Why You Should Be Making Desserts With Salty Snack Foods, According To Christina Tosi - Exclusive

When you go to the grocery store to buy ingredients for making desserts, you probably naturally gravitate to the baking aisle. You're not wrong to do so — you're not going to be able to bake much without the basics like flour and sugar — but when you're searching for that special something to give your desserts some added flair, Milk Bar founder and CEO Christina Tosi thinks you should be looking in the snack aisle.

Tosi explained to Mashed in an exclusive interview that ever since she was a kid accompanying her mom on errands, she has been enamored with the power of packaged snacks. The saltiness that snack foods contribute to recipes makes desserts less one-note, breaking up the sweetness. As Tosi put it, "I love working with salty-sweet, personally, because it keeps your taste buds guessing ... It's a little bit of this dance, which I love." In other words, the perfect dessert is a delicate balancing act between salt and sweetness — the chaos of sugar and savoriness mixing together is much more interesting than sweetness on its own.

Snacks like chips don't just bring sodium to the party, either. They can also be great textural additions to baked goods. Look no further than Tosi's Bugle Bars for an example: They start as an underbaked, gooey chocolate chip cookie bar, but the thing that makes them memorable is the crunchy, salty topping made with Bugles and Ritz crackers.

Almost any snack food can be turned into dessert

Most savory, crunchy foods can be given a sweet makeover with the right creative inspiration. Potato chips and pretzels are a good place to start because they have a relatively neutral flavor — they both make appearances in Milk Bar's famous Compost Cookies. Coating pretzels in white chocolate is another great way to start experimenting with salty-sweet flavors.

More strongly flavored treats can be a bit trickier to work into desserts, but the key is to think about what tasting notes snack foods and desserts might have in common. For example, when Christina Tosi was recently asked to make a Cheetos-flavored cake for the brand's 75th anniversary, she honed in on the shared dairy flavor of cheddar cheese and vanilla birthday cake. The cake let her fulfill a lifetime dream of creating a delicious cheddar-based dessert. "As a teenager, I was always trying to figure out how to make a cheddar cheese cookie," she said. Cheddar on apple pie is already a thing, so why not Cheetos in cake?

The Cheetos 75th birthday cake is available for purchase from the Milk Bar Store while supplies last.