I am such a saltaholic – I love any kind of salty, savory treat. But I also love my sweets, especially chocolate. So I have been a big fan of the salty-sweet trend. Caramel sprinkled with sea salt? Chocolate spiked with salted nuts? That’s my kind of mashup.
The salty-sweet combo has always been around; think chocolate-covered pretzels, or even peanut-butter cups. But what’s been new the past few years is that chefs and chocolate-makers have been getting more out-there with what they put together. (Chocolate bacon brittle, anyone?)
It works, in most cases, because the salt provides a nice contrast to the sweetness of the candy, balancing things out and adding a touch of sophistication to something that might seem too sweet on your palate otherwise. And salt crystals added to candy add a great texture, a crunch that melts in your mouth and makes you taste the sweet flavors that much more.
Once you could find such treats only in high-end restaurants and gourmet chocolate shops, but I’ve been on a mission since FRESH has been open, sampling the many salty-sweet treats on our shelves. Here are my favorites:
John Kelly Chocolates: Hand-made in Hollywood, Ca., these elegantly wrapped candies have just the right ratio of salt-to-sweet for me. My favorites: the walnut caramel clusters, set off with a touch of flaky Mediterranean sea salt.
Salted Caramel Delite, the FRESH pastry department: Jennifer Kuhn’s pastries are all stellar, but I especially love this single-serving treat, with rich salted caramel robed in delicious chocolate. Our pastry whizzes make several other sweet-salty goodies you need to try, too, including chocolate bacon bark and chocolate-covered potato chips.
Chuao Chocolate Bars: Deep rich chocolate in the Venezuelan tradition. I especially like the bar infused with pasilla chile and cayenne pepper; spicy with just a hint of salty flavor too.
Redstone’s Salted Peanut and Jalapeño Bar: Unlike many of the gourmet chocolates that use dark, dark chocolate, this one is made of lighter, sweeter milk chocolate, mixed with chopped, salted nuts and just enough jalapeno to let you know it’s there.
Sahale Snacks: Are these a salty snack? Are they candy? They’re kind of both. Sahale mixes glazed nuts, dried fruits, and spices into a great snack, sweet and savory in every bite. My current favorite is their Sing Buri – a totally addicting Thai-inspired mix of soy-glazed cashews, dried pineapple, peanuts, and sesame seeds, flavored with lemongrass and chile.