Salted Butter Chocolate Sauce

salted butter chocolate sauce recipe

When it comes to baking and desserts, one doesn’t necessarily think of salt as a flavor. But more and more, I keep considering, and reconsidering, the role that salt plays in just about everything I bake. And because I keep both salted and unsalted butter on hand – I can’t imagine my morning toast without a little salted butter spread over the top – I’ll sometimes reach for the salted variety when tackling a baking project or making dessert.

salted butter chocolate sauce

I wasn’t the first person to put salt on dessert; people from various cultures have been sprinkling salt on fresh fruit for ages. And many pastry chefs, as well as some big chocolate companies, have gotten in on the “salt in chocolate” act as well.

fleur de sel chocolate

But I’ve gotten so used to sprinkling it on sweets that sometimes if I’m having my last course in a restaurant and I think the dessert needs a little perking up, you’ll find me looking around the table for a little bowl of flaky sea salt. Salt is so important to me that I’ll sometimes carry a little wooden box of fleur de sel, which when I’d bring out in restaurants, my co-diners would give me a look as if I was being pretentious. (Then – of course – they’d ask if they could have a pinch too.)

salted butter chocolate sauce

Salt provides contrast in food. Consider bacon, which is often sugar-cured and would taste flat without salt. Or even the basics like bread or water. And if you don’t believe me, try kneading up a loaf without salt, or taking a sip from a bottle of distilled water, which has had most of the minerals removed. So often I’ll use salt more liberally in desserts than others, including adding salted butter to ramp up the flavor.

Chocolate is the ideal foil for salt – as is caramel – both are richly flavored and fill your mouth with the best tastes you can imagine. And a generous pinch of salt works to balance them out like nothing else can. Because all salt isn’t the same (nor are people’s tastes), it’s not always possible to tell people exactly how much salt should go into something.

The difference between salts can be considerable; kosher salt is readily available in the United States, sea salt is harvested all over the world and is usually more delicate and nuanced than other salts (and is my preference), and table salt – well, that should be avoided because it’s unpleasantly harsh and usually contains additives. But no matter where you are or what you’re using, it’s best just to get to know the salts that are available where you are, and use your natural instincts to dial the amount up or down in your cooking.

salted butter chocolate sauce

Although I like my go-to chocolate sauce quite a bit, I’ve been making this chocolate sauce that makes use of salted butter, with an extra sprinkle of salt added, more and more these days because I like it so much. It transforms a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream into something a little more special. But it’s not bad spooned up and enjoyed right from the jar, either.

salted butter chocolate sauce

Salted Butter Chocolate Sauce
Makes 2 cups (500ml)

If you can’t get salted butter, most salted butter has about ¼ teaspoon of salt per 4 ounces (115g), so you can use that as your guide.

  • 1 cup (250ml) whole milk or half-and-half
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces, 85g) salted butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup (45g) packed light brown sugar
  • 8 ounces (230g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Scant 1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1. Heat the milk, butter, and brown sugar in a saucepan until it begins to steam.

2. Remove from heat and add the chocolate, vanilla, and salt, stirring gently until the chocolate is melted and the sauce is smooth.

Serve the sauce warm with ice cream, or cool it to room temperature and store it in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks. Rewarm the sauce by putting the jar in a pan of very hot water.


vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce

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The Best Chocolate Sauce Recipe

The Easiest Chocolate Ice Cream

Salted Butter Caramels

Chocolate-Covered Salted Peanut Caramel Cups

78 comments

  • This is the best breakfast post you have ever written! I have chocolate, I have salt. I now have the secret. merci.

  • Salt is certainly essential to bring out flavour but there is a balance to consider when it comes to people with essential hypertension. Too much of a good thing can be a problem. A little bit is good but in this case, more is not always better.

    • A great way to avoid lots of salt is to cut down on fast-food and heavily processed foods, which are loaded with salt. (A single-serving of canned soup has about 650mg sodium, which is slightly more than 1/4 teaspoon.) This recipe has less than 1/2 teaspoon (that is approximate, based on the butter) of salt for two cups of sauce, which is enough to feed at least 8 people in the portions that I served, as shown.

      (Nothing here is meant to be medical or health advice. People who have health concerns should always follow the advice of their health care provider in determining their diets and what is, and isn’t, appropriate.)

  • I use unsalted butter in baking and for spreads but I agree with you that a pinch of salt brings out the flavour in most foods, including desserts. Thanks for another great recipe.

  • I love salt on sweet things, especially chocolate, but I always find it hard to gauge the salt content of salted butter as different brands always seem to vary, so I usually bake with unsalted butter and then add in salt. I might try this sauce with smoked sea salt as I’m a bit obsessed with that at the moment!

  • Can you think of any reason, chemistry-wise, why either coconut milk or almond milk would not work in this recipe? Or would it be better to try this with another of your chocolate sauce recipes? I’m thinking smoked Maldon for this one. Thanks very much for sharing this delicious-sounding indulgence!

    • I am pretty certain either would work. If you’re on a non-dairy diet, am not sure what could be swapped out for the butter, but perhaps soy cream or coconut oil might work. Good luck!

  • Heavens that looks fantastic! You know I never fully understood the concept of ones mouth drooling over food. That is until I had to go on a horridly strict eating plan as I am nursing my son who has food allergies.

    Suffice to say this sauce is drool worthy! I appreciate being able to live or rather ‘eat’ through the pictures on your blog David.

  • I want to drizzle this on EVERYTHING!

  • Years ago, as kids, If there was butter in the house, it was always salted. Now we both have been so indoctrinated by the idea of cooking with unsalted butter, it’s hard to imagine anything else is OK! Ha Clearly it is delicious…in a dessert sauce or just on toast with jam.

  • I recently read somewhere that salt was originally added to butter (eons ago) to help preserve it and keep it from going rancid in a time before refrigeration. (I think it was an article on Brittany, France.)

    • Yes, since the Bretons eat tons of butter, their butter was salted for that reason. Nowadays with refrigeration, it’s not as much of an issue. Salted butter is pretty popular in Paris, and in France, you can get it with big crystals of salt kneaded into it and it’s great on toast in the morning.

  • David, what is your preferred sea salt? I love Maldon for finishing, but am not sure you would use it in this recipe. Would a nice fleur de sel be okay?

  • At work my co workers cringe when they see me sprinkle a little bit of salt to the fruit i’m eating especially watermelon.they don’t know what they are missing!!!

  • I like to sprinkle salt on a fresh Granny Smith apple. Delicious.

  • Do you serve ice cream on a plate instead of in a bowl because it’s going to disappear too fast to melt all over the place?

    Your ice cream is off to the side. What was going to go on the rest of the plate?

  • My grandparents grew up in the deep South – small town Mississippi. I remember us stopping on the side of the road and buying watermelons from the back of a farmer’s pickup truck. They were bursting with sweetness and so delicious. We’d bring them home, cut them open and my grandparents would sprinkle the slices with salt before eating. A longtime tradition great for 100+ degree days down there….

    To this day, I enjoy salty with sweet.

  • Oh, and a question – would this recipe work with whole cream instead of milk or half and half?

  • MR in NJ: It’s rather old-fashioned in France to serve ice cream on plates. I’m not sure why, but that’s what we did that day.

    lookie: There was a funny episode of Modern Family where the son’s girlfriend put salt in her hot chocolate (I think it was hot chocolate..) and the mother wouldn’t try it. When she did, she said “I don’t prefer it” – because she didn’t approve of the girlfriend. In an interview, just after, she said “It was amazing.” People need to try new things every once in a while : )

    Lynne: My favorite salt is fleur de sel de Guérande.

    Caroline: Yup.

  • I LOVE chocolate and salt. Just the darkest chocolate you can find and a flake of Maldon sea salt is enough of a dessert sometimes! I have experimented with coconut oil instead of butter and it’s 100% fat content can be too much sometimes and it splits. However if you want to use coconut milk instead of half and half, make sure to use the full fat version in a can. And obviously know that you’ll get a coconuty flavor. I have found the nut milks work better if you make your own (which isn’t that hard to do). (ps. I love salt so much I wrote this story about it: http://alicedishes.com/the-white-stuff/).

  • I just had homemade truffle nutella this afternoon, and bought a very pretty jar of truffled sea salt. I think you just gave me the perfect thing to use it for!

  • Caroline, I grew up in TN but my family is from small town MS and we always, always put salt on watermelon and cantelope! My father also put salt on half a grapefruit, which he ate every day of his life. One of the best parts of licking the stirring portion of the hand-cranked ice cream machine was getting some of that rock salt in your bite!

  • I worked with Indian girls who used to put chilly powder on their fruit such as guava, apples etc.

  • Beautiful pictures!! My best friend loves things like this; I’m so happy to have a good recipe to make for her. BTW: I have almost always baked my cookies with salted butter–perhaps it comes from baking with my mom. I don’t remember unsalted butter in the store when I was a child; who knows? Just for grins, I checked the first cookbooks I used as a young cook. Early ’70s BETTY CROCKER just says “butter,” as does my same-era James Beard’s BREAD BOOK. SILVER PALATE-early ’80s), my next big jump in book styles (and still a favorite) says, “sweet butter,” for their choc chip cookies. I will note that my mom, a nurse, always reminded me that only regular old, American table salt contains iodine, so I make a habit of keeping it on my kitchen counter and try to remember to use it somewhat regularly.

    • Judy Rodgers, the chef at Zuni Café in San Francisco (who is an amazing cook), once made me a great batch of puff pastry. When I asked how she did it, she said “Salted butter.”
      .

  • That looks absolutely delicious! I can imagine how good this would taste with some vanilla ice cream, yum. That dark Lindt chocolate with fleur de sel is actually my favorite chocolate right now and the only one I buy these days…sooooo good!

  • You got my attention!

  • I make chocolate chip cookies with brown butter and I ALWAYS salt the top with sea salt before baking them. It just takes the cookie to the absolute next level of deliciousness! My teenage son loves them that way. After we saw the Modern Family episode you mentioned, he started adding salt to his chocolate milk!

  • David, I just came from Italy bringing swiss chard (bietole) from my garden cause you said you couldn’t find it in Paris. Well, go to Delices de Orient on Emile Zola in the 15th where they have beautiful, fresh, huge swiss chard in their lovely produce section. And finally, the za-atar for your lebneh recipe I just made. None in Italy!!

  • Salt is a complete must; it makes sweet food less sweet, yet amps up the flavor by volumes. There are so many recipes for salted caramel sauce, I’m glad to see one for salted chocolate sauce!

  • The original selling point for unsalted butter, as I recall, was that it had to be fresher. Salt acts as a preservative of sorts in salted butter.

    My late Mother, and her late Mother, and I always used salted butter. A good brand, known to be fresh. (Not low-price sale brands.) And my Mother taught me that a little salt was essential to anything sweet. But in the recipe, not sprinkled on top.

    She and her Mother were world-class cooks and bakers. I have run all my life to catch up with them.

  • My family only ever had unsalted butter in the house – salted butter was viewed poorly. I had to sprinkle salt on my toast!

    My inlaws, however, only ever have SALTED butter. So when I made the zebra cake – which is a chocolate butter cream with petit-buerre biscuits layered in between, the chocolate cream was salty! I was horrified…

  • The first paragraph of my post above should have included that unsalted butter will always, of necessiry, have a shorter “shelf life” than salted.

    One other thing. Unless recipes call specifically for unsalted butter, they are intended to use salted butter. And then salt is added as a separate ingredient. A good thing to keep in mind.

  • Sauce is made, just waiting for the brownies to cool!

  • Not that I don’t enjoy reading about middle eastern foods and experiences, but thank you for returning to chocolate! Za’atar v. dark chocolate with sea salt? no competition!

  • David. My source for cooking and finishing salts is: Salt Works. They are reasonably priced, and ship promptly.

  • I really need to use more salted butter! Drool worthy photo of the chocolate drizzle.

    xo, Karen

  • @Beth: full fat coconut milk would work. do not use the light one. almond milk would not give you the same creaminess as the fat contents and composition is totally different. please note that coconut milk separates when chilled: you’ll have the cream on top and the water on the bottom. if you want your chocolate cream to be even more creamier, when you open the chilled coconut milk can scoop out only the cream and save the water for another recipe. if you use coconut oil instead of the milk, the cream would turn out good, but with a very different consistency and it will get rock-hard when refrigerated.
    - i am a clinical nutritionist and passionate cook, i’ve seen that coconut milk works great as a dairy substitute. f.e. people love my super creamy gelati, not even realizing they are 100% diary-free ; )

  • David – an addition to the jams I normally give people for Christmas and hostess gifts. Won’t they be surprised!!!!!

  • David, I LOVE your emails..recipes,etc.. I have are many of them and all always delish LOVE your Sweet life of Paris book. as well as your great sense of humor..We will be in Paris in step /Oct.. would love to meet you and have you sign my book. Do you have any classes or tours between 9/18 and 10/2/13?

    Thanks,
    Pam

  • I think I am in a minority as I have never liked unsalted butter! Default butter here is salted, and unsalted was always “a great treat” – no thank you, you can keep it! My absolute favourite butter is the one with salt crystals in,which luckily you can get here, at a price, but that is only ever used as a spread in its own right, not with anything added!

    It’s black pepper that is so delicious on rather bland fruit, such as a slightly under-ripe melon, or even strawberries.

    As for salt, I do use table salt in boiling water for eggs or pasta – life is too short to make with the salt grinder then – but most other things are seasoned with ground sea salt.

  • Great post, great recipe Thanks.

    Another one is caramel au beurre salé. call it “death by caramel”. Once you start it is extremely difficult not to finish the jar. I followed a cooking class at Ducasse and have the recipe somewhere. When I find it , as the T° is very precise, I can post it.

  • I usually put more salt than is called for in my brownie recipe. It just adds a special taste.

  • That Lindt chocolate bar with fleur de sel is my downfall. The saying, “You can’t eat just one” applies here.

    And I will certainly be making this chocolate sauce.

  • YumYum.. how delicious and that was just reading about it..
    David, I thought about you whilst I was in a street market in London today.
    Fat and juicy Sweet Corn were 5 for £1.00.. they went straight into my basket and the pan is boiling as I type.
    Thank you for writing such an interesting Blog.

  • Claire, my grandparents also salted other fruit such as cantaloupes and apple slices! And I have fond memories of helping my grandfather make homemade vanilla icecream in the hand-cranked machine on the back porch. I rarely taste a vanilla icecream that good. :-)

  • Next time you’re in the mood for a pilgrimage to this neck of the woods you must go to Larkspur and Pizzeria Picco for their soft serve topped with olive oil and sea salt. (or their kitchen-made caramel sauce. . . or chocolate sauce. . .)

    My home salt preference: Esprit du Sel, Ile de Re, France

  • I’m glad to see you praising salted butter. I used to buy both unsalted and salted but gave up and use salted for everything now. I just cut back a little on the salt in recipes that have butter now. I’ve never had any problems.

  • I’m eating salted chocolate as we speak. Not that particular Lindt bar, although I do go through quite a few of those too. Match made in heaven I tell you!

  • Wow, yum. I’ve had salted caramel, but salted chocolate–why not??

  • Many years ago when I worked in Kuwait it was impossible to buy salted butter as they said “no call for it” Yet everyone including Kuwaitis always salted the butter after they had put it on bread or where ever
    You are so right it does make a BIG difference I like your idea of bringing your own fleur de sel must try that

  • I was at Sur La Table the other day and as I was paying, noticed what looked like a tiny novelty mint tin labeled Maldon…How cute, I thought and quickly picked it up and realized that it was a tiny tin of Maldon salt. The thought of people carrying their own salt seemed crazy and pretentious at that moment, though in retrospect have thought of so many occasions where regular table salt at a restaurant haven’t sufficed. Salt is truly an amazing thing, we are lucky to have such a variety so readily available. It seems (to me) that in the last decade or so, there are so many more varieties that you can find even at your regular grocery store. I think my mother had only one in her kitchen, (you know the ONE); I think I have 4 regular ones in mine. I don’t want to get started on butter!!!

  • This reminds me of when I traveled through Norway & Sweden. I ate salted licorice ice cream everyday.

  • I think I may have just found a replacement for my Sanders Hot Fudge. Looks delicious!

  • In Sweden, there’s normal salted butter and extra-salted butter is preferred by some. Non-salted butter remains the exception (and is pricier than the salted variants). I used to be a extra-salted person but taste vary through life, now I prefer the normal. There’ are disappointingly few variants of butters available though. In a german, italian or french grocery store, the butter fridge can be enormous. I wish we’d have that here as well. As it stands now, one has to go on a hunt to find french, italian or any other kind of european butter.

  • I completely agree with limiting processed foods to reduce salt intake and then using good salt as you want to in your own cooking. Also love the idea of bringing your own salt to a restaurant–now I, too, know what to do with those Maldon tins at Sur La Table. I once asked for salt in a restaurant and they wouldn’t give it to me because the chef said the food was perfectly seasoned as it was–c’mon, we’re all different! I also participated in a presentation in Napa with the editors of Gourmet and they made brownies with and without salt–what a difference! And when we first tasted the bread in Italy, after much anticipation, we were stunned by how flat it was–they make it without salt! Since they tend to eat it with a lot of salty charcuterie, perhaps it isn’t so much of an issue. Also, it doesn’t get moldy as it ages and can be used in soups and the like (no waste, very thrifty). Apparently in the old days, salt was heavilly taxed and they tried to limit its usage for that reason, too. Fascinating condiment!

  • In NZ, salted butter is the norm, and you pay extra for unsalted! An even then there’s only one (mainstream) brand. This is probably to do with our colonial past supplying butter to the UK, and sea transport not being the fastest, the salting helped preserve the cargo. And since NZ soils are very low in iodine, i generally use iodised table salt for cooking, and only ‘garnish’ with rock salt at the table. Thanks for another great recipe, it looks divine :)

  • David, did you use or could you use the le fleur de sel chocolate in this recipe?

  • Best use of salted butter here. Yummy drizzle shot, David :)

  • This looks fabulous.

    Wondered if you have ever tried the Hot Fudge Sauce from the Boulevard cookbook? Divine…and also contains salt.

    Thanks,

    Deborah

  • Ooh, delicious! And how right you are about salt in bread. On my first trip to Italy as a naive young thing I unwittingly bought a loaf of Tuscan bread, which has no salt, and started chewing. Argh! Now I know you’re not supposed to eat it by itself…

  • David, you suggest trying to make bread without salt. My understanding (correct me if I’m wrong) is that the yeast won’t work properly without salt being added. The salt slows down the yeast and without salt, the dough will rise rapidly and then collapse. So, salt not only serves as a flavour, but as a bonafide necessary ingredient.

  • David, do you have a simple salted caramel sauce recipe?
    Alternately, anyone, do you have suggestions for one?

  • I always have the salted Lindt chocolate bars in my fridge–delicious and crunchy when cold. We grew up on salted butter. I’ve always used it in baking with never a problem. Whenever a restaurant serves unsalted butter, I’m always reaching for the salt shaker! We, too, were in that southern US crowd who always salted melon, primarilly cantaloupe. And, some of my fondest childhood memories are my mother and grandmother making hot chocolate using bars of dark chcolate, evaporated milk and a sprinkling of salt. Can’t wait to try your chocolate sauce. Bet it’s divine made with evaporated milk.

  • Re: Beth and milk substitutes

    My younger son has a dairy allergy, so I’ve had a lot of practice using substitutes in baking. I don’t know if you’re in the US, but Earth’s Balance spread is a very good substitute for butter, and hazelnut milk works very well in sauces. There’s also a product at Trader Joe’s called Coconut Cream (in a can) that is the equivalent of a full can of the fat you find in cans of coconut milk that works very well to augment milk substitutes by adding more fat and body.

  • David, first time poster. I’m not sure if you meant unsweetened chocolate or baking chocolate for this recipe? Or do you mean the regular dark chocolate like 60-70%?

    Thanks for your great blog. I am addicted.

  • I didn’t know Lindt makes salted chocolate. I luv Lindt. Going to get me some. Thanks for sharing!

  • This sounds fabulous! I am also a pastry chef (I work for Kathleen Stewart’s daughter in law Liza Hinman @ THE SPINSTER SISTERS). I use salt to up flavor contrast in most of my desserts. Chocolate, caramel like you, but also in my fruit desserts, especially pies. I find that adding salt and acid to ripe fruit lessens the one dimensional sweetness. Thanks so much for your blog and recipes! Also I have gotten lots of inspiration from READY FOR DESSERT!

  • Love salty + sweet and I’ve never been a huge caramel fan (blasphemy i know) so salted butter + chocolate sounds perfect.

  • You have re-opened my eyes to salted butter… I used to use it solely and then was convinced that for cooking unsalted was best. Now I know I should buy both!

    What really caught my eye in this post was the photo of the Lindt – Fleur de Sel bar…. my favorite! I am addicted, and always wanted to try and bake something with it. The closest I have to that was to make hot chocolate with it…yum!

  • I’m so stuck on your other chocolate sauce recipe I can’t bear to not have it around! It makes the best chocolate milk, ever, and it’s bitter enough that it pairs much better with ice cream than the typical hot fudge sauce. It has also gotten me so accustomed to that bitter chocolate flavor that sauces made with milk or cream just seem less chocolatey to me now. Plus, it’s fat free so it can be stored in the fridge longer. I use the Lindt Excellence 70% cocoa bar as the added chocolate. I just recently made some using their sea salt chocolate. It’s less bitter as the chocolate is lighter. But, since the original chocolate sauce is your recipe and you didn’t steer me wrong, I’ll try this one next. (as soon as my latest original sauce batch runs out!)

  • Oh, one more thing…the chocolate that you use can really make a difference, so use the best chocolate you can get (I like the Lindt, the price is right and it’s readily available). I’ve used typical grocery store brands (Hersheys, Nestles and even Ghiradelli cooking chocolate, not choc chips) and have had problems with graininess in the sauce…and it’s not that the sugar was cooked improperly, it’s the chocolate! The regular brands don’t seem to melt into the sauce as smoothly. What’s up with that?

  • In India….all we get is salted butter (Amul the most popular branded butter)….finding unsalted butter is rather a task….these days though supermarkets have started stocking cooking butter. …
    Traditionally all India puddings call for a pinch of salts to lift up the flavours

  • Carolyn: Salt does inhibit (or kill) yeast so it’s usually added to bread after the yeast has had a chance to act. Salt not just for flavor, but because it also helps to arrest the development of the yeast and control it. In Tuscany, they make bread without salt still, which is an old tradition. As @Gavrielle noted, it’s not necessarily a pleasant experience eating it, at least on its own.

    Susan: I like that recipe, too! I don’t have access to those brands of chocolate anymore so haven’t used them in years, but can’t say why they don’t melt well. I’ve used some of them in the past and haven’t had problems, but perhaps they reformulated them? Most of those companies have hotlines and it might be interesting (and helpful for them) if you asked them why.

    juliet: You certainly could use that chocolate, although it’s probably more expensive and I just used regular chocolate, and added my own salt.

    Charlene: Salt was demonized for so long, and while it’s true there is a lot in processed foods and fast-foods, when you cook for yourself, you see and gauge how much salt you are eating. Finishing salts, that you put on top or add at the end, give you a “hit” of salt without oversalting the entire dish (or sauce) which is why I tend to use flaky salts and so forth in my cooking.

    juliet (from NZ): That’s interesting that salted butter is less expensive in New Zealand. Another reason to visit? (In spite of the flight…!)

    Natalie: My favorite recipe for Salted Butter Caramel Sauce is in my book, The Sweet Life in Paris.

    lucy: Swiss chard is easily available at most markets in Paris, although I’ve been on the hunt for rainbow chard. I know they have it at a market in the 16th, although it’s a big trip across the city and I’d love to find it at one of the several markets in other parts of the city because it tastes so much better than the regular chard.

    Jeff: Unsweetened chocolate is different than bittersweet or semisweet as the latter 2 both have sugar added. Unsweetened chocolate does not. You can read more about chocolate at my Chocolate FAQ for more info.

  • David, this is just plain cruel. I can’t keep my spoon out of your wonderful butterscotch sauce, and now this!

  • Oh wow, I am making this soon! Looks delicious. I am a bit of a salt fiend, and I’ve always appreciated salt in baked goods. I’ve never understood recipes that call for unsalted butter, it usually results in flat tasting desserts, even if salt is added. I made shortbread with unsalted butter once and it was practically inedible, or at least not worth the calories for me.

  • Hi David, I used this recipe as a starting point for a star anise flavoured chocolate sauce. It received really good reviews and was easy to make, so thank you. Hoping you won’t mind that I messed around with your recipe…