The uses of Salted and Unsalted Butter in Pastry

One of the baking commandments, right up there with leveling off the top of your dry measurements, is that when making a pastry or other sweet creation, one must indefinitely use unsalted butter. It’s like, a baking transgression of you do otherwise, and, if caught by a pastry policeman, it can land you in veritable pastry purgatory. But I hereby challenge the baking gods!

Every pastry I have ever made has been made with salted butter. Those who swear by using unsalted butter, swear that it ruins the taste and texture, etc., and wouldn’t dream of touching a salty stick, have tasted my goods. Surely they must have been cued off by the earth-shattering difference. Difference? Yeah, it tastes better. I have not made any “I told you so” speeches, I’m not the confrontational type anyhow, but my point is, no biggie. No one has ever accused my pastries, or other baked goods, of tasting too salty.

On the subject of balance, once in a while you may benefit from lessening the salt content in a recipe, just like I often lessen the amount of sugar called for, or the water on a humid day. Measurements can be played with according to taste without causing conflict in the final result. Those of us who tend to be on the anal-retentive side can have trouble with the concept at first, but it’s true. If you would err on the side of sodium caution and all you have on hand is salted butter, experiment by slightly decreasing the amount of salt called for in your recipes and see if the result is noticeable at all to your tastebuds.

My mother loves to tell her culinary experiences as a missionary in Bolivia, the most notable among them of the day she and a friend dined at a restaurant and my mother complained that something was terribly off about her dessert, although she couldn’t place what it was. Her friend commented that the Bolivians did not use salt in their baking, or not enough. She took a salt shaker to my mother’s dessert, just a shake or two, and, problem solved! In my opinion the extra salt in salted butter does not mask sweetness but brings out and even balances the flavor, as it is famous for doing.

Sometimes, just like an extra dollop of vanilla extract, an extra bit of salt, and I do mean bit, can be quite favorable in a pastry. Aren’t there enough pastry commandments to abide by?