RECIPE: Honey Boys



One of the great joys of baking for me is discovering handwritten recipes tucked into old cookbooks. 

You’ll turn a page and suddenly be thrown back in time by the smell of old paper smudged with aged butter and vanilla.

I inhale deeply and am transported to the kitchens of my past – aromas of old grease, sugar and butter creaming, and the comforting human scents of work.

A little sweat, maybe smoke, and someone’s perfume. 

I love rebuilding these recipes and discovering their secrets – the details folks just never wrote down but they would pass on over a cup of coffee.

It always amuses me to turn the scrap over and guess where it came from, to imagine the moment that led to this record. Sometimes it’s just plain paper but often it’s from a church bulletin or maybe a personal document. I imagine a person chatting with friends at church and learning about a new recipe or hosting their neighbour and swapping recipes over tea.

What importance did this recipe hold for them – what made it important enough to not just record, but also tuck away safely in this book for me to find decades later?

Lovingly tucked into the well-worn and tattered pages of St. George’s Anglican Church Cookbook from Sydney, Nova Scotia published in 1955, I found this handwritten recipe for “Honey Boys”.

It was most likely recorded by Eva Lampman (née Lewis), my grandmother-in-law. 

She was a consummate host. Visits to her home were always filled with bars and cookies and sometimes Jello-based salads that I wish I had given more of a chance. 

“Honey Boys”, a less spicy alternative to gingerbread men, seem to have a long history and most probably a German origin. They are addictively crisp cookies with soft centres and a pleasant honey finish.

I encourage you to head down to the LaHave Bakery to collect your local ingredients.

Photo by Josie Rudderham

They have your butter, sugar, flour, baking soda, vanilla, local wildflower honey, Rocky Top Farm eggs, and Knoydart Farm organic whole milk. 

OK Sea Salt is available at several excellent local stores and markets, but you can also buy it directly from the producers at www.okseasalt.com

If you are feeling adventurous you could swap out regular sea salt for their Spruce Tip Sea Salt, which would be an amazing alternative in these cookies.

Honey Boys

Yield: 90 2 1/2” cookies

1 cup unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup honey

2 Tbsp whole milk

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon OK sea salt

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, honey, and milk. Stir frequently over medium heat with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula until the butter is melted and the sugar is completely dissolved. Do not allow the mixture to boil.

2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the mixture on medium-low until it reaches “blood temperature” (one of my favourite directions from St. George’s Anglican Church Cookbook), and it thickens slightly and lightens in colour, about 10 minutes. While the mixture is beating, sift together the flour, baking soda and sea salt and set it aside.

3. Add the vanilla and turn the mixer up to medium speed. Beat on medium until the vanilla is fully incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture on medium for 1 to 2 minutes after each addition.

4.  Scrape down the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl and add the dry ingredients. Mix on medium-low speed until the flour is fully incorporated. Then scrape down the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl and turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat the batter for 1 full minute. It should be the texture of thick cake batter. 

5. Refrigerate the batter in a bowl, covered in a beeswax wrap, for at least 4 hours or overnight.

6. When you are ready to roll out the cookies, preheat the oven to 425°F and line 4 baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats. 

7. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Move the dough around and check underneath it frequently to make sure it is not sticking, dusting lightly with more flour as needed. 

8. Using a 2 ½-inch tall gingerbread person cookie cutter, cut out 90 cookies, re-rolling the dough up to 4 times. Carefully transfer the cookies to each prepared baking sheet, leaving a 1-inch space between them. Bake one sheet at a time for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the cookies have puffed up and are evenly brown on top. You may need to rotate your pan halfway through baking for even browning. Allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheets. 

Josie Rudderham is a local cookbook author and baker living in West LaHave. She is the co-owner of Cake and Loaf Bakery in Hamilton, Ontario. Her passion for sustainable food and community building led her and her family to the South Shore where they are building Rivercroft Regenerative Farm. She collects old cookbooks and loves to share old recipes rebuilt with local ingredients.


Comments

2 responses to “RECIPE: Honey Boys”

  1. Celia Klemenz

    Hi, this is a note to Josie Rudderham.
    I read your article about making Honey Boys cookies with great interest. Thinking I may make the recipe and wondered if the original recipe used a hand blender or some other utensil other than a stand mixer. Reason being, I don’t own a stand mixer and the mixing times seems too long to use a hand-held mixer. Might Josie have a mo’ to take a look at the original recipe and provide instructions? Thanks!
    Love the Barnacle publication and read it from cover to cover.

  2. Josie Rudderham

    Hello Celia,

    The original instructions provided no directions beyond the baking temp so this recipe method is my creation. A stand mixer on medium-low for 10mins will give you the best results but you could use a hand mixer at medium-high for 5-7 minutes. Or mix by hand and they will still work but will be less airy and crisp, and more snappy like a ginger snap.

    I hope that helps!

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