Honey glaze is a thick mixture that includes honey as its main ingredient and is applied to a variety of foods to create a coating of flavor on the surface. The glaze can be made sweet so it can be used on foods such as pastries, cakes or cookies. It also can be mixed with a variety of ingredients so it has a more savory or sweet and sour taste when used on meats, vegetables or fish. It is possible to use a honey glaze as an uncooked coating, as a basting sauce for roasted foods, as a coating for barbecue, or as a browning agent for the surface of breads or pastries. Depending on the cooking method, the honey glaze can form into a sticky, sweet coating, or caramelize and become crisp and charred.
Honey is a popular choice for making a glaze, because it has a number of desirable properties. It is thick enough to be able to stick to the surface of foods and also suspend other ingredients so they stay with the glaze instead of falling off the food while it cooks. It also has a much more subtle sweetness than most refined sugars, allowing it to accent and blend easily with other flavors. Honey also can be caramelized to different degrees so it can provide anything from a light, glossy coating to a rich, dark shell.
When honey glaze is used for classic dishes such as honey-glazed ham, it is usually mixed with other ingredients. Mustard is one common addition, providing a spicy counterpoint to the sweetness. An acidic ingredient, such as lemon juice or cider vinegar, is used to add a sharpness that cuts through the honey. In many instances, brown sugar also is added to help the honey caramelize faster and develop a different type of sweet flavor that the honey could not achieve on its own.
Sweet pastries or breads can use honey by itself as a glaze that will bake into a slightly sweet, soft layer on the top. It also can be mixed with other ingredients, such as fruit jams, to make a colored, flavored topping that can be used to glaze an already completed product. In some cases, honey glaze can be cooked and thinned out with liqueur or other liquids and then poured over food, after which it will crystallize as it cools and make a sweet, sticky coating.