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Nina - Bees
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by Nina Furstenau
When a bee finds a great cache of flower pollen, he comes back to the hive and proceeds to do a waggle dance in a figure-eight pattern. The bee rubs his wings together to create hum as well as electric currents that seem to broadcast the flower location to his peers. Bees do this waggle dance in a very intentional way: the figure-eight pattern is positioned to reveal that super-duper pollen is 60 degrees east of the sun, for instance, or 43 degrees west. The bees drone out to find it. And do. (see: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7ijI-g4jHg)
What the waggle dance has done for beedom over millennia has been to make exact directions to and from pollen-rich flowers clear to male worker bees. (Never say they considered a waggled, figure-eight dance preferable to stopping to ask directions!) This is why it’s notable that some bees are losing their way home. There are various opinions on the cause but this, coupled with increasing Colony Collapse Disorder—that can kill 40-50 percent of a hive—gives many pause.
With Missouri farmer’s markets opening up, honey will be coming on, mostly light amber to amber here, glowing and fine. The gold, gleaming radiant color of it draws me to local beekeepers’ displays every time. Honey, slightly sweeter than sugar, balances and enhances the flavors of other ingredients used in a recipe. It’s a binder and thickener for sauces, dressings, marinades and dips. It imparts and retains moisture in a dish and can extend the shelf life of baked goods, according to the National Honey Board. With honeybees at risk, I enjoy the product of their work all the more.
Here’s a recipe I love that lets you savor honey flavor:
Honey Almond Biscotti
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons anise seeds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon- baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup slivered almonds
Using electric mixer, beat butter until light; gradually add honey, eggs and vanilla, beating until smooth. In small bowl, combine flour, anise seeds, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and baking soda; gradually add to honey mixture, mixing well. Stir in cranberries and almonds. Shape dough into two 10x3x1-inch logs on greased baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven to wire rack; cool 5 minutes. Reduce oven to 300°F. Transfer logs to cutting board. Cut each log into 1/2-inch slices; arrange on baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes or until crisp. Cool on wire racks.
*Recipe from the National Honey Board
Starting April 30, I am writing a bi-weekly food column for the Columbia Tribune food section entitled A Spiced Life. Come see me there, too!
Nina Furstenau teaches food writing at the MU Science and Agricultural Journalism Program. Find more of her writing at www.ninafurstenau.com, A Spiced Life at the Columbia Tribune, and in books: Savor Missouri: River Hill Country Food and Wine and Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland.