Sweet and salty, the ultimate combination. Chefs, foodies, pâtissiers, chocolatiers, and more have combined sweet into savoury dishes and added salt into desserts for centuries. You've heard of chilli chocolate, or perhaps the sweet taste of honey in a Hoisin sauce? We wouldn't want to mess with a tried and tested combination, especially when we all love the explosion of flavour. Just like several of our chocolate flavours (chapters as we like to call them) we've combined what should be unusual into mind-blowing excitement.
A Tale (Almost) As Old as Time
Salted caramel might be a modern innovation however salt itself has interesting origins going back centuries ago. Well, a few centuries to be precise. Like many everyday ingredients we take for granted, salt was once a luxury reserved only for the wealthy.
So coveted was this condiment that France imposed a salt tax in 1343, making salted butter something of a rarity that only the rich could afford to enjoy. In Brittany, however, the region’s status as a ‘free county’ ensured that salt remained untaxed and, therefore, Brittany salted butter become renowned.
While salted caramel wasn’t quite ready to hit the market (there were still a few centuries to go until this delightful combination pleased the masses), it was arguably the continued availability of salt in Brittany and the scarcity of salt throughout the rest of France that cemented our love affair with the simplest yet most exquisite of condiments.
An Award-Winning Combination
Although the true origins of sea salt chocolate may date back to the 14th century, you only have to jump back a few decades to discover how salted caramel came about. It was Henri Le Roux who first came up with the idea of adding salt to chocolate when he devised an innovative new sweet.
After training at a Swiss cookery school, Le Roux set up shop (and a factory) in Quiberon, Brittany. Deciding to use the region’s famed salted butter as the basis of his new concoction and mixing it with crushed nuts, Le Roux’s culinary triumph was hailed as the ‘Best Sweet in France’ by the prestigious Salon International de la Confisserie in Paris.
From the 1980s to the mid-noughties, sea salt caramel was a popular flavour yet one that was only typically enjoyed by the elite. Sometimes seen in Michelin-starred restaurants, salt caramel was a sumptuous rarity that had yet to hit the mainstream.
A Rise in Popularity
The mid-noughties saw a number of fashions hit the mainstream, some of which were an undeniable success (bootcut jeans, capri pants, sea salt caramel) and some which are best forgotten (cargo pants, denim miniskirts, crocs…the list goes on).
Despite the questionable trends that did the rounds during this time, there is one fashion that has remained in style ever since: salted caramel.
As the delectable combo hit the shelves in a variety of iterations, we saw an explosion of salted caramel truffles, cheesecakes, brownies, and an array of salted caramel gifts to celebrate every occasion. But what is it about this simple combination that makes it so sensational?
Why Is Salted Caramel So Popular?
To understand why salted caramel is so popular (and why we chose it as one of our tantalising chapters), we need to look at the science. Firstly, salt acts as a flavour enhancer, which means it brings out the flavours of the caramel that may have been previously overlooked. Making it richer and sweeter than before, we can quite simply taste this sugary treat a whole lot better when we add salt.
However, salt doesn’t just act as a flavour enhancer. Just one square of dark chocolate with sea salt or salted caramel sauce and you’ll recognise the contrasting flavours that we’ve come to know and love.
Layers of Flavours
You might be surprised to learn that there are just five main tastes that our tastebuds can recognise: sour, bitter, salty, sweet, and the mysteriously named umami (savouriness). When you mix salt in chocolate, you’re combining two of these primary flavours (sweet and salt), which is known as flavour layering.
This complexity of flavours encourages us to want more…and may explain why you can’t get enough of sea salt chocolate. Bypassing ‘hedonistic adaption’ (where our bodies tell us we’re satiated) and taking us straight through to ‘hedonistic escalation’, the layers of flavours we experience when we consume sea salt caramel entice us to take just one more bite…and then another.
Feel Good Factor
Another scientific reason why we all enjoy sea salt chocolate so much is the release of endogenous opioids (don’t worry – they’re not as dangerous as they sound). When we eat something salty, sweet, or fatty, our brains naturally release endogenous opioids, which make us feel good. As salted caramel contains all three of these elements, we get a boost of endogenous opioids that enhance our mood and leave us feeling happier.
So, the next time you devour a bar of sea salt caramel chocolate or polish off a serving of salted caramel truffles, you can do so guilt-free, safe in the knowledge that science is behind your penchant for snacking.
Say Hello to Healthy Chocolate
Like any exquisite chocolate bar, a delectable sea salt caramel treat depends on the quality of ingredients and the ratio of salt to caramel to chocolate. In a tireless bid to come up with the perfect combination, we’ve tried and tested a variety of ratios to discover the Holy Grail (all in the name of research, you understand).
Whether you nibble, devour, or savour your favourite treat, you can be confident that we use only the finest Fairtrade ingredients to create a taste you can enjoy. (Rumour has it you can share it too).
This, in addition to our commitment to fair trade chocolate, unrefined ingredients, and no additives, means you can enjoy vegan-friendly healthy chocolate alongside our other mouth-watering chapters.