Sunday, February 03, 2013

Always ready to take the blame

apricot ginger bread
Good morning. Big day in our household. One of us has a lot of TV to watch and the other has a lot of cooking to do. Kids are on their own.

Last week someone tweeted that the apricot ginger bread in Make the Bread, Buy the Butter was too salty and asked me to help troubleshoot. I was out of town and started scrambling for any explanation that didn't involve author error. Heaven forbid.

Came home. Braced myself to re-test the recipe. Who wants to confront her own salty mistake? I baked the bread. The bread is fine. It's better than fine. It's delicious. But it's still my fault that the reader's bread was salty. Looking at the recipe, there are two problems, the first one major, the second minor.

1. I didn't specify Diamond Crystal kosher salt (what I use) which is significantly less salty than Morton's kosher salt (what she used.) This piece lays out the differences pretty clearly. When using Morton's, you need to cut the amount of salt by almost half. What this means is that her bread would have been almost twice as salty as mine and quite awful.

2. I didn't use weight measures in the book and they really do eliminate variability. I had reduced the amount of flour in the standard no-knead recipe to 2 1/2 cups because that worked best for me, but yesterday the dough seemed a little wet, so I used closer to 3 cups. Every 2 1/2 cups of flour holds a different amount of flour and if her 2 1/2 cups was light, as mine was yesterday, the ratio with every other component, including salt, would be off.

But the flour wasn't the critical issue. It was the brand of kosher salt.


Here's the picadillo recipe I mentioned in the last post. It comes out of Cooking Caribe by Christopher Idone and I've made only a few minor adjustments, like the omission of something called annatto oil. I've substituted ground turkey for the beef and pork, but, unsurprisingly, it isn't as good.

1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup dark rum
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano chili, seeded and minced
2 pounds ground chuck
8 ounces ground pork
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes and their liquid
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
1 tablespoon capers
1 cup chicken stock
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum. Set aside.

2. In a heavy skillet, heat the oil and cook the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and serrano until softened. Add the meats and cook, breaking up clumps with a spatula, until browned all over. Add the tomatoes and cumin and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

3. Add the remaining ingredients, including the raisins and rum, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with rice (or in gorditas.) Serves 6.


  1. In culinary school, I was taught to taste my dough after adding some salt and then determine if it needed more. It's hard to believe, though, that putting in even as much as twice the salt would make the bread truly awful (but I am something of a salt fan.) It would retard the rise somewhat, though.

  2. Interesting...I cooked two recipes out of your book this weekend and used Morton's in both. Neither was too salty. It was the buttermilk pancakes and the cornbread. By the way, the cornbread was my contribution to a superbowl party and it was a HUGE hit. The children actually asked to have it for dessert.

  3. Using the measurements in the article you linked and information on the label.. it appears that Costco's Sea Salt is the Morton's style. Just in case anyone is wondering...