Why Cracked Pepper Could Improve The Outcome Of Homemade Sweets

There are certain things you'd most definitely expect in a dessert: Sugar, baking powder, and soda? Undoubtedly. Flour, butter, and eggs? Probably. Vanilla extract and cocoa powder? Not necessary but certainly good things to have on hand. Every now and then, however, there comes a recipe asking for an ingredient that seems like it belongs anywhere but in a dessert.

Take coffee, for example, an ingredient that you'll almost always find in a dessert recipe, especially if it involves working with chocolate. Studies show that coffee increases our ability to taste sweet flavors while decreasing sensitivity to bitter ones. Similarly, salt is an ingredient you'd rarely ever think of adding to a sweet dessert. But it's a fairly well-known fact that a pinch of salt will only increase sweetness, reduce bitterness, and enhance the overall flavor of a dessert (via Science Focus).

So while you may already be adding coffee and salt to your sweet treats, there's one other table spice that you should consider adding the next time you're whipping up a dessert: cracked pepper. According to "The Great British Bake Off" star Ruby Tandoh, the heat from pepper can liven up flat flavors like vanilla and cream or even add a subtle zing to bold flavors like citrusy desserts (via the Guardian).

You should pair different flavors with different types of pepper

While it may seem unusual to find black pepper in desserts, The Atlantic explains that it was once a very common ingredient to use in sweet items. Romans poached fruits in wine spiked with vinegar, cinnamon, and a generous sprinkle of pepper, and the people of Siena were known to make a peppery version of the Christmas dessert panforte, known as panpepato. As it turns out, there is some science to this.

The owner of Curio Spice Co., Claire Cheney, tells Delish that "Spiciness can cause salivation that helps with the interaction of taste molecules with the taste cells located in our taste buds." Much like salt and coffee, pepper too can heighten the ability to taste sweet flavors. But that doesn't mean that you can use that year-old pepper grinder in all your desserts.

My Recipes finds that pepper in general works best in desserts that already have spices like ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and the like — think gingerbread cookies or snickerdoodles for example. Alternatively, pepper can also elevate other desserts if only you use the right type of pepper to pair with the flavors that you're working with. Fruity pepper like cayenne and Aleppo work well with chocolate, white pepper pairs excellently with ginger, pink peppercorns are ideal for desserts with berries, and the good ol' black pepper is best for vanilla and caramel-flavored treats. So if you're hoping to give your dessert that extra bit of flavor, you may want to consider adding in a pinch of pepper.