Fran’s Salt Caramels. Salt caramel photos by Melody Lan | THE NIBBLE.
KAREN HOCHMAN is Editorial Director of THE NIBBLE and a dévotée of salt caramels.
Updated April 2009
The Best Salt Caramels
Sweet + Salty + Caramel = Flavor Sensation
CAPSULE REPORT: We don’t know when, but perhaps by spontaneous combustion, the hot Salt Caramel Movement has taken root. There are sizzling salt caramels from coast to coast—the chewy caramels you remember, accented with sea salt. It’s happening with bars of chocolate too, but here you get a double bang for the buck: chocolate-covered caramels with a dusting of salt. Some are subtly salty, some quite substantial. All are delicious.
This is Page 1 of a six-part article. Click the black links below to view the other pages.
Some of our favorite men—people difficult to buy gifts for—tell us they love sweet and salty snack mixes. They could be satisfied with a dish of M&Ms and salted peanuts, but we can do better than that. Quite a few modern chocolatiers are offering chocolate bars accented with sea salt (check out the small, elegant squares from Poco Dolce). An older concept that’s been newly-updated is the salt caramel. Before biting into some of our favorites, let’s take a look at the two main components—sea salt and caramel. (If you’re chomping at the bit, click here to go straight to the caramels.)
Over the past decade, American chefs have become enamored of the ever-growing variety of sea salts that have become available: Their flavors and visual appeal have encouraged chocolatiers as well. Chocolate and salt, by the way, are a logical pairing and one of nature’s great flavor combinations. As it does with other foods, salt awakens the taste buds, accentuating all of the chocolate’s flavors, but particularly those that are more subtle. It does the same with caramel. When chocolatiers choose to make a salt caramel covered in chocolate instead of a plain, unenrobed salt caramel, they provide this added interplay of flavors.
The most commonly-used salts in salt caramels are:
- Fleur de Sel. The “flower of the salt” is harvested from the salt ponds of Guèrande, Brittany, on the northwest coast of France. For every 80 pounds of Sel Gris (center photo below) produced, only three pounds of fleur de sel is harvested (photo at left). It has a very delicate and somewhat floral (some say earthy) flavor.
- Sel Gris (Gray Salt). An unrefined sea salt found along the coastal areas of France, its light grey color with a purple tinge comes from the clay found in the salt flats. As with fleur de sel, the salt is collected by hand using traditional Celtic methods: after the salt is evaporated from the water, it is gathered with wooden rakes, allowing no metal to touch the salt. Sel Gris has a sharper, bolder flavor than fleur de sel.
- Smoked Salt. Any salt can be naturally smoked over wood fires to infuse the salt crystals with natural smoke flavor (or the flavor can be artificially infused). Smoked salts add a smokehouse flavor as well as an interesting color that creates an attractive garnish.
|Fleur de sel
See our Salt Glossary for an introduction to these and other fine salts. Salt photos are courtesy of SaltWorks, an excellent resource for gourmet salts.
Continue To Page 2: About Caramel
Go To The Article Index Above