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Hot Honey and Marcona Almond Cheese


A few years back, a friend included a bottle of hot honey in my holiday gift basket. This chile-spiked condiment soon found its way into, well, everything. In my world, hot honey is a necessary pantry item, and it’s easy enough to make at home. This schmear has it all—flavor and texture—in a sweet, hot, salty, crunchy package.


Makes 10 ounces (280 grams)


Prepare the Schmear Master Recipe

At the breakfast table, it’s perfectly acceptable to serve up a rectangular brick of Philadelphia cream cheese in its original form. It has the same familiarity as a cylinder of canned cranberry sauce on the Thanksgiving table. A bagel brunch, though, deserves a schmear, which is different from that block of cream cheese. It is more spreadable and creamy, and is the vehicle for flavorful additions.

Makes 9 ounces (255 grams)


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, and lemon juice, increasing the speed as the ingredients combine, until fluffy, lightened, and spreadable, just one to two minutes. Alternatively, use a medium mixing bowl and a stiff spoon to combine and then stir and whip vigorously to aerate and lighten the mixture.


Pack the schmear into a ramekin or two, cover, and chill until ready to serve. It will keep for one week in the refrigerator.

Prepare the Balaboosta Hot Honey

It’s challenging to regulate the heat of homemade hot honey, but I have been very happy with every experiment. Sometimes it seems barely perceptible, a back-of-the-throat burn, and other times I gasp and my eyes water. The longer the chile stays in the honey, the more the flavor will infuse and strengthen. Taste every few hours to see when it’s right for you. One of my favorite uses for hot honey is to drizzle it over burrata, fresh cherries or peaches, and toasted hazelnuts.

Makes 1/2 cup (170 grams)


Pour the honey into a 1/2 pint [240 milliliters] mason jar (jelly-jar size). Cover lightly with a paper towel and microwave on high in 30-second bursts until the outside of the jar feels warm, about two minutes. Add the chile, stir, and microwave for another minute, until the outside of the jar feels hot.


Cover the jar and set aside for 24 hours.


Remove the chile and reserve for another use, or leave it in and let the Scoville index rise. The honey will keep for one month at room temperature.

Prepare the Hot Honey and Marcona Almond Cheese


In a medium bowl, add the schmear, almonds, hot honey, and vinegar. Stir with a stiff spatula until thoroughly combined.


Pack the Hot Honey and Marcona Almond Cheese into a ramekin or two, cover, and chill until ready to serve. It will keep for about one week in the refrigerator.


Reprinted from Bagels, Schmears, and a Nice Piece of Fish by Cathy Barrow with permission from Chronicle Books, 2022. Photographs © Linda Xiao.