Aloha, readers! We are winding down here, planning on a safe landing Easter Sunday. Can I wax any more poetic about my guest today? Kristen brings it. Every post she writes on her blog is thoughtful and makes me stop in my tracks. Which is a pretty impressive feat, since I write recipes for popsicles and burgers and don't use my brain on a regular basis. Enjoy her. I know you will.
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Savoring the Sweet
by Kristen @ Motherese
I like to bake.
Baking appeals not only to my insatiable appetite for sweets, but also to my love of order, my passion for following directions. (Yes, it is possible to feel passion for following directions.) I like to cook, too, but not in the same way. To cook well, I think, takes improvisation. And, as you may have gleaned, I am not all that comfortable with improvisation. (But that, perhaps, is a topic for another post.)
Yesterday, Big Boy and I were baking chocolate chip cookies. (Baking with a toddler and the ample metaphors it affords is yet another topic for yet another post.) To me, the perfect chocolate chip cookie is the Holy Grail of the confectionery world.
The ideal cookie can’t be too chewy. It can’t be too crispy. The ratio of chocolate chip to cookie dough must be just right. The chip itself can’t be too sweet or too bitter. The center of the cookie must not be undercooked. (A common sin of the chocolate chip cookies available in many bakeries.) And the cookie must have just the right amount of salt.
That delectably sweet cookie needs to have the precise punch of salt.
Dorie Greenspan, author of my favorite recent baking cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours, helped teach me this lesson, one which I think applies to cookies and – wait for it – to life. In the New York Times article, “Perfection? Hint: It’s Warm and Has a Secret,” a number of noted bakers shared their theories on what makes the perfect chocolate chip cookie. My eyes instantly widened when I saw my beloved Dorie among those interviewed.
Although unsure she could bring anything new to the party, she went through the usual checklist: read through the recipe first, make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature, use the best-quality ingredients you can find, don’t overmix. Then she hit upon something everyone else had missed, and some home bakers are nervous about: salt.
“You can’t underestimate the importance of salt in sweet baked goods,” she said. Salt, in the dough and sprinkled on top, adds dimension that can lift even a plebeian cookie…Five years ago, sea salt as a must-have ingredient and garnish for sweets wouldn’t have registered on the radar of many home bakers, but now it has become almost commonplace, in part because of Ms. Greenspan’s unwavering belief in its virtue.
And that’s just it, isn’t it? Salty in the sweet. (You know, Sweet | Salty.)
Think about it: how often have you heard someone express a desire for something savory when they’re eating something sweet? For something sweet when they’re eating something salty? For a coffee break in the middle of an afternoon at work? For a rest stop on a long drive? For a languorous stretch in the middle of a long session at the computer? For a chance to stop and bake cookies with a two year old in the middle of a Saturday morning of writing?
And isn’t that a metaphor for life? A treacly tonic for our elusive quest for balance? A gastronomic reminder to stop and smell the flour?
Variety. It’s the spice of life. It’s the salt in the cookies. Bon appetit.
What little treats do you give yourself every day? What puts the salty in your sweet?