinnamon stick

    1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

    ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth or water

    ¼ cup honey

    ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

    1½ tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted

    Sprinkle chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper. In a large, straight-sided saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Place chicken skin side down (do not crowd — brown in batches if necessary, adjusting heat if pan becomes too hot) and cook without moving until skin is crisp, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook until second side is crisp, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a large plate; when cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin. Spoon all but 2 teaspoons of fat from the pan.

    Return the pan to the burner, adjust the heat to medium, add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and cinnamon stick, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 40 seconds. Add the tomatoes and broth or water, adjust heat to medium-high, bring to a strong simmer, and with a wooden spoon scrape pan to dissolve the fond. Add the chicken and any juices (hold off adding breasts, if using) and return to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through, about 35 minutes, turning the pieces and adding breasts, if using, after 15 minutes. Remove the chicken to a serving platter and tent loosely with foil. Adjust heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, until the sauce is thickened slightly, about 7 minutes, adding any juices from the chicken about halfway through. Discard cinnamon stick and add honey and most of the parsley, and stir to incorporate. Taste sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt if necessary and pepper to taste. Top chicken with sauce, sprinkle with remaining parsley and sesame seeds, and serve at once.

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