I always use unsalted butter for baking because it offers a consistent baseline for a recipe. But I really prefer salted butter for basic uses, like topping toast, pancakes or a baked potato because the extra bit of salt adds a little contrast to the slightly sweet cream taste of plain butter. The one thing that can top a good salted butter is butter with sea salt crystals in it. This type of butter – which seemed to be easily available in Paris, at markets and supermarkets – offers the taste of sweet cream, a bit of savory salt and a little bit of crunch from the crystals mixed into the butter.
I didn’t think any packages would survive my plane trip home, but it’s easy to make the same thing at home. Just soften butter, then mix in some coarse sea salt. I love Maldon Sea Salt, as the unusual flake shape of the salt crystals adds just the right kind of crunch. Use any kind of sea salt or kosher salt you’d like, but I wouldn’t choose one with huge, hard crystals that might add more “crack” than “crunch” to a bite of bread. As with regular salted butter, the salt content seems to vary from brand to brand. Coarse salt has a more noticeable saltiness, so add just a little when you start to mix up your batch, and add more to taste. Serve your butter at room temperature, or store it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
Alternatively, you can just sprinkle a little bit of salt on top of plain butter. It’s my favorite trick in the morning and never fails to take a piece of toast (or a regular dinner roll, for that matter) from good to great, even if I’m just eating a quick breakfast out.