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The funny thing about cookies is that it’s very easy to think that it’s the only one particular ingredient that accounts for most of its flavor. A lot of people could easily be forgiven for thinking this because let’s face it, when we are baking chocolate chip cookies, which ingredient is necessarily the star of the show? Most people would point to the chocolate chips.
The same applies to pecan, walnuts, or any nut enhanced cookie. It’s very easy to spot the star of the show or the center of attention but seriously, if you’ve looked at all the ingredients of a particular cookie batter, if you leave out one item, the cookie is not going to live up to its fullest potential.
Sure, it would still have quite a bit of flavor because hey, let’s face it, you are packing quite a bit of walnuts, chocolate chips, almonds, and pecans with your cookies. These ingredients do have a flavor profile of their own. They bring quite a bit to the table. With that said, something is still missing, they bring a lot of potential flavor and to some extent, they do deliver, but it’s not enough.
If you really want to bake cookies that are worth writing home about, then you need to step up and pay attention to this often overlooked, and in many cases, demonized ingredient. I am of course talking about salt. Salt has gotten quite a bit of a beating in today’s society because it’s everybody’s favorite boogeyman.
While it’s true that salt can increase your blood pressure, which can lead to all sorts of health problems, salt is not the dietary villain that many people paint it out to be. In the proper context and in the proper amounts, salt can actually bring the flavors of your cookies to a much higher level. It can make the flavors come alive.
Think of the ingredients of your cookies like members of an orchestra. When an orchestra is playing a symphony, if the orchestra members don’t know each other well enough or they haven’t practiced together one enough, the resulting music is going to be disjointed. It’s as if everybody’s going on their own directions and there’s really not much organizing principle behind the music you’re creating.
Salt is like introducing a conductor. With a maestro at the helm, any symphony is basically whipped into shape, seriously. The orchestra gets together and starts producing music that line up with each other and the result is a much better experience for everyone involved. We’re not just talking about the conductor, the orchestra members, but also the audience.
By the same token, when you introduce a little bit of salt, not too much, into your cookie batter, all the stars of the show really come alive, whether we’re talking about chocolate chip cookies, almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, pecans, what have you, everything works together with the flavors that the sugar and the flour bring to the table and there is a unified taste.
Now, I’m not saying that the taste will basically blend into each other. I’m not saying that at all. What I’m saying is that you can easily experience the great taste combination that your ingredients bring to the table. It not like they’re just going off on their own different directions. It’s not like you’re just biting into one ingredient after another, and the whole experience is kind of disjointed. Salt makes for a very unified flavor that really takes the overall flavor profile of your cookies to a much higher level.
Why is salt so effective?
Salt boosts flavors by basically misdirecting your taste buds. When your taste buds are just processing the basic flavors of your cookie, it is very easy to overwhelm your taste buds. You get that bland or, worse yet, ‘busy’ flavor on your tongue. The reason for this is that there seems to be no centralizing flavor to your cookie recipe so your tongue just picks up on drips and drabs of flavor. Instead of a symphony of tastes coming together for a nice crescendo of flavor in your mouth, all these flavors clash and go off in a variety of directions. By adding salt to your batter, your taste buds pick up on the salt and this sensitivity ends up ‘framing’ the rest of the flavors your recipe brings to the table. Wouldn’t it be nice to introduce a ‘maestro’ to the mix? A little bit of taste framing can go a long way especially if your batter recipe has lots of subtle flavors and textures.
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