When I first started blogging, I wrote a post titled: "SALT- The most important ingredient!" Yes, I am a lover of anything "salty-sweet" or made with a flavored, coarse, unrefined sea salt. But, what EXACTLY does salt do to your chocolate chip cookies, chiffon cake, or lemon-blueberry muffins? Salt has many functions and actions in the baking and culinary field.
First off, salt naturally adds flavor to sweet and savory dishes. It is a necessary and key ingredient in the kitchen! Along, with black pepper, it is staple to have a salt jar right next to your cooking range.
Salt has many purposes in cooking, here are my top three reasons!
1) Enhance flavor!
No matter what you are cooking, it balances and enhances the dish/food you are cooking. Pre-package foods contain LOTS, AND LOTS of sodium due to the lack of natural flavor and to have a longer "shelf life" than non-packaged foods.
2) Strengthen gluten strands!
Salt naturally helps gluten strands become nice 'n' strong to create a solid structure for your baked good. This is key especially in French-type breads. Forgot your salt when you are baking bread? The dough will become very "slack" and "wet."
3) Give color!
Salt aids in browning. (Secret tip: I like to add a pinch of salt when I am making egg wash for my morning pasteries!) It gives crossiants, breads, and muffins a nice, golden color. Forgot your salt? Your sweet treats and bread will come out pale.
Salt's three main forms:
1) Kosher: A coarse salt, perfect for "every day" cooking. I like using kosher salt when I am brining, salting water for rice/potatoes, and roasting proteins.
2) Iodizied : A fine salt that I love using for baking anything sweet. Why? Since it is a fine grain, it tends to blend into the batter or dough perfectly. Since coarse salt, like kosher, have a larger diameter, it can leave tiny, "salty bites." Stick with a fine grain salt when baking...always!
3) Sea salt: Yes, salt from the sea. The "most pure" salt flavor you have! Go for "unrefined" sea salt and use it when "finishing" a dish. Example: A few pinches on your grilled steak, seared salmon, in your homemade balsamic dressing, or quinoa, it adds flavor without adding a calories or fat. Many gourmet shops are now carrying flavored sea salts to cater to your homemade meals and tastes.
I have all three at home! Just need one? Go for kosher salt and add more to your collection in your future.
What is the most important tip about salt I can give you? NEVER forget it! Salt to cooking and baking, is like breathing: we need it. Avoid pre-packaged foods, which are drowned in sodium, and cooking your own veggies and meals with your favorite salt.
Here are my favorite salts to use when cooking and baking:
(The Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt is one of my faves!)