Cook the Book: The Hot Honey Cookbook

When it comes to pairing sweet with heat, Ames Russell touts honey’s ability to dance across all ends of the flavor spectrum. The creator of AR’s Hot Honey, a Virginia-based company, has long encouraged home cooks to incorporate honey into their kitchen antics. The honey enthusiast initially began by infusing honey with various hot peppers, bourbon, and more. The more flavors he crafted, the more versatile honey became in the kitchen, with utility as a condiment, spice, marinade ingredient, or eaten straight. What began as homemade infused honey given to friends elicited enthusiastic demands for more of the product, and Russell realized his commodity had selling potential. 

cover of the Hot Honey Cookbook

Russell began documenting all the ways to use honey—whether as a key ingredient or as a supporting character in a dish. After years of research and development, Russell debuted the Hot Honey Cookbook in August 2022, complete with sixty recipes to “infuse sweet heat into your favorite foods.”

Despite what the title might suggest, “hot” is a pretty loosely used term here. Most of the recipes call for either the “mild” or “hot” version of the hot honey, so if your palate is sensitive to heat, fear not. 

 The Hot Honey Cookbook demonstrates honey’s utility over six different sections—with recipes for breakfasts, appetizers, sides, dinners, desserts, and drinks. The book’s most striking element is the way honey flows from sweet to spicy to savory. 

This isn’t a once-a-year cookbook but one for every day. As we cooked our way through Russell’s recipes, these recipes made it a go-to guide, whether day or night, savory or sweet.  

Day to Night Recipes from The Hot Honey Cookbook

Savory Dutch Baby with Prosciutto and Parmesan
We’d be lying if we said it was the honey, not the prosciutto and parm pairing, that drew us to this recipe. Though both savory items are delicious on their own, together they need a little balance. The finishing drizzle of honey (your choice of hot or mild) offsets the combination with a much-welcomed addition of sweetness. 
Hot honey dutch baby topped with proscuitto and parmesan

Ingredients

3 large eggs

½ cup (60 g) all-purpose flour

¾ cup (175 ml) whole milk

¼ cup (65 g) grated parmesan, plus more for serving

8 fresh chive stalks, chopped, plus more for serving

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 very thin slices prosciutto

AR’s Hot Southern Honey (mild or hot), for drizzling

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet in oven while it preheats to get the skillet nice and hot.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs. Add flour and whisk until smooth, then gradually whisk in milk. Whisk in parmesan, chopped chives, thyme, and salt.
  3. Take skillet out of oven and add butter (it will melt quickly). Once it melts, pour in batter, then slide the skillet back into the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and puffed.
  4. Top Dutch baby with prosciutto, a little more parmesan and chopped chives, and a generous drizzle of hot honey. Slice and serve immediately.
Hot Honey Spoon Bread
This recipe is served  in individual ramekins, so everyone gets their own, personal spoon bread. Herbaceous, rich, and savory from the combination of country ham and crabmeat garnish, this spoon bread seemingly has everything it could possibly need, but the finishing touch of honey balances the salty decadence (we recommend going with the hot flavor here, which cuts through the other flavors). If you don’t have ramekins, you could alternatively make this in a 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet. 
3 ramekins of hot honey spoonbread topped with crab meat

Ingredients

For the spoon bread

¼ cup unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the ramekins

½ gallon whole milk 

1⁄3 cup sugar 

2 cups yellow cornmeal 

3 large eggs 

½ cup all-purpose flour 

1½ teaspoons baking powder 

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground white pepper, to taste 

For the garnish

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 pound fresh jumbo lump crabmeat 

½ pound salt- or sugar-cured Virginia country ham, shaved thinly (such as Kite’s Country Hams brand) 

AR’s Hot Southern Honey (mild or hot), for drizzling

5 or 6 fresh chive stalks, chopped, for serving

Directions

  1. Make the spoon bread: Preheat the oven to 345 degrees. Butter six 10-ounce ramekins and set aside. 
  2. In a large saucepan, bring milk, sugar, and ¼ cup butter to a boil over medium-high heat. 
  3. Whisk in cornmeal and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Whisk in eggs, flour, and baking powder until incorporated evenly. Season with salt and pepper. 
  4. Dividing evenly, ladle the spoon bread batter into the prepared ramekins and place the ramekins in a water bath. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes. 
  5. Make the garnish: When the spoon bread is almost done baking at 15 minutes, in a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat until golden. Add crabmeat and country ham to the pan, gently fold, and warm. 
  6. Once warm, scoop crabmeat and ham onto spoon bread in ramekins. Drizzle hot honey on top, sprinkle with  chopped chives, and serve. 

 

Pan-Fried Hot Honey Chicken Sandwich
The creation that started it all! Russell’s pairing of honey and chile flakes over fried chicken inspired his journey down the infused-honey path. If it was good enough to inspire a business, it was good enough to re-create at home. This recipe, though fully savory, goes deep (and broad!) with its flavors, thanks to the tangy pickle mayonnaise and sweet-spicy kiss of hot honey at the end. Marinate the chicken thighs overnight to achieve maximum flavor. 
2 Hot honey chicken sandwiches

 For the chicken

1 cup water

3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

2 tablespoons AR’s Hot Southern Honey (mild or hot), plus more for drizzling

4 (4-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken thighs 

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons onion powder

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ cup buttermilk

Canola or grapeseed oil, for frying

4 potato buns

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

8 butter lettuce leaves

For the pickle mayonnaise

½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup chopped dill pickles 

¼ cup chopped sweet or red onion

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon worcestershire sauce

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Brine the chicken: In a small saucepan, combine water, 2 teaspoons salt, and hot honey. Place over medium-high heat and let come to a boil. Pour brine into a heatproof, nonreactive bowl and let cool. Refrigerate, uncovered, until completely cold. 
  2. Add chicken thighs to the brine (they should be submerged), cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours (the longer the better).
  3. Make the pickle mayonnaise: In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, pickles, onion, lemon juice, worcestershire, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate while you fry the chicken.
  4. Fry the chicken: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, onion powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Pour buttermilk into another medium bowl.
  5. Heat ½ inch oil in a high-sided skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat to between 325 and 350 degrees. Line a plate with two paper towels and set aside.
  6. Remove chicken thighs from brine, rinse, and pat dry. Add chicken to buttermilk, turning to coat. Working with one thigh at a time, lift chicken out of buttermilk, letting excess drip off. Dredge chicken in flour mixture, patting it over the surface and into the crevices to make sure it is well coated.
  7. Carefully lower chicken into oil and fry for 4 to 5 minutes per side, turning as you go, until crust is deep golden brown and crisp and chicken is cooked through. Transfer to the prepared plate.
  8. To heat buns, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add two buns, cut sides down, and cook until undersides are toasted. Repeat with remaining butter and buns.
  9. Build the sandwiches: Layer bottom bun, one chicken thigh, a drizzle of hot honey, some pickle mayonnaise, two lettuce leaves, and the top bun. Serve immediately.
Hot honey peach cake
Peach Cake
Of course, we had to choose at least one sweet recipe—it is honey, after all. This cake is stupid simple. You combine all ingredients into a single, unfussy layer in a pan and top with sliced peaches. No nonsense with layers, piped icing, or the sort. The peaches get tossed in mild honey before topping the cake, which helps them lightly caramelize and turn jammy as they cook. The recipe recommends serving with whipped cream, but we’re partial to a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

 Ingredients

Nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray, 

for the pan

4 medium fresh peaches (about 1¼ pounds, or 560 g) 

1 tablespoon AR’s Hot Southern Honey (mild)

1¼ cups (150 g) all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup (1 stick, or 120 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup (200 g) sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ cup (60 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature

Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C; gas mark 4). Spray an 8×8-inch (20×20 cm) square baking pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the two opposite sides (for easy lifting once the cake is baked). Set aside.
  2. Peel the peaches. Slice them into ½-inch-thick (1-cm) wedges and add to a small bowl. Toss with the hot honey and let marinate while you make the cake batter.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In a large bowl using an electric mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until creamy. On low speed, mix in half of the dry ingredients. Mix in the buttermilk, then the remaining dry ingredients.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Place the peaches in a single layer over the batter and drizzle any remaining juices over the top.
  6. Bake for 38 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let cool for 20 minutes on a wire cooling rack before lifting the cake out of the pan to cool completely. 
  7. Serve with whipped cream. (This cake is best the same day it is made.)

Images courtesy of Chelsea Chorpenning. Recipes reprinted with permissions from the Quarto Group, Hot Honey Cookbook: 60 Recipes to Infuse Sweet Heat into Your Favorite Foods, 2022.

Leave a comment