That Sweet and Salty Compulsion


There's no denying that  sweet and salty combos have long been the rage among dedicated snackers.

What could taste better than that currently popular combo of sweet and salty? While I’m really not sure that chocolate-coated potato chips are really a good idea, more prosaic combinations are tantalizing.

Why is this? It doesn’t seem to make sense. However, a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that certain sugar receptors on the tongue were activated only when sodium was present. This could explain why sweetness is accentuated by salt — the receptors are activated when salt accompanies sugar. 
The combination is really not so new. A perfect example: the Yerushalmi (Jerusalem) kugel below. The elderly women who make this every Friday afternoon before Shabbat must have known the secret.
A few of the following re­cipes call for cornstarch. Like me, you may have some potato starch left from last Passover in the back of your cupboard. Rest assured that you can substitute it for cornstarch in these re­cipes.
Sweet and Salty Caramel Cookies
(Dairy or Pareve)
3⁄4 cup unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1⁄4 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 tsps. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps. cornstarch or potato starch
1 tsp. baking soda
1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1⁄2 cup prepared caramel sauce
kosher salt to sprinkle
Preheat oven to 350˚. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Cream butter and sugars until smooth and creamy in food processor. Add the egg and va­nilla, and mix in. Add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and kosher salt and process at short intervals just until flour disappears.
Remove work bowl from motor and take out knife. Stir in chocolate chips and caramel sauce.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place on prepared cookie sheets, about 2-inches apart. Sprinkle each cookie with a few grains of kosher salt.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Let cookies cool on the cookie sheets for 2 to 3 minutes before removing to a wire rack and cooling completely.
Makes about 4 dozen cookies.
Cranberry and Pepper Shortbread Cookies
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 cups flour
1⁄2 cup sugar 
1⁄3 cup cornstarch or potato starch
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1 cup cold butter or margarine
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsps. whole peppercorns, crushed
2 Tbsps. snipped dried cranberries
kosher salt
Process the almonds in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the flour, sugar, cornstarch and salt, processing with several quick turns until combined. Add in the butter and vanilla and pro­cess until crumbly.
Place dough on a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Add peppercorns to one half, mixing in until smooth, and cranberries to other half, kneading until smooth. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350˚.
Roll one portion of dough to 1⁄4-inch thickness. Cut out 2-inch round circles. Place 11⁄2-inches apart on a parchment-covered cookie sheet. Sprinkle with ko­sh­er salt.
Bake about 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden. Transfer to wire rack and let cool. Repeat with remaining half of dough.
Makes about 4 doz­en cookies.
Old-Fashioned Trail Mix
Probably a leftover from the ’70s. Good even if you’re not heading for a trail. The ingredients are flexible; use what you have on hand to keep the sweet-salty balance.
1 cup whole almonds
1 cup peanuts (salted or unsalted)
1⁄2 cup shelled unsalted pumpkin seeds
1⁄4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
4 Tbsps. maple syrup (substitute honey)
1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
1⁄2 tsp. ground cumin
1⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon (or more)
1⁄2 cup golden raisins
1⁄2 cup dried cranberries (substitute dried apricots, apples or pineapple)
1⁄2 cup candy-coated chocolate
Preheat oven to 375˚. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. 
Toss all ingredients except raisins, cranberries and chocolate, mixing well with maple syrup. Spread onto prepared cookie sheet.
Bake, stirring twice in the middle, for 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool and store in an airtight container.
Makes 6 portions.
Yerushalmi Kugel
1 lb. thin noodles 
2⁄3 cup vegetable oil
3⁄4 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 and 1⁄2 tsps. black pepper (or to taste)
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente, about 7 to 8 minutes. Drain well and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350˚. Grease a large tube pan.
To prepare caramel: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the sugar and stir until it turns dark brown, but not burnt (about 5 to 8 minutes).
Remove from heat and add the hot caramel to the noodles, mixing vigorously to coat evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool about 10 minutes, then beat in eggs, one at a time. Adjust the seasonings.
Spoon mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake uncovered until golden brown and crispy — about 11⁄2 hours. Remove from the oven, turn upside down on a serving plate, unmold and serve warm.
Serves 10.
Rivka Tal is a former Minne­sotan who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 46 years. She is a food writer and translator. Email her at: [email protected]


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