Caramel and salt

That salt and caramel is a good match is certainly not news. The Cracker Jack folks figured that out in 1893, after all. What is new is that in a day and age when we are inundated with messages about the dangers fat, sodium and sugar can play in our diets that this combination would be more popular than ever before.

Several years ago when Vosges launched their milk chocolate wrapped caramels topped with Hawaiian sea salt, a flavour trend was perhaps not born, but popularized and elevated to gourmet status. Since then chocolate and caramel have become the darlings of many recipe writers, pastry chefs and now, baristas.

What do you think? Are indulgences like this caramel and salt-topped hot chocolate an act of rebellion?

7 Responses to Caramel and salt

  1. While I like to eat sweets like caramel, I’m not one for drinking sugary liquids. I like my coffee strong and with milk. No sugar. Yes, I’m weird.

    I figure coffee shops are doing whatever they can to come up with new and different flavour combinations that will get you in the door. Pumpkin pie, eggnog, ginger… They seem to promote a new drinkable dessert every month or two. No different from the chocolate bar producers who went through a caramel phase a couple years ago. Caramel Kit Kat? Puh-leeze!

    Rebellion? Hardly. They’re selling indulgence, not health food. I don’t think blood sugar and cholesterol are on their radar. If it’s a taste trend, they’ll follow it.

  2. Beth says:

    I think consumers are rebelling against health messages. I know that after being told ‘No’ all the time that it feels pretty darn great to indulge in a hot chocolate mounded with whipped cream, caramel and salt. I think if a drink like the one above were endorsed by nutritionists that it would be way less fun to order one as a treat.

  3. Cheryl says:

    I’m with Charmian in the sense that I can indulge in an over-the-top dessert (a hot fudge sundae, say) once in a while with no guilt whatsoever, but the thought of drinking the same number of calories/sugar grams, etc. in beverage form strikes me as supremely unappealing. I do like hot chocolate, but straight up please.

    As for salt, I did try the sea-salt-sprinkled chocolate chip cookies by Jacques Torres that recently made such a splash (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/09/dining/091crex.html). While good, I doubt I’ll start sprinkling salt on my cookies as a matter of course.

  4. Cheryl A says:

    I love the combination, but that Starbucks hot chocolate is nasty! I was curious and mad that I bothered. I would much rather indulge with things that are actually good. Then it feeds my soul.

    But salt and cookies? I have a recipe for peanut chocolate chip cookies with Fleur de Sel. Sweet heaven, but we are currently a nut free house. I hope to make them again in a few years.

  5. Adam says:

    I love the combo of salt and sweet… I think it just goes together perfectly. However, I tend to stay away from drinks like this… and I don’t like to drink my calories (aside from the protein shakes). If you’re going to indulge that’s cool… but I think part of the problem is that people don’t know how much sugar a drink like that has.

  6. tara says:

    I sound like I am in the minority, but I do enjoy a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks now and again. BUT that said, it is with a double shot of espresso, half sweet, non fat and with no whipped cream. So really, it is a whole other drink than what they’ve designed. I have never been able to palate their sweet drinks by in large – too rich for me.

    Back to the salt and sweet combination, I’ll heartily vote for that. A saline hit adds depth an interest to a dessert that can otherwise be flat and uninteresting. With their track record, I don’t believe I’ll be trying Starbucks’ hot chocolates to test my tastebuds.

  7. It’s an act of love. I had a ball making these homemade caramel apples by Martha Stewart. Perfect for Halloween!
    http://michaelbeyer.wordpress.com/2010/10/10/classic-caramel-apples/

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