Sweet and salty: Name a more iconic duo.
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Swapping salt with sugar (or vice versa) may be one of the oldest food pranks in the book, but when it comes to the identical-looking white granules, we'll take both (please) to make some of our favorite desserts. 

The harmonious balance of sweet and salty flavors can be found in many cherished dishes (hi, BBQ chicken pizza) and even cocktails (looking at you, margaritas), but nothing compares to how these complementary ingredients come together in desserts like cookies, cakes, pies, and other baked goods where they *really* shine together. 

Salt not only has the ability to enhance a dish's individual components, but it subdues any that may be used in excess, like sugar. It can also help to offset the richness of fats and bring out the aroma and intensity of citrus fruits and spices. 

Whether you're mixing salt right into a batter or dough, or finishing off a dessert with a flaked variety like Maldon, here are six everyday dessert ingredients that pair wonderfully with the versatile mineral, as well as some top-rated recipes to try.

1. Chocolate

Salt and chocolate go together like grilled cheese and tomato soup or french fries and ketchup. No matter if you're working with milk, semi-sweet, or dark chocolate, salt's slight brine can neutralize the extreme sweetness and richness of milk chocolate, while toning down the bitterness of dark chocolate bars and chips that may be too intense for less adventurous eaters.

For decadent desserts like chocolate mousse and soufflé, salt can also trick the mind and tongue into thinking a dish is less dense so that you can enjoy a post-dinner treat without having to stop after one bite.

Try Salted Chocolate Cookies: Fudgy, flakey, and everything you could want in a homemade cookie, these cocoa-heavy delights are accented with a hint of salt to ensure you won't be able to eat just one.

2. Caramel

Perhaps the sweetest dessert ingredient of all, rich and sticky caramel really shines with a salty endnote. In fact, salt and caramel have become one of the most beloved flavor combos in recent history, inspiring mainstream cookie, ice cream, and even pudding brands to incorporate the dynamic duo into their line of products.

Opt for some larger flakes as a topper, whether on a sundae or gooey blondie — they will not only leave a lasting impression as you scarf down your dessert, but they will also provide a craveworthy crunch to contrast caramel's smoothness. 

Try Salted Caramel Custard: These pots de crème are not just visually stunning with a vibrant golden hue, but they also celebrate the aforementioned silky smooth to slightly crunchy ratio that we desire in any salted caramel indulgence.

3. Citrus Fruits

The next time you pucker up to a grapefruit tart or slice of key lime pie, remember that salt may be playing a significant role in making these citrus desserts taste brighter and fresher. Like the acid from lemon juice, salt has the ability to strengthen a fruit's flavor potency so that it tastes as if it was just plucked from a vine or tree and prepared immediately. 

Try Lemon Velvet Sheet Cake: The ¾ tsp. of salt may seem insignificant in this moist lemon cake with a sugar glaze, but it will actually help to make the citrus fruit taste even more bold and orchard-fresh.

4. Maple Syrup

Like caramel, maple syrup is an exceptionally sweet dessert component. The primary difference is the texture and depth of flavor, with maple offering earthy notes of vanilla, prune, and even florals which — you guessed it — are bolstered by the presence of salt. Pairing the two is a true testament to salt's ability to not just counter sweetness, but also bring out the nuances of ingredients that have more complex or layered flavor profiles. 

Try Baked Indian Pudding with Maple Syrup: Serve it hot, serve it cold, but most importantly, serve it with a pinch of salt on top for a cornmeal-based baked pudding that will make anyone a maple syrup fan.

5. Nuts 

The high fat content of nuts make them decadent additions to any pie, cake, or pastry — but it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Luckily, you can cut back on some of their heaviness by countering it with salt. Salt is what also helps to make nuts a popular snack food that you can enjoy on their own with the subtle and contrasting sweetness of cashews, walnuts, almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts as an added bonus. 

Try Sweet Potato Pecan Pie: The only thing better than a classic dessert is two classic desserts combined into one. This recipe takes the creamy base of a sweet potato pie and tops it with a salty pecan topping for a confection that's sure to become a holiday staple.

6. Spices

Fall and wintertime baked goods typically call for cozy spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger — and these spices can be accentuated with the addition of salt. This is particularly important in recipes like pumpkin pie or snickerdoodles where spice is the star and not just a supporting character.

Try Mom's Ginger Snaps: Snaps for these spicy, salty crinkle cookies that will grace your kitchen with the alluring smells of fall.

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