Honey biscuits (cookies) with lemon - an easy French recipe baked in only 10 minutes with a shiny glaze, intense in honey and crispy texture.
Biscuits, Cookies or Sablés?
I say biscuit with my Scottish accent and in French, but my American friends will call these cookies. So we are all speaking the same language, when I say biscuits, we're talking cookies and not American biscuits like in these cheese scones.
Just to add to the cookie vocab, the French also call biscuits like this sablés since the butter and flour are rubbed together with the fingertips, resembling sand or sable in French (what we refer to as 'resembling breadcrumbs' in the recipe).
The Secret to a Good Biscuit (Cookie)
Everyone has their own idea as to a good biscuit or cookie. Should their texture be soft, chewy or crispy? Perhaps a mixture of the two like these chocolate chip hazelnut cookies.
Flavour is important too. We want a biscuit that we can taste the ingredients of honey and lemon. As too much sugar kills flavour, let's best reduce it as much as we dare to enhance the taste. It's healthier too. Besides, honey tastes even sweeter than sugar so it's important to get the right dosage.
The best honey biscuits have an extra honey layer in the glaze. The secret is to mix together more honey with an egg yolk and a little salt. Brush it on before baking and the result is not just shiny and pretty to look at. It's more intense in flavour and crispy. For biscuit baking tips with honey, read on.
What are the Ingredients for Honey Biscuits (Cookies)?
These French honey biscuits or cookies are made of flour, butter, a little sugar, salt and egg yolks - much like a sablé biscuit or French butter biscuit (Palet Breton). The addition of honey and lemon zest are what make these pop with flavour. Here's what they're made of:
- 250 g (9oz/ 2 cups) plain flour (all-purpose)
- 50 g (2oz/ ¼ cup) sugar
- 150 g (5½oz/ ¾ cup) unsalted butter softened
- 2 egg yolks (+ 1 for the glaze)
- 3 tbsp honey (+1 for the glaze)
- 2 lemons (zest only)
- good pinch salt
What Does Honey Do in Baking Cookies?
French pastry chefs add a little honey to cookies to keep them moist, as it absorbs moisture in baking.
What Can Go Wrong Baking with Honey?
However, baking cookies with honey comes with a warning: don't go wandering off and multi-task. Keep your eye on them, as honey can burn cookies if 2-3 minutes too long in the oven. More on that below, as it's actually a good thing if they're more baked. Just don't burn them.
What's the Best Honey to Use for Biscuits?
The best honey to use in this recipe is runny Acacia, as it's a good all-rounder and easy to find. I personally love stronger honeys for baking - especially for these biscuits.
French Miel de Garrigues, or honey from the Mediterranean coastal regions taste of typical wild aromatic fresh herbs as lavender, thyme, sage and rosemary.
Likewise, the darker mountain honeys are excellent - such as chestnut honey from the island of Corsica (my husband's island between France and Italy). Although more expensive, it is really worth a try if you can find it. The flavour is particularly intense in flavour and typical for pouring over brocciu cheese (like ricotta). To get an idea of flavour, dribble some mountain honey over a slice of Fiadone Corsican cheesecake.
Tip: how can you tell if your honey is real or fake? Plunge a little on a spoon into a glass of water. If it dissolves, it's fake; if it stays put, it's the real thing.
Honey Biscuits - Easy Recipe with Lemon
This easy recipe is based on Croquants, crisp honey cookies found in the Auvergne region in France. Normally made with much more butter, I cut the quantity and added lemon zest from the classic recipe.
Yield: makes about 40 sablé biscuits (depending on the size of your cookie cutters).
Measure the flour in a large bowl. Add the sugar, cold butter, lemon zest, honey and salt. Mix all together well with the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (or sand - sable in French) then add the egg yolks.
If mixing in a stand mixer, then use softened - not melted - butter.
Split the dough into 2, cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to about 5mm (¼ inch) thickness. Cut the dough using your favourite cookie cutters. Roll up the dough into another ball with the scraps and roll out again until finished.
Place the biscuits on 1-2 baking trays covered with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
Mix the glaze together and brush lightly over each biscuit and bake.
Crispy Honey Biscuits - Baking Times
Baking in the oven for another 2-3 minutes makes a crispier, darker biscuit that's even more intense in honey.
This batch was well fired after another 5 minutes. They look burnt but believe me, their honey flavour was even more intensified and their texture more crispy. Here are 3 baking time options, which sounds a bit like the 3 bears! Pick one that you feel is just right:
- 10 minutes are bright golden, slightly crispy, more shortbread like in texture with the lemon shining through.
- 11-12 minutes are crispy with more honey in flavour and lemon quite subtle.
- 13-14 minutes are just strong, crispy honey biscuits. The lemon hits in the aftertaste.
Personally, I'm Mummy bear on this one. Let me know what you prefer in the comments below.
How to Serve Honey Biscuits
I strongly recommend you add this honey glaze to the biscuits. Although they're just as delicious without, the glaze does make them extra special in the looks department and adds another honey layer in flavour.
Served best at teatime, enjoy with black tea (Darjeeling for something light in the afternoon), lemon tea or Earl Grey - the bergamot will go well with the lemon.
Alternatively without caffeine, enjoy with a pot of Rooibos redbush, particularly good with ginger if you have a cold.
Honey Biscuits with Lemon
- 250 g (9oz/ 2 cups) plain flour (all-purpose)
- 50 g (2oz/ ¼ cup) sugar
- 150 g (5½oz/ ¾ cup) unsalted butter cold if by hand; softened if in mixer
- 2 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoon Acacia honey (runny) or dark mountain honey (strong flavoured)
- 2 lemons, zest only unwaxed/organic
- 1 good pinch salt fleur de sel (Maldon or Celtic salt)
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon honey
- pinch salt
- Measure the flour in a large bowl. Add the sugar, cold butter, lemon zest, honey and salt. Mix all together well with the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (or sand - sable in French) then add the egg yolks.Alternatively, if you have a stand mixer, mix all the ingredients together (using softened butter) for a couple of minutes maximum until well blended together.
- Split the dough into 2, cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to about 5mm (¼ inch) thickness. Cut the dough using your favourite cookie cutters. Roll up the dough into another ball with the scraps and roll out again until finished. Place the biscuits on 1-2 baking trays covered with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/375°F/Gas 5. Mix the glaze together and brush lightly over each biscuit. Bake for 10-12 minutes (careful NO MORE than 14-15 mins, as the honey will burn)
- Leave the cookies to cool on the tray for a couple of minutes then carefully transfer them with a pie slice (they'll still be soft and fragile) to a wire tray to cool and crisp up.
- For a more intense honey flavour, use a dark, full-flavoured honey, such as a mountain honey.
- To see if you're using genuine honey, spoon it into a small glass of water. If it doesn't dissolve, it's the real thing.
This recipe was first published 9 February 2015 but is now completely updated