You love salted caramel? Get ready for a whole new level of deliciousness.
Credit: Getty / Inna Tarasenko

It feels like everyone is on board now with adding salt to baked goods and sweet treats. Sure, the sweet/salty magic of a chocolate covered pretzel or salted caramel is obvious, but the more subtle need of every dessert to have the sweetness balanced means that even if a recipe, particularly an older family recipe, is missing salt in the ingredient list, I still add a pinch. Even to fruit! 

But recently, I've been thinking more about seasoning as it relates to baking and sweets. After all, pretty much every recipe for savory dishes tells us to season to taste with salt and pepper. Is it time to think about pepper playing a role in our sweeter treats? Mexican hot chocolate certainly pairs sweet and spicy, and the result is outrageously delicious.

It makes sense. The different notes of different peppers add something to desserts that salt alone cannot: a depth and grounding flavor but also a perking up of a whole different group of your taste buds! Want to know how to add pepper to your sweets? It has a lot to do with knowing your different peppers, and where to add them. Adding ground pepper to a pastry or crust will enhance the fillings; adding into a batter or dough for cakes or cookies will balance other flavors; adding to a glaze or frosting can give front of the mouth heat with some fabulous results. Here's a guide to get you started peppering up your sweet treats. 

Black pepper

The OG pepper works great with fruits that have a lot of natural sweetness, but also fruits that go well in salads. Think about things like strawberries in spinach salad, or watermelon feta salad, or grapes in chicken salad. If you would add the fruit to a savory dish, black pepper will be your pepper of choice whether you are adding to a tart, a sorbet or ice cream, or just grinding over the fresh fruit.

White pepper

White pepper packs a particular blend of floral notes and heat, so it is my choice when working with other spices like cinnamon, clove, ginger, or allspice. Use white pepper in gingerbread recipes, molasses cookies, spice cakes, and the like. It is also good pals with nuts, so think about a pinch in your pecan pie or walnut cake.

Spicy peppers

Bright red cayenne, Aleppo, and Espelette peppers bring both fruity notes and heat and work beautifully with both chocolate and caramel flavors. Add them to sauces, doughs, batters, or frostings to amp up the flavor on everything from chocolate chip cookies and chocolate cake to butterscotch budino. If you love salted caramel, try a salted caramel with cayenne and get ready to take your ice cream to a whole new level.