Honey cookies are, technically, any cookie with honey in them. A more specific definition would be that they are any cookie in which honey is one of the predominant flavors. Even with this narrower definition, there are hundreds of different versions of honey cookies. One of the most popular is the honey-oatmeal version. German honey cookies are usually simple, and use white flour and shortening to make them soft and chewy. Other versions include sweet spices, nuts, and even fruit.
Many bakers looking for natural, nutritious cookie ingredients enjoy making them with oatmeal and honey. The oatmeal contains fiber, protein, and nutrients while the honey is a natural sweetener and may boost the immune system. This kind of cookie may include wheat flour to help the oats stick together, and applesauce in place of oil or fat. Dried fruit, like dates and apricots, may also make their way into these treats, providing extra fiber and sweetness.
Older versions of honey cookies usually focus on taste and texture rather than nutrition. German-style honey cookies featured both honey and white sugar, to make them extra sweet. In these recipes, flavored honey was sometimes used to showcase the unique taste of this ingredient. Cinnamon and citrus-infused versions were popular, as was vanilla. Bakers sometimes added dried orange or lemon zest to give these cookies brightness. Tips like this may be used in any honey cookie recipe.
Though many bakers enjoy plain honey cookies, others feel the need to dress them up with additional flavors, like spices. Some of the most popular are cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and cardamom. All of these spices are zesty, warming, and sometimes regarded as aphrodisiacs. The use of spices in honey cookies may be a throwback to some customs of the past, when newlyweds traditionally feasted on honey cakes to encourage a sweet life, prosperity, and fertility. The color of the honey represented wealth, while the spices were supposed to help the couple take joy in each other.
Another version of honey cookies highlights their sweetness with nuts. Nuts generally have an inherent salty, savory flavor that acts as a tasty counterpoint to the honey. Almonds, toasted walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and even cashews help keep the sweetness from becoming overwhelming. These cookies may also contain mashed pumpkin, sweet potato, or banana to make them seasonal and more filling. Dark chocolate and vanilla chips may also bolster the flavors of the honey, especially if it is infused with other flavors.