Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Trapani Sea Salt
Today I baked sugar cookies to take to painting class with me. The recipe is my Mom’s and I have printed it here before, but will again at the end of today’s blog.
I have started using some of my sea salt from Sicily, Trapani to be exact, to add an additional layer of flavor to an already tasty cookie. I have developed quite a taste for sweet and salty together. A sugar cookie with a tiny dash of sea salt is an amazing thing!
But then, I’ve discovered so many of my old recipes are so much better with my Trapani Sea Salt. I’ve also discovered there is a worlds of difference in sea salts…..Read on for a short class on the amazing crystals from the sea.
Fine Sea Salt & Artisan Salt From All Over The World
While any sea salt is going to be tastier than supermarket table salt, it’s also much pricier. Just like “wine,” the label “sea salt” doesn’t mean the product is an outstanding sea salt. Any evaporated sea water will produce sea salt: It’s the particular mineral content and quality of the water that makes a great sea salt. For your first foray into the category, you might get a better handle on sea salt by sticking to some of the standards. A good “starter kit” would be one of the great French salts, Fleur de Sel de Guérande or sel gris; a flake salt like Anglesey, Maldon or the pink Murray River salt; a smoked salt; and if you love to present with flair, alaea red volcanic salt and one of the black salts from Cyprus or Hawaii
Not to be confused with fine natural sea salts, American sea salts, often found in grocery and healthy food stores, are manufactured products that have been totally refined until they are no better than sodium chloride—ordinary table salt. Yet, because they originally derived from sea water, they can be labeled sea salt. It is because they are harvested from general sea water, not pristine sources like those of fine natural sea salts, that refining, bleaching, and additives are required.
Salts that are produced more extensively than by simple evaporation of seawater. These include smoked salts and sea salts that are created in solar houses rather than evaporated naturally outdoors in evaporation ponds, basins or pans. Artisan techniques are popular in countries like Japan where high humidity and/or frequent rainstorms preclude efficient natural evaporation.
Salt that is mixed with other flavoring like herbs, berries or seaweed. As opposed to seasoned salt, which mixes different everyday seasonings with the salt for convenience, blended salts are more gourmet in concept.
Like fleur de sel, this “flower of salt” is so-named because the delicate salt “flowers,” or crystals, comprise the top layer of the salt pans that rest on the surface of the sea. Fior di sale comes from the Trapani area of Sicily, and is harvested by master salt makers. Fior di Sale can only be harvested on windless mornings, when the surface waters of the Mediterranean are unruffled. Fior di sale is a very white crystal with a much lower percentage of sodium chloride than regular table salt and rich in fluorine, magnesium, potassium and all the trace elements contained in sea water. It has a delicate, sweet flavor with good taste, not too strong or salty. A finishing salt, it should be sprinkled on salads, tomatoes, fish, to finish roasts and sauces, on buttered bread and bruschetta, and on sugar cookies! It is extremely soluble and will dissolve even on cool foods. In my estimation, it is the very best! It is, by far, my favorite!
French for “flower of the salt.” Like sel gris, it is also raked by hand from the salt ponds (“fields”) of the village of Guèrande, Brittany, on the coast of France. It is harvested from May to September; artisan paludiers patiently wait as the shallow pools of water evaporate, creating the precious salt crystals. The slightest movement will cause the “flower” to sink to the bottom, so salt can only be collected when the weather is warm and the sea is calm. For every 80 pounds of sel gris produced, only three pounds of fleur de sel is harvested. The salt rises to the top of the water, forming delicate flakes that, upon drying, are white and can acquire a pinkish hue. Long prized by chefs and gourmets for its high quality, fleur de sel provides a very delicate and somewhat earthy flavor. Like sel gris, it is an excellent cooking and finishing salt, smooth with a light crunch.
Now you have a little more information to help you make a wise choice when shopping for a new saltAs for the sugar cookie recipe….here it is.

Sugar Cookies with a Sprinkling of Sea Salt

2 sticks of butter, at room temperature

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon regular salt

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Cream the butter, oil, sugar and powdered sugar until light in color and smooth.

Mix in the vanilla.

Measure out the 4 cups of flour, then blend in the salt, soda, nutmeg and cream of tartar. Stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture, being as gentle as possible. Over beating this cookie dough makes a tough cookie.

Using a small ice cream scoop, about 1 1/2", shape the cookies and drop from the ice cream scoop into a bowl of regular granulated sugar. (You can shape cookie dough into 1 to 1 1/2" balls if you don't have the ice cream scoop) Using your fingers, press the dough down into the sugar, coating the underside of the cookie with the sugar. Turn sugar side up and place on ungreased cookie sheet, about 1 1/2" apart. Now, take a pinch of sea salt and just like Emeril does his Bamm! thing...toss the pinch of salt at the cookie sheet covered with unbaked cookies. Hopefully it will scatter across the entire surface of pan and not end up on just one or two cookies!

Bake in a preheated 375 to 400 degree oven, and bake 8 to 12 minutes, until golden brown around edges. Makes about 5 dozen cookies. Store in covered container.


Divina said...

I am here in Trapani now- just went back to see Gabriella... had lunch there with her famous dad!!
he cooked

Michelle said...

Great post! I love salt, so itwas great to read about all the different types.

I boght some pink himalayan sea salt from and absolutely lOVED the taste of it in everything and anything!

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Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy
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