Here in the Ozarks, we have an excellent local beekeeper: Matt, who along with his family, own and run the Amish Country Store on Gretna Road in Branson (You can also mail/phone order by checking out their web site Amish Country Store, although, those of us who make the trip can tell you that there are a multitude of additional wonderful foods, ceramics, and furniture, on the shelves that make it worth your time to seek the store out in person the next time you're in Branson.) Next time you go, tell them "Glenna said Hi!"
Matt started beekeeping five years ago with one hive and a can-do eagerness. He's now an experienced beekeeper who maintains his hives as naturally and healthily (for the bees and for us) as possibly by eschewing the use of continuous wide spectrum antibiotics and winter feedings of commercial HFC mixes, instead using of a more bee-environmentally harmonious sugar water with lavender and peppermint mixture. His care has paid off in that he now manages fifty hives, which not only produce honey but help local farmers cross-pollinate crops.
This recipe for Libum or "honey cakes", dating back to 160 B.C. and written by Cato the Elder, Roman Statesman, is found in his book De Agri Cultura (translated: "On Farming"). Libum is the Roman version of cheesecake, used both as celebratory food and as sacrifices to the houseold spirits or gods. It's a fun and appropriate choice to focus on honey, one of the oldest foods known to man. Revered for its antibacterial properties, it makes an excellent wound dressing and its composition from local pollens boost the immune systems of the honey-vores consuming it.
I have a couple of notes about the recipe. First: bay leaf. I know it may sound like a funny choice since it's not usually associated with desserts in our present day culture, but don't leave it out. I was pleasantly surprised at how wonderful the bay smell while baking and what a subtle influence it was on the final taste. Not traditional to us, but a flavor I can only describe as "homey" or "cozy", and one that I think will become almost addictive to me with more use. I'll definitely be baking bread/dinner rolls on bay leaves in the future.
While these are called "cakes" the final texture is a cross between bread and cake. Not as light and fluffy as butter/sponge cake but not as chewy as bread. The ricotta gives a unique texture that is both soft and light while still warm but also denser when cooled. Not a texture we use a lot but a great experience for kids and adults alike.
Overall, this was a very fun recipe to make, eat, and think about culture and cooking from centuries ago. This would be a great Sunday School or Home School recipe to play with, easy for the kids to put together themselves and easy on the wallet, bringing kids closer to a tangible understanding of the reference to "honey cakes" in history, literature, and scripture. It will also definitely give them a better appreciation for all the varieties of sweets we have available to us in our era!
More links to honey recipes
Honey Curry Roasted Chicken-- OMG good! One of Gene's FAVORITE chicken recipes.
Honey, Cardamom, and Almond Rugelach -- One of my favorite cookies
Home-made Granola with Dried Fruit & Honey --Breakfast done right
Blood Orange & Lavender Muffins -- Summery goodness
Orange Olive Oil Cake with Honey - Love this recipe! Whole food at its best.
Ancient Roman Libum, or Honey Cakes
And PBS: Nova series
- 1 cup of plain flour
One cup of ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
Half a cup of clear honey
Sift the flour in a mixing bowl.
Beat the cheese until soft, stir into the flour.
Add the beaten egg to the flour/cheese mixture, forming a soft dough
Divide the dough into four and shape each piece into a bun
Place on a greased baking tray with a fresh bay leaf underneath.
Heat the oven to 375F - 190C. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes until golden brown.
Warm the honey, pour into a flat plate, remove the bay leaves, and place the buns in the honey and rest till the honey is absorbed. *** See Cook's notes below.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 238; Protein: 11; Carbs: 37; Fat: 6; Fiber: 2; Weight Watchers Points: 6
Cook's Notes: To divide and shape the dough, a very wet dough, I scooped the portion into my greased palms (greased with cooking spray) and tossed back and forth a few times until a basic disk shape emerged and then gently placed on the baking stone on top of a bay leaf.
(Click pictures for larger images.)
You can use an aluminum baking tray as directed in the Squidoo recipe but I used the slate stone I use for baking bread. Another choice would be a crock stone, like the cookie/pizza stones Pampered Chef makes, also great for baking bread. The PBS recipe may be more authentic in baking as it instructs to cover buns with a brick but I didn't go that far.