The dessert hotline rang today — well, actually it was the Christmas-cookie baking hotline. “I got sea salt in my community-supported agriculture share — is it okay to use in making cookies?”
The short answer — if the cookie dough is already made and in the fridge — is “sure!” To some extent, salt is salt. That is particularly true if you have two small children, a more-than-fulltime job, it’s December 19 and you have cookies ready to bake. Onward and upward, Lynn!
The longer answer — for the next batch of cookies — is “I’d save the sea salt for cooking protein or veggies, and for using at the table.”
A couple of years ago Cook’s Illustrated, God love ’em, did an extensive review of the saltiness of salts, and how salts function in cooking. They discovered that not only is the salinity by volume different between table salt (like Morton’s in the round blue box) and kosher salt, but that kosher salt brands differ from each other, mostly because they have larger or smaller crystals that take up more or less space.
CI did not spend any time on sea salt, however, as an ingredient; they pointed out that the nuances of sea-salt flavor get lost in cooking. I’d add that given the explosion of the sea-salt market just in the past couple of years, it’s a WAG as to the salinity — or crystal size — of the sea salt that YOU happen to have. Use it for roasting fish or fowl, or at the table as a finishing sprinkle.
I happen to like to use a fine-grained kosher salt for all my cooking — baking as well as roasting or souping or sauteing. I’ve got a little container by the stove, it’s easy to grab a pinch, and the salt has no additives that will give an off flavor to anything. I use a fine-grained salt so that it will disperse and dissolve easily no matter how dry a batter I’m making. (For example, a cookie dough is drier than a cake batter; gotta give the salt a fighting chance to spread its goodness.) Given that I use Morton’s kosher salt, that probably means I am undersalting a bit when I follow a recipe to the letter. Whatever. I have not noticed any ill-effects in the baking, moussing and souffleing that’s been going on here this past year.
Gram’s recipes were no doubt written for table salt. So please note: I use kosher salt in the recipes on this blog. And if there’s a recipe that calls for a ton of salt, or uses salt differently — like fleur de sel caramels — I’ll be really clear what kind of salt I’m using.
As for the Christmas cookie hotline, it’s still open…