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.
Looking for a new sugar cookie recipe? this one checks a lot of boxes. Almond-y flavor? Check. Soft texture? Check. Won't spread? Check. In fact, this is the perfect recipe for when you need to use a dough that won't spread and distort the shapes in your cookies. You'll notice there's no leavening other than what's provided by the egg.
We're not sure this was needed for these cookies - we might have liked the shamrocks to spread a little to connect better. But we think these photos illustrate how well the dough keeps its shape.
This recipe requires chilling, so it's not a super quick one. But it keeps in the fridge for a few days, so there's no reason not to make the dough one night and do the cutting and decorating with the kiddos the next day or later. Like they'd wait. :)
You have the option of keeping the cookies plain, as shown, or decorating with crusting buttercream, royal icing, or a simple glaze. Feel free to add color to the dough as we did. And of course, sprinkles. You can always use sprinkles.
These cookies are best in the first couple of days if not iced; maybe 4 days if iced. We usually freeze half the cookies after we cut them out. Our preferred method: first freeze on a tray, then transfer frozen cookies to a zip bag. They will keep in the freezer for a couple of months and make it easy and fast to bake and decorate cookies with your family. Or just for you.
Aren't these adorable? For best results with our spring plunger animal cookie cutters, you need to use a dough that won't spread and distort the shape or the embossed markings. We've used a more traditional recipe in the past, but loved this almond-flavored dough even more! We baked these cookies until they are just baked to keep them soft for a longer period. Great for the kiddos but adults seem to go wild for them, too. We certainly couldn't stop eating them. We'll test a gluten-free dough soon and post another option.
This recipe makes a lot of these little beauties, about 48 in all (we are estimating - we forgot to count!). And once you get the hang of it, it goes pretty fast. The cutters take a little coordination, so this may not be a good option for your toddlers, but school age kids and above should be able work the mechanism without tears. Check out our NOTES section below for tips on cutting and handling.
You have the option of keeping the cookies plain, as shown, or dipping them in a simple or royal icing. This gives you the option of adding color and nonpareil style sprinkles. And sprinkles are always a good idea!
These cookies are best in the first couple of days if not iced; maybe 4 days if iced. We usually freeze half the cookies after we cut them out. Our preferred method: first freeze on a tray, then transfer frozen cookies to a zip bag. They will keep in the freezer for a couple of months and make it easy and fast to bake a super-cute treat for your family.
ingredients & tools
notes and tips
Click on any of the below images to order these cookie cutters. We also offer the same cutters in all one color at a discount.
This rich, chewy chocolate cookie is the brainchild of French pastry chef Francois Payard, who based his creation on the French macaron. Combining little more than egg whites cocoa and sugar, this confection is crisp on the outside and fudgy-chewy in the middle. It delivers all the flavor of a brownie, but with a lighter and more delicate feel. And because the recipe includes no wheat flour, dairy or egg yolks, these cookies are gluten-free, dairy-free and Passover-friendly. Don't worry, though, you won't feel like you're missing anything at all if you make these delicious treats.
NOTE: We adapted the original recipe, which we found in Food 52's book, Genius Desserts, to use pecans instead of walnuts. You can certainly substitute walnuts if that's what you prefer or have on hand. This recipe makes about 16, 3-inch cookies.
Ingredients and equipment
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.