Shake got samples of Sea Salts of Hawai‘i’s variety packs for a photo shoot recently and I got to keep them to play with! What to make, what to make…? Cookies!! Who doesn’t love cookies, right?

The five different flavors Sea Salts of Hawai‘i offers are all available in tins: Kona, Uahi, Maui Onion, ‘Alaea (red clay) and ‘Ohe (green bamboo). © 2013 Sugar + Shake

Honestly, I don’t know how I got the idea to do these; I think I was looking for a recipe for something else and while doing that, stumbled into this Dorie Greenspan recipe for Chocolate-Cayenne Cocktail Cookies featured in Food & Wine.

I nixed the cayenne pepper because I wanted to showcase the different flavors of salts. For the same reason, I also split the recipe to make a plain batch and a cocoa batch. (I like salt and chocolate together, but I wanted to see how the different salts tasted.) The recipe yields dry, crumbly cookies that are rather shortbread-like and not very sweet.

Cookie ingredients. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

Cocoa cookies with sea salt. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

I made dinner for Shake’s co-workers (it was a late-night deadline day and ever since I won a slow-cooker from Pass the Sushi, I’ve been using it at the office to make dinner every other month) and brought these cookies for dessert. I forgot to explain what they were, so Shake’s art director was a little startled when he popped one into his mouth.

“I fawf it wa’ gonna be fweet! Ith not sugar!” he exclaimed through a mouthful of cookie crumbs.

Oops. Yeah. Salt. Not sugar. My bad.

Cocoa and plain shortbread cookies with sea salt. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

The salts are such pretty colors, they really do look like decorating sugar. So be kind and let folks know before you serve these.

There’s just a bare hint of sweetness—and, as the recipe name implies—these also went really well with Bacon Bourbon Old-Fashioneds. (Yes, we made bacon bourbon. Yes, I will tell you more about it later.)

Cocoa and plain shortbread cookies with sea salt. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

Gratuitous cutesy photo alert: We’ve had this adorable little fridge magnet for a long time and I knew that whatever I made with the salts, I wanted to incorporate it into the photos. The artist who created it is Kat Uno. Her designs are CRAZY CUTE!

The three salts used for the cookies: Black Uahi, Green ‘Ohe and Red ‘Alaea. (Oooh, Salty! pin designed by Kat Uno.) © 2013 Sugar + Shake

I didn’t make any changes to the original Dorie Greenspan recipe, other than omitting the cayenne and making half the batch without cocoa powder, so you can get the recipe from Food & Wine if you want to try your hand at these.

Cocoa and plain shortbread cookies with sea salt. © 2013 Sugar + ShakeAs for the salts, they’re fun to use! The colors are pretty and add an extra-fancy look to your dishes — use them to finish with, not to replace regular salt in recipes. But they also each have a distinct flavor of their own. For the cookies, I used three of the varieties Sea Salts of Hawai‘i offers:

Black Uahi — Made with Moloka‘i sea salt and activated coconut-shell charcoal. This one has a sharp flavor. (It’ll also turn your fingers and tongue black, by the way.) It went well with the cocoa cookies. I like this on raw ‘ahi.

Green ‘Ohe — Also made with Moloka‘i sea salt, this one is infused with certified-organic bamboo leaf extract. (It looks more beige than green.) It has a definite vegetal taste and isn’t as sharp as the black salt. I would use this for more delicate items, like fish or poultry, rather than beef. The cocoa cookies overwhelmed this one; it was better on the plain batch.

Red ‘Alaea — made with Hawaiian volcanic clay; the clay has a high iron content, which is where the red color comes from. It has a pronounced minerally taste. Don’t worry; it doesn’t taste like dirt at all. I liked this on both the plain and the cocoa cookies equally well.

FYI, sea salt has a tendency to stick, unlike regular table salt or other mass-produced salts you usually buy for cooking. When you open up a tin, it will most likely be a compact puck that takes some effort to break up, at least initially. This is totally normal. Incidentally, this moisture content is also why this kind of salt is nice for finishing dishes—it won’t dissolve away, so you can taste it AND see it.

The three salts used for the cookies: Black Uahi, Green ‘Ohe and Red ‘Alaea. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

Sea Salts of Hawai‘i also makes a Maui Onion salt. I used that (not for cookies!) when I made dinner for my parents. We grilled chicken at their house and I used the Maui Onion salt to season. I was worried at first because when I tasted the salt mix, it was VERY onion-y. Almost overwhelming. But once the chicken had been grilled, it had a nice, mellow taste. Not too onion-y at all. Phew! (You don’t want to screw up when you’re cooking for my dad. He never lets you forget.)

We happen to have an extra “Blue Box Gift Set” with the cute cork-stoppered bottles of Kona, ‘Alaea and Uahi salts…so I’m giving it away here on the blog!

The Sea Salts of Hawai‘i Sampler Gift Box includes three two-ounce glass bottles of ‘Alaea, Kona and Uahi salts. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

Here’s what you have to do: Leave a comment here on the blog telling me what your favorite salty treat is. For a bonus entry: “Like” the Sugar + Shake page on Facebook and then come back here and post a separate comment to let me know you’ve done it (or if you were already a “Liker,” that counts too, just post a comment letting me know). I’ll pick a winner at random on October 15, 2013 and notify via email. If you don’t hit me back within 36 hours, your salty goodness goes to someone else! (Sorry, I can mail to U.S. or APO/FPO addresses only — postage from Hawai‘i is already a bitch!)