Salt, although only scant amounts may be called for in baking recipes, is a vital ingredient! Salt is just as important in baking as it is in savory cooking. In all baked goods, salt brings out and brightens nuanced flavors -- the nuttiness of different whole grain flours, different sweeteners, dark chocolate, depth of flavor in fruits, and helps balance spices. Baking is a very precise set of measurements, and salt is part of that chemistry, helping to round out the taste and make desserts really 3-dimensional.
Every baking recipe I have ever worked with requires at least a pinch of salt. Even though only a pinch, don't forget to add it and make sure it is the exact measurement (not just an eyeballed amount), because not enough salt leaves desserts flat, and too much leaves them, well, unintentionally salty.
So the real question becomes: Which type of salt to use? As with all of the ingredients I bake with, I believe in using as unrefined, whole food ingredients as possible. So, naturally, I keep sea salt in my cupboard.
I recommend sea salt over refined table salt or kosher salt for several reasons. Sea salt, obtained by the evaporation of seawater, usually done in warm and dry climates (such as the Mediterranean or the Himalayas) contains all of the natural micronutrients found in seawater. Sea salt contains minerals such as iodine, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and bromide. You don't get these additional minerals with table salt, because they have been stripped away by high-heat processing. Table salt is highly refined, and what is left is almost pure sodium chloride. Table salt, which is mined from the earth, actually has a higher per-granule sodium content than sea salt. I also believe that sea salt has a much better taste and texture than table or kosher salt. The differing mineral content affects it's taste, color and mouthfeel--there are literally hundreds to choose from. I use very fine sea salt for my baking needs, but there are many other varieties that you can use to add a nuanced flavor or a gourmet finishing touch to your next baked good.
Next dessert, try using sea salt, and let me know if you taste the difference. If a recipe simply calls for salt, they are usually referring to kosher salt. If you want to substitute sea salt instead, follow the formula below and adjust the measurements accordingly. Since sea salt is denser than kosher salt, it weighs twice as much as of an equal measurement of it. Food scientists use this formula to approximate substitutes: 1 tab of sea salt=1 1/2 tablespoon Morton kosher salt=2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt. The bonus with sea salt is that you end up using less of it! As with desserts, and really all things in the world, moderation is key. Our daily sodium in take should be less than 2,300 milligrams a day -- or 1,500 milligrams if you're sensitive.
Who knew a little sea salt could actually make things sweeter?
Be sweet to yourself.
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