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posted Jan 5, 2012, 7:09 AM by Web Admin   [ updated Jan 5, 2012, 7:24 AM ]

For reasons completely unknown, exec pastry chefs often filled me up with  secrets they knew of, concerning all topics from tempering chocolate in a microwave and all the beautiful uses of this repudiated machine, like cooking souffles in under a minute out of a cream dispenser to mildly warming up cakes and fruits with the thaw function to quick dissolving of gelatin and
sugar work appliances. One of the most valuable lessons to learn was the fact that they seasoned salty dishes with a grain of sugar and sweet dishes with a grain of salt. They explained that, with the right homeopathic dose applied, food becomes more intense rather than salty or sweet. I first dismissed this philosophy as a personal myth, but later on kept adding a tiny pinch of salt to all of my  dessert dishes in one way or another. While mostly adding a grain of salt to fruit ragouts, I later discovered the effect of salt crystals on sweets like toffees and chocolates. 

Just a crystal or two too much though, and a flavorful bite turns into a salty nightmare. 

The same philosophy applies to bread and crackers. While the crackers need a higher salt content due to the absence of sugar, fermentation and water in the finished product, it becomes a whole different story with bread. 

The reason therefore lays, as far as I have been told, in the chemical reaction of sugars with water and salt, which makes the salt much more palatable in the loaf compared to the crackers.

As a rule of thumb, the salt content for bread should not amount to more than two percent of the dry ingredients. 

After some years in the business I stumbled  over a salt the great kitchen revolutionary from Spain, Ferran Adria, introduced to the masses.

It marked the arrival of finishing salt, used to give a dish its final burst of flavors before it went out to the guest. Its flaky, white crystals harbored a quickly melting mini bomb of flavor and founded a boom which has not seen its peak yet. Dozens of different sea salts, aromatized and kosher salts are competing for a growing market of in home and star chefs alike. While kosher salts are harvested like table salts, they are raked during evaporation to give the grains a larger block like structure. 

Hand harvested salt, commonly referred to as fleur de sel , make about one pound of a harvest of 80, and this hand raking  of the first crystals explains the high price . 

Aromatized salts can hold various additives like smoke, pepper, spices or even dried truffles.

To me, finishing salts are great tools to play with. Black finishing salt from Turkey or India contains lots of minerals from Lava, adding a special note, just like some sulfurous Himalayan salts or pink salt from the Murray river basin in Australia. I however find that subtle, flaky finishing salts like Maldon or Halen Mon, are often better suited to supplement dishes. 

Following some links for more info on the topic: