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substitute for fleur de sel?

  • m

Wow, I didn't even know there was a general board. Duh. Anyway, I want to make some of the cookies in the December issue of Food & Wine, but they call for fleur de sel and make a big deal out of it. You know, the fleur de sel enhances the flavor of the cookie, blah blah. Well, some of us in podunkville don't have access to fleur de sel, and I don't really want to fork out shipping costs to order it. Are there any decent substitutes out there?


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  1. just use kosher salt

    4 Replies
    1. re: the rogue

      Really. Sometimes, I think the staff at F&W should be drawn and quartered and tarred and feathered. Hmph.

      1. re: GG Mora

        And then sprinkled with some fleur de sel.

      2. Fleur de sel is just big crystal salt. This makes a difference when the salt is applied as a garnish, but I cannot fathom how it could make ANY DIFFERECE AT ALL in baking.

        1. I'm sorry to disagree with the other posters but if you were preparing a soup or meat, then kosher salt & fleur de sel would be pretty much interchangeable. However there is, imho, a subtle but definite difference when used in a dessert recipe. If you do a blind taste test I believe you will discover that the fleur de sel has a slightly "sweeter" taste underlying the saltiness.

          I think Food & Wine makes a "big deal" about using fleur de sel not to be trendy nor to make you fork over big bucks but because this is what the recipe requires (I read the recipe as well & we're not talking about a pinch here. The salt plays a BIG part). Either way you go, I'm curious to hear how it turns out.

          1. Fleur de sel's primary appeal is its delicate, crunchy texture. Because it's so flaky, it dissolves very quickly on the tongue and gives you an intense but brief hit of saltiness. I like it sprinkled on desserts--especially chocolate, or fruit. If the recipe you're using calls for the salt to be sprinkled at the end, then I think calling for fleur de sel is not so unreasonable. If it's mixed into the batter, where it would almost certainly dissolve, then it seems like a pretty silly idea.

            There's a fascinating essay on gourmet salts in Jeffrey Steingarten's new book "It Must've Been Something I Ate" in which he conducts a salt taste test, dissolving various 'boutique' salts (as well as kosher and table salts) in pure water to determine if, apart from texture, there is an appreciable difference among them. The results aren't clear cut, but are nonetheless surprising and thought-provoking.

            Link: http://meglioranza.com

            3 Replies
            1. re: Tom Meg

              I think you're absolutely spot-on.
              I was at a restaurant in August and got a 'hit' of salt in my dessert. But it wasn't overpowering, just added complexity. Upon enquiring, it was confirmed as fleur de sel.
              Since then have done my own experiments, and there is NO QUESTION in my mind that fleur de sel is indeed different in its effect as long as it's added at the end. Putting it in earlier during the cooking/baking process has not made any difference that I can detect.
              So, in summary, if added at the end it really is different from sea salt or kosher salt. However, in the cooking process, I can't tell the difference.

              1. re: estufarian

                Okay, so I will look for fleur de sel at Williams Sonoma. If I can't find it, or if I decide to be rebellious and use kosher salt, would it be insane to use the full 2.5 teaspoons called for in the recipe?

              2. re: Tom Meg

                Mariko is referring to the Chocolate Choclate Chip Cookies in the 12/02 issue of F&W. The fleur de sel is added early in the process with the sugars & butter & combined. Therefore the salt's texture is instantly lost.

                The recipe in question calls for a rather large 2 1/2 teaspoons of fleur de sel as compared to 2 2/3 cups of flour. This is not an inconsequential amount & I believe it is not pure foppery that the recipe specifically calls for fleur de sel.

                I agree with you that used as a topping fleur de sel's texture is specific. However in this particular recipe that quality of the salt is not what is called for. I stand by my original thesis that there is an underlying sweet quality to the salt & that is what makes the fleur de sel necessary to this particular recipe.

              3. Pretentious F&W piddle.

                I defy anyone to blind taste one salt over another in cookies.

                Makes the princess from "The Princess and the Pea" look coarse.

                1 Reply
                1. re: StriperGuy

                  Not to quibble with your basic premise: it's worth pointing out to beginning cooks that one should pay attention to the kind of salt used because the kosher and other coarse salts are not as salty BY VOLUME as fine salt. Note that is because fine salt packs closer, not because it is inherently saltier. If you measure BY WEIGHT there should be no difference.

                2. What is the name of the cookie recipe? I pulled up the F&W website and found some recipes but didn't find one with fleur de sel - found one with fine sea salt though. Could you let me know? Thanks!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Donna - MI

                    There were two cookie recipes that interested me--the chocolate chocolate chip cookies and the cinnamon ones.

                    I am thinking about substituting kosher salt, but do I use the same amount that is called for? It's kind of a lot of salt. I'm worried that the cookies will turn out too salty and ruined, which would be doubly annoying considering all the ingredients that go into the chocolate chocolate chip cookies (that's a lot of butter and CHOCOLATE!).

                    Link: http://www.foodandwine.com/invoke.cfm...

                    1. re: Mariko

                      Thanks! I was thinking of trying the cinnamon ones. Don't know the answer to your question, though. I have cooked - but not baked - with both kosher and sea salt. D.

                      1. re: Mariko

                        I think that you would have to cut back for sure if you don't use the fleur de sel. You're at a disadvantage having never seen it before, but a very exaggerated example would be if a recipe called for a cup of snow and all you had was ice chips. I'd venture to say that regular salt would have at least twice as much weight by volume as fleur de sel does.

                    2. I was under the impression that these expensive sea salts were finishing salts- to be used at the table, not while cooking. I enjoy the texture which you would completely lose if you add it while cooking. Adding it to cookie dough just seems unnecessary, expensive and pretentious ( a frequent problem with Food and Wine, in my opinion).

                      1. Cooks Illustrated did a salt taste-test a few months back, and as I recall, the tasters disliked fleur de sel in baked goods.

                        1. Here's a thought... make your own! I hacked the following method from my brain:

                          Put 1TBSP of sea salt in a stainless steel frying pan and cover with enough water to dissolve it. Bring to a hard boil until the water evaporates.

                          Tip: just as the water is nearly evaporated, the salt bubbles intensely and creates the flake texture. Don't let it get super white dry because the salt will stick more to the pan surface than the salt.

                          Scrape off with a metal spatula. Try to make long strokes to preserve as many flakes as possible. Put through a medium fine strainer to pull out the large flakes from the fine salt dust. Repeat the evaporation with the fine salt until you have enough for your recipe.

                          Disclaimer: This method hardly replicates the dynamic union of sun, minerals and water to make fleur de sel (and if you know anything about Masaru Emoto's the Hidden Messages in Water, or sacred geometry, it's a little sacrilegious!), but it makes the salt melt quick-pop and delicious on your tongue mimicking the essential chemical reaction your recipe calls for.


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: dyi_gourmet

                            interesting solution. I "liked" a poster's response above because I do think Fleur de sel has a specific crystal structure that allows it to dissolve quickly on the tongue (as opposed to more solid crystals like those in Koser salt).

                            I'll have to try this to see if it creates that same "quick dissolving" structure.

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