honey, composed mainly of fructose and glucose, is essentially nectar concentrated by honeybees to around 18 percent moisture. Besides tasting sweeter than table sugar, the fructose in honey is especially soluble in water, helping to make honey hygroscopic, or able to absorb moisture from the air. See fructose. This quality means that honey is useful in baked goods as it keeps them from drying out. Honey also lends a lovely golden appearance and good flavor.
Honey was mankind’s earliest and most potent form of sweetness and remained so in the Western world until the plantation system of sugar production developed in the seventeenth century and the price of sugar fell. See plantations, sugar. Honey lost further ground as a sweetener when the process of extracting sugar from sugar beets was perfected in the early nineteenth century. See sugar beets.