GRAINS - Bitterman's Craft Salt Cooking: The Single Ingredient That Transforms All Your Favorite Foods and Recipes - Mark Bitterman

Bitterman's Craft Salt Cooking: The Single Ingredient That Transforms All Your Favorite Foods and Recipes - Mark Bitterman (2016)

Chapter 6. GRAINS

You name the grain, salt is what transforms mere carbohydrates into the staff of life. Left whole, with the germ and bran intact, grains deliver a subtle range of nutty, savory, and bittersweet flavors. After processing, when nothing but the bulky, starchy endosperm is left, grains and the products made from them become veritable flavor vacuums, demanding a hefty dose of salt just to make them palatable.

But often salting does much more than just shape and amplify flavor. Salt plays a structural role in the formation of dough, particularly bread dough, enhancing chewiness and ensuring proper rising. At 1.5 to 2 percent of the flour’s weight, salt helps to tighten gluten and increase the finished bread’s volume. The presence of magnesium and calcium in most unrefined craft salts increases their ability to strengthen gluten over that of refined table or kosher salt. On the other hand, the levels of salt needed to help gluten can inhibit the growth of yeasts. Salt is added to sourdoughs early on to limit the activity of souring bacteria that can damage gluten formation. With other yeasted doughs, salt is usually added after the yeast is given some time to reproduce.

There are fewer technical considerations when salting other grains, such as pasta and rice. It is difficult to oversalt such starchy grain dishes, making them prime candidates for layering the varying flavors, colors, and textures that come from salting at multiple times in the preparation—also an invitation to use several types of craft salt in a single dish.

Truffled Wild Mushroom Risotto


Black Truffle Salt is the most cost-effective way to bring truffles into your diet. A whole jar will cost you about the same as one or two shavings of good truffle, and it lasts much longer, so you can amortize the purchase over many meals. In this dish, dried wild mushrooms and a flock of fresh cremini augment the flavor of truffle. Cremini possess a meaty texture that is just the thing to back up the pungent compost aroma of truffle. Aside from all the fungi, this is a straightforward risotto recipe. You will notice the wild mushrooms are added at the start and the truffle salt at the finish. That’s to build up the rice with a sylvan umami foundation capable of supporting momentous truffle aroma.

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms or other dried wild mushrooms

1½ cups boiling water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1 pound cremini or foraged mushrooms, sliced, halved before slicing if large

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice

1 cup dry vermouth

3 cups broth (mushroom, vegetable, or chicken)

2 teaspoons truffle salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 cup mascarpone cheese

Soak the porcini mushrooms in the boiling water in a bowl until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain (retaining the soaking liquid), and coarsely chop the mushrooms.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the cremini mushrooms, garlic, and rosemary, and sauté until they lose their raw look.

Add the rice and sauté until coated with oil. Add the vermouth and bring to a boil, stirring often. Boil until the mixture no longer smells of alcohol. Decrease the heat so that the liquid simmers. Stir in the reserved mushroom soaking liquid and continue stirring until it has almost all been absorbed. Stir in the soaked mushrooms and the broth in 3 additions, 1 cup at a time, waiting until the last addition is almost completely absorbed before adding the next.

When the last addition has been absorbed about halfway, taste the rice. It should be tender but still chewy in the center. Add the truffle salt, butter, and both cheeses. Simmer until a rich, flowing sauce forms, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Seven-Salt Focaccia


Focaccia and pizza are similar, but not interchangeable. They’re both southern Italian flatbreads topped with colorful flavorful ingredients, but pizza is more about the topping, and salt often comes in the form of cheese (salted milk curds), sauce (from the Latin salsus, meaning “salted”), or salami (from the vulgar Latin salamen, “to salt”). Focaccia is more about the bread, and salting trends toward elemental, crystalline sea salt. Focaccia dough usually includes an ingredient that relaxes its chewiness. Ours has a considerable amount of extra-virgin olive oil, but others, like the dense, herb-infused focaccia of Puglia (the heel of the boot), include cooked potato as a tenderizer. Pizzas are typically topped with sauce and cheese, but focaccia topping is simpler—a few chopped herbs, slices of sun-dried tomato, a dusting of dry cheese, and always a considerable crust of salt. This focaccia is topped with seven salts. Although you can use any combination you want, we suggest a variety of colors, textures, and flavors.

5¼ cups bread flour, divided

2 teaspoons plus pinch of active dry yeast, divided

2 cups warm water (110º to 115ºF), divided

¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

5 teaspoons fleur de sel

1 teaspoon each: rock salt, flake salt, red salt, black salt, smoked salt, Pesto Flake Salt, and truffle salt

Mix 1¾ cups of the flour, a pinch of yeast, and 1 cup of the warm water in a bowl until combined. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours, until almost tripled in volume.

Combine the remaining 3½ cups flour, remaining 2 teaspoons of yeast, remaining 1 cup of warm water, ½ cup of the oil, and the risen mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low speed to moisten the dry ingredients, about 4 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and clings to the dough hook, about 8 minutes. Add the fleur de sel to the bowl and mix on medium speed until the dough is very smooth, about 4 minutes.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl, turning it to coat with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Using a bowl scraper or a large mixing spoon dipped in flour, scrape the dough onto a heavily floured surface. Pat the dough with floured hands into a ½-inch-thick rectangle, and fold it into thirds as you would a letter.

Coat a rimmed half sheet pan with the remaining ¼ cup of oil. Press the dough out into the pan, turning it to coat both sides with oil. Continue to press and stretch the dough to fit the pan. As you do this, spread your fingers out, making finger holes through the dough to create a craggy surface that allows more salt to cling to the top. If you don’t puncture holes all the way through the dough, the finished bread, after rising, will be too smooth.

Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Put in a warm place and let rise until air bubbles form under the surface of the dough and the dough is light and airy, about doubled in size, about 1 hour more.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Mix the 7 salts together and sprinkle over the top of the bread, pressing lightly into the surface. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the bread is golden and crusty. Decrease the oven temperature to 400°F and bake until dark brown, about 10 more minutes. Remove and let cool on a cooling rack.


What better way to celebrate focaccia than with seven salts from Italy? Alas, it isn’t so easy to do. In the old days, you could count on Italy to provide you with dozens, even hundreds, of different craft salts. Most all traditional saltworks are now gone, but a few do remain. If we allow ourselves to travel just a little beyond Italy’s modern borders to Slovenia (which used to be part of the Venetian empire), we can get there: Black Truffle Salt, Fiore di Galia, Fiore di Trapani, Fiore di Cervia, Dolce di Cervia, Piran Sel Gris, coarsely ground Trapani e Marsala Sea Salt.

Smoked Salt Soft Pretzels


Part of my childhood was spent in New York City, and the guy with the soft pretzel stand at the corner of Perry and Hudson was my surrogate father. Or so I sometimes wished. It’s a crying shame that the firm, chewy, salt-crusted soft pretzels I loved so much as a child have turned into margarine-soaked fluff cakes hawked in every food court and airport. This recipe is dedicated to my adoptive pretzel family. I’ve respectfully modernized them with smoked salt, but you can always go old school with an unsmoked coarse traditional or rock salt.

1 cup warm water (110º to 115ºF)

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons sel gris, finely ground in a mortar and pestle or salt mill

2¾ cups bread flour, plus more if needed

¼ cup cornmeal

3 tablespoons baking soda

1 to 2 tablespoons coarse Maine Hickory Smoked Sea Salt

To prepare the pretzel dough, combine the water, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl, stirring until mixed. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, the sel gris, and flour, and stir into a kneadable dough.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface. Try to add as little additional flour as possible.

Coat a large bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and add the dough, turning to coat it with the oil. Cover and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour, or overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Sprinkle the cornmeal over the bottom of a large rimmed sheet pan.

Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Flour your hands and a work surface lightly with flour. Roll and stretch each piece into a rope about 18 inches long.

To form a pretzel:

1. Take an end of the dough rope in each hand. Bring one end of the rope in a loop across the center.

2. Bring the other side of the rope across the first side. Your hands and the dough rope will be crossed.

3. To form the knot in the center of the pretzel, uncross your hands and grab the end of the rope closest to each hand. Cross your hands again, bringing the end of the rope on the bottom over the top.

4. You should have something that resembles a pretzel. Push or pull as necessary to even it out and press down the ends so they stay in place.

Bring a quart of water to a boil in a large skillet. Stir in the baking soda, and adjust the heat so the water barely simmers. Carefully set the pretzels, one at a time, in the water and simmer until they puff, about 20 seconds per side. Lift them out with a slotted spatula or spoon, allowing the excess water to drip back into the skillet before putting them on the cornmeal-coated sheet pan. Sprinkle the tops of the pretzels with the smoked salt, and bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool for at least 20 minutes, to allow the pretzels to firm up and get a little chewy.


Coarse smoked salts like Gulf Coast Pecan Smoked Salt, Sugar Maple Smoked Sea Salt, or au naturel with coarse Yellowstone Natural Salt, Piran Sel Gris, Dolce di Cervia, J.Q. Dickinson, or Popohaku Opal Sea Salt (my preferences in that order)

Arugula Pizza with Blue Cheese, Prosciutto, and Crispy Salt


Throughout northern Italy, you will find stupendous thin-crust pizza with roasted or fresh greens and, if desired, a few slices of prosciutto. If you are like me and have received military-grade conditioning to never say no to prosciutto, it’s a pizza that can tend to dominate your eating when traveling there. My usual response when someone asks me the impossible question, “What’s your favorite salt?” is “prosciutto.” The 20th century has wiped out most of Italy’s salt heritage, so this recipe bridges the gap with salts from foreign shores. We make up for the intrusion with the inclusion of a bounty of quintessentially Italian flavors. The dough is baked with garlic, herbs, blue cheese, and sweet shallot vinaigrette. Then as soon as it comes from the oven, while still piping hot, a simple salad is mounded on top of the steaming crust, along with curls of paper-thin prosciutto and monumental crunches of flake salt.


1 cup warm water (110º to 115ºF)

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons fleur de sel

2¾ cups bread flour, plus more if needed


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

½ cup shallot vinaigrette, divided

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon fresh oregano or thyme leaves

8 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

1 large bunch baby arugula (about 6 ounces), stems removed (about 3 cups leaves)

2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto (about 8 slices)

1 tablespoon coarse flake salt

Freshly ground black pepper

To prepare the dough, combine the water, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl, stirring until mixed. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, the fleur de sel, and flour, and stir into a kneadable dough.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface. Try to add as little additional flour as possible.

Coat a large bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and add the dough, turning to coat it with the oil. Cover and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour, or overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. If you have a baking stone, place it in the oven to warm up. If you don’t, line the middle rack with heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Oil a sheet pan with 1 tablespoon of oil. Press and stretch the dough on the sheet into a circle or oval ¹∕8 to ¼ inch thick. Don’t bother making a rim around the edge of the crust unless you like it for aesthetics. Coat the top of the dough round with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.

Mix the vinaigrette, garlic, and oregano in a small bowl. Scatter the cheese over the dough. Drizzle with a couple of spoonfuls of the vinaigrette. Slide the pizza onto the hot stone or foil-lined oven rack and bake until the edges are puffed and browned and the cheese has melted, about 6 minutes.

When the pizza is ready, use a pizza peel or two large spatulas to slide it from the oven onto a cutting board. Toss the arugula with 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and brush the remaining vinaigrette over the pizza. Mound the arugula on top, covering the cheese. Nestle curled slices of prosciutto in the arugula, and scatter the whole thing liberally with flake salt and black pepper to taste. Cut into pieces and serve.


Bulls Bay Carolina Flake, Halen Môn Silver Flake Sea Salt, Cyprus Silver Flake Sea Salt, Maldon Sea Salt, Alaska Pure Sea Salt, Achill Island Sea Salt, Hana Flake Salt

Fleur de Sel Fettuccine with Garlic and Cheese


Pasta craves salt. It’s one of the few dishes where you simply cannot skimp. Usually pasta’s salt appetite is satiated by liberally salting the cooking liquid. That’s fine. But what if you’re having a really great day, fresh air, unexpected smiles? What if you want an irrepressible expression of life’s goodness, the fullness and intensity of it all? Salting pasta water just may not seem like enough. In this dish, the noodles are affirmed with fleur de sel thrown right into the dough. If you want a dish that illustrates “Salarius Maximus”, here you are. The silken noodles set the stage, but this pasta dish is all about salt, radiant, in love with extra-virgin oil, a whiff of garlic, and a liberal frisk of Parmigiano.


1⅓ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

½ cup semolina flour

2 tablespoons fleur de sel of choice, divided

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Handful of Dolce di Cervia


¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

⅓ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Mix the all-purpose and semolina flours and 1 tablespoon of the fleur de sel in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the eggs and oil, and mix just until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes.

Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured board and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, using just enough additional flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or your hands. The dough is ready when you stretch it between your hands and it pulls back readily. Mix the remaining 1 tablespoon of fleur de sel with 2 tablespoons flour and knead into the dough just until it is evenly dispersed.

Form the dough into a ball and flatten it into a disk. Cover and set aside to rest for 30 minutes, or wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Meanwhile, cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. If you refrigerated the dough, let the pieces sit at room temperature for 10 minutes to relax. Form each piece into a rectangle just wide enough to fit between the rollers of your pasta machine. Flour your work surface and set your pasta roller to its widest setting. Dust one of the dough pieces with flour and pass it through the rollers. Dust it with more flour and pass it through the widest setting again. Fold the dough sheet in half and cut off ¼ inch of the corners of the dough at the fold; this will help keep the dough sheet uniform. Narrow the rollers by one setting and pass the dough sheet through another one or two times. Fold the dough, snip the corners, and pass through the next narrower setting. Keep going until you have a sheet of pasta that is about as thick as a bed sheet. Flour the sheet as needed to keep it from sticking. You should end up with a sheet of pasta that is about 3 feet long and 6 inches wide. Repeat with the remaining sheets. If you don’t have a pasta machine, the dough pieces can be rolled with a rolling pin on a floured board, but it is difficult to get the dough as thin and even rolling it by hand.

To cut the dough into noodles, lay a sheet of dough out flat on a lightly floured work surface. Cut it in half with a knife or cutting wheel and feed it through the fettuccine cutting blade of your pasta machine, cut edge first. Lay the cut noodles on a flat-weave towel while you cut the rest.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and throw a handful of Dolce di Cervia into the boiling water. Put a large colander into a large bowl. Set in the sink. Add the pasta to the boiling water and stir to make sure all of the noodles are separate. Boil just long enough for the noodles to swell and cook through, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the pasta is cooking, put the oil and garlic in a large deep skillet. Scoop 2 cups of water from the boiling pasta pot and add to the skillet. Bring to a boil.

Pour the pasta into the colander, capturing most of the water in the bowl and all of the pasta in the colander. Lift the pasta from the water, shaking out any excess, and add to the skillet. Crank the heat up under the skillet. Add the butter and toss together to get the noodles evenly coated. Add ¼ cup of the cheese, the pepper, and 1 more cup of the pasta water. Toss until a fluid sauce forms and the noodles are coated. Add the remaining ¼ cup of cheese and more pasta water, to make even more sauce. The noodles should be luxuriously coated with a creamy sauce. Toss in the parsley and serve immediately.


This is such an unusual recipe that it defies the standard rules of salting. Fleur de sel is a natural way to go because the whole family of salt in general has such a delicious balance of minerals, and because it is fine enough to work in this application—unlike sel gris. Any medium-fine salt will work, but be sure your choice does have some texture to it; very fine salts dissolve too fast and will not give you some of the novel textural dimensions of this pasta.

Three-Salt Ramen


If your notion of ramen is confined to cellophane packages and a hot plate in a dorm room, wake up and smell the shoyu. You can buy authentic fresh ramen noodles in many Asian markets, and dried ones everywhere. If all you’ve got is the cellophane packs, that’s fine too; just throw out the flavor packet. In this recipe, three of the garnishes are premade for you—red salt, black salt, and some sort of killer shio.

6 cups pork or chicken broth

2 inches fresh ginger, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons shoyu soy sauce

4 scallions, both white and green parts, very thinly sliced

¼ cup mirin

¼ cup white or red miso

½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil

4 servings ramen noodles (8 ounces dry, 12 ounces fresh, or homemade

4 large eggs, hard-cooked and halved, or poached

1 cup bean sprouts

2 sheets toasted nori, each torn into 4 pieces (8 pieces total)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

1 tablespoon red chili blend (such as Japanese shichimi togarashi)

1 teaspoon red salt

1 teaspoon black flake salt

1 teaspoon shio

Combine the broth, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and half of the scallions in a soup pot. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and return the broth to the pot.

Add the mirin, miso, white pepper, and sesame oil. Simmer, whisking, until the broth is opaque, completely smooth (no lumps of miso), and slightly reduced, 8 to 10 minutes. Taste the broth for flavor—it should be very robust. Cover the broth and lower the heat to keep it warm until you’re ready to serve.

When you’re ready to serve, cook the ramen noodles in boiling water according to the package instructions. Drain them and transfer to warmed deep soup bowls. If the broth has cooled off, bring it to a simmer again. Ladle the hot broth into the bowls and then arrange an egg and some bean sprouts on top. Place a couple of toasted nori sheets on the side of the bowl or in the bowl and sprinkle on the sesame seeds, the remaining scallions, and chili flakes. Sprinkle the 3 salts on top and serve.


Haleakala Ruby Sea Salt, Molokai Red Sea Salt, Icelandic Lava Salt, Black Lava Salt, Black Diamond Flake Salt, Tsushima No Moshio, Shinkai Deep Sea Salt, San Juan Island Sea Salt

Homemade Ramen Noodles


The difference between ramen and other pasta is the addition of alkaline kansui (sodium carbonate). The pumped up alkalinity gives ramen their characteristic golden color and makes them super chewy. Kansui is available in powder and liquid form from your local Asian food market or online.

4 teaspoons kansui

1 teaspoon shio

⅔ cup hot water

2 cups all-purpose flour

Potato starch

Dissolve the kansui and shio in the hot water in a bowl.

Put the flour into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a dough blade. With the machine running, slowly pour ½ cup of the liquid mixture into the feed tube until the flour is moistened and a dough starts to form. Stop the machine and scrape up any dry bits of flour from the bottom of the bowl into the moist dough that has formed. Turn the machine on again and add as much of the remaining liquid, a teaspoon at a time, as needed to form a smooth mass.

Knead in the food processor for 3 minutes, then remove from the work bowl and knead by hand for about 2 minutes.

Shape the dough into a square, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to overnight.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll with a pasta machine using the same method as described in the fettuccine recipe. Stop rolling at setting 5.

Coat the noodles with potato starch to keep them from sticking. Use immediately, or wrap well and refrigerate for up to 3 days.


Tsushima No Moshio, Shinkai Deep Sea Salt, Jigen No Shio