Salt is an essential ingredient in all kinds of cooking and baking. You may think sweet recipes don't need salt, but salt brings out the flavors in your cookies, cakes and other desserts. It particularly accentuates the flavors of butter, sugar, flour and chocolate. In bread baking, salt helps the gluten hold more water and carbon dioxide. It also creates a stronger and tighter crumb.
With so many kinds of salt available, how do you choose the right one for baking? It comes down to crystal size, with finer grains more appropriate for baking and larger grains better for cooking meat and finishing.
Table salt is typically produced by sending water down into inland, underground salt mines, then evaporating that water until only salt crystals remain. Most table salt in the U.S. includes iodide, a nutrient that prevents goiters (which was a problem about 100 years ago). It may also include a non-caking agent to improve the flow from the container.
Like the name suggests, sea water is evaporated in a number of processes to create salt in a variety of crystal structures, from fine to flaky to coarse. Sea salt also contains the minerals that are prevalent in the local sea water, thus adding color and flavor to salt. Fleur de sel and flaky sea salt are pretty and great for finishing. Sea salts, especially "artisan" salts, can be very expensive.
Kosher salt is typically just salt - additive free and available in medium and coarse grains. It can be produced from underground salt deposits or sea water. Morton's, which is sold nearly everywhere, is a small/medium grain kosher salt. Diamond Crystal is a large grain salt that is popular with foodies, but may be more difficult to source locally. ONE MORE THING: The term kosher refers to "koshering," the process of sprinkling larger crystals of salt over meat to draw out blood. All salt is Kosher.
BEST FOR BAKING
Fine sea salt, fine kosher salt or table salt.
BEST FOR COOKING
We like to use a small/medium grain kosher salt. It's rougher texture makes it easy to grab a pinch and sprinkle where you want. For pasta water or liquid based meals, table salt works well, too. When cooking meats like steak, try a coarse salt.
BEST FOR FINISHING
A fleur de sel or flaky salt dresses up baked goods, salads and other items, adding sparkle and crunch.
IN OUR KITCHEN
We keep it simple. We use a fine sea salt for baking, Morton's Kosher salt for cooking and Maldon's sea salt for finishing. They are all affordable, easily sourced and taste good.
substituting salt in a recipe
The volume and saltiness of salts are not the same. Some people feel that iodized table salt seems saltier than fine sea salt. And larger grained kosher salts may provide less salt flavor than medium kosher salts because the coarse structure leaves air gaps (less salt in the same teaspoon). Check the chart below if you need to make substitutions in a recipe that calls for a specific type or brand of salt.
Salt Mass and Volume
source: Serious Eats
want to learn more about salt?
Link to a great article about salt on Serious Eats here.
This time of year we put a lot of miles on our mixers. With holiday gatherings, parties and gift-giving just around the corner, you need your mixer to be ready to handle it all. It's especially important if you only use your mixer this time of year.
Below find our handy checklist for making sure your KitchenAid is up to the tasks ahead.
Good luck and happy baking!
mixer tune-up tasks
ALL MIXER MODELS -
We wish you could smell this....the spicy, cheesy smell is almost irresistible. It's a crowd favorite for football parties and would be perfect for tomorrow's big Super Bowl Game. The best part? You can make almost the entire recipe in your stand mixer! Well, that and you'll be sure not to have any leftovers to clean up after your party. Someone usually takes a spatula to the serving dish.
This recipe is super-forgiving. You can adjust quantities to what you have on hand, and it will still turn out well. We made a half-batch for our photos and video (coming soon), but recommend a full recipe if you're hosting more than four people.
If you want to slow people down - or have a group that like really spicy food - you can increase the amount of hot sauce by up to 100 percent (double the amount). It won't change the creamy deliciousness.
You can substitute low-fat cream cheese in this recipe for half or all the listed amount. It won't be quite as creamy, but it will still be tasty. We don't recommend fat-free cheeses, as they don't melt well and your dip may turn out gritty.
Serve with celery sticks, toast, crackers or tortilla chips. We guarantee if you serve this, your friends and family will request the recipe!
A full batch makes enough for appetizer servings for 10-12 people.
ingredients & equipment
Like us, you may be wondering why in the world vanilla extract has doubled in price in recent years. We found that a number of factors have caused the price to skyrocket: vanilla bean theft (!!), difficult pollination, extreme weather, habitat loss and rapidly growing demand because of the natural food movement. The bottom line: the once basic, "boring" vanilla may wind up becoming a rare sought-after delicacy.
So what's a baker to do? We'll provide information on your alternatives (not very many, we're afraid) in a blog post next week.
We found a great article on the subject in Business Insider. We're reprinting excerpts from the body of their article below. They also include a cute graphic video in their online article, which you can see here.
vanilla is hard to grow
One reason vanilla has gotten so expensive is, it's hard to grow. Vanilla vines take two to four years to fully mature, and their flowers only bloom for one day of the year. In order for the plants to produce beans, they have to be pollinated that day. In most places where vanilla is grown, it isn't a native plant, and there aren't bugs or birds capable of pollinating the flowers. Vanilla is native to Mexico, but deforestation there has greatly reduced its natural habitat. In Madagascar, where over 80% of vanilla is produced, the flowers have to be pollinated by hand. The pods need several months to cure after harvesting. The whole process is time-consuming and labor-intensive. But the record high price of vanilla also has to do with changes in the vanilla market.
artificial vanilla is less popular now
In the 1980s, cheaper artificial vanilla overtook the market. Vanilla farmers cut back production because they weren't making enough money. But around 2011, demand for real vanilla rose again. Big companies were joining the all-natural trend, pledging to eliminate artificial flavorings from their products. It's taken a while for the vanilla farmers to get back in the game and many no longer want to.
black market vanilla
Growing vanilla is a stressful and volatile business because there is such high demand, vanilla beans are a target for theft. After working hard to cultivate their crops some farmers have their beans stolen. As the stolen beans move up the supply chain, they get mixed in with legally purchased beans making it difficult for buyers to know which are which. The prevent theft, farmers pick the beans before they're ripe and unripe beans means lower quality vanilla. Farmers also try to prevent theft by branding their vanilla crops with a metal pronged brand. That way buyers can identify what farm the vanilla came from.
weather problems have added to the shortage
Farmers also run the risk of having their crops destroyed by extreme weather events. Cyclones are common in Madagascar and climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of those storms. If a cyclone were to wipe out vanilla crops next year, it would take until at least 2022 for new plants to start producing beans, and farmers might not want to take that risk. So the supply could continue to drop even further.
Recipes and mixing tips
Simple recipes for home cooks using SideSwipe + your mixer. Tips for using + caring for your mixer. Our goal = Helping you get a perfect mix + great taste.