Just because you're making something sweet like a chocolate chip cookie you still should be thinking about the balance of sweet to salt to bitterness. This is especially true when doing something with fruits. Let me give you an example, I just recently made a blueberry pie, the recipe called for blueberries and sugar that was pretty much the filling. The first thing I did was taste the blueberries they were pretty sweet. The recipe called for 1 cup of sugar. In my opinion that was more sugar than I needed since the berries were sweet. So I cut the sugar to 1/3 of a cup. When I make a fruit pie I always cook the filling on the stove top, that gives me control over the amount of liquid in the filling. This will ensure a perfect consistency when you cut the pie. Also it gives you the chance to thicken and taste it before putting it into the crust.
The pie needed some bitterness to add depth to it. So I added 1/2 cup of cranberries. While the blueberries, sugar and cranberries were cooking on the stove, I tasted it, and added a pinch of salt, and an acid to brighten the flavor. I added 1 tablespoon orange zest for the acid. Now it was coming together all it needed was a little cinnamon. After it cooked and thickened up, to the correct consistency, I removed it from the stove and let it cool down. Now it was ready to be put into the awaiting pie crust.
One final step was to sprinkle the top crust with coarse sugar before putting it into the oven. Since I reduced the sugar in the filling quite a bit, the sugar on top of the crust will trick your senses into thinking it's sweeter than it really is. This is a good way to save calories.
Taste the dough, fillings or frosting and adjust as needed. More sugar or salt is not always better.
Salty, bitter, and sour flavors are just as critical to a balanced dessert as sugar. Balance the sweetness with a touch of bitter to add depth to the baked item. Consider ingredients like booze, coffee, chocolate (all bitters), and fruit purées (sour) as “flavor-balancing tools” to bring depth to an otherwise flat tasting baked item or dessert. Don't forget about herbs and spices they bring flavor without calories.
Next always add a touch of salt unless the butter is salted butter. I always buy unsalted butter to give me more control with the recipe. So next time you make something play around and have fun. Taste it and consider adding something bitter or maybe salty to balance the sweetness of your baked item. You are sure to have a winning recipe!
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November 2, 2015 / Written by Christina Chaey