Sea salt is the natural enhancer of all flavours, both savoury and sweet. Discover how it pairs beautifully with chocolate
No kitchen cupboard is complete without a stash of sea salt. This natural ingredient is incredibly versatile, finding its place in cured meats, preserved fish, curries, stews, chips and, well, pretty much everything else we cook. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s confined to the realm of savoury-only. In fact, salt is increasingly being used to flavour sweet dishes. You’re probably familiar with salted caramel, but have you ever tried sea salt chocolate? If the answer is no then we have to admit, you’re missing out. But don’t worry, there’s always time to try this delectable flavour combination. And, in case you needed any more persuading, we’re here to tell you just why.
Why do we add sea salt to chocolate?
It’s the ultimate flavour enhancer
Have you ever noticed that your favourite cake and baked goods recipes call for a pinch of salt? Well, that’s because a small amount of salt helps enhance sweeter flavours. Of course, it’s a delicate balance! Too much salt and that’s all you’ll taste, so maybe hold off from loading tablespoons into your Victorian sponge batter.
It adds texture
Different shaped and sized salt crystals can achieve different textures. A salted fudge might require fine sea salt to ensure a smooth, velvety finish. Fine salt is useful when you only want to add a subtle salty tang or bring out the natural sweetness found in the other paired ingredients.
But not all salted-sweet foods rely on fine salt. Salt crystals are increasingly being used to add a satisfying pop of flavour. Not only does it add flavour: it also adds crunch. If the salt crystals are just the right size, they can add a delightful contrast against the smooth caramel or chocolate you’re biting into. Perhaps it’s sprinkled on top of your goodies, or maybe it’s folded into the mixture, secretly hiding in wait for you to have a bite. Either way, it’s a welcome surprise.
How much salt does sea salt chocolate contain?
Sea salt is mainly composed of sodium chloride, a compound our body needs to regulate both fluid balance and blood pressure within the body. Typically, sea salt granules are larger than table salt granules. This means that a teaspoon of regular table salt will provide you with 2,300 mg of sodium, whilst sea salt offers up 2,000 mg of sodium in each teaspoon.
The reasons for this are fairly simple. Because table salt is finer than sea salt, more of it can be packed onto a spoon. As previously mentioned, recipes usually require a very small amount of salt to get the perfect flavour balance — and that includes sea salt chocolate recipes as well as cakes.
Does it have to be sea salt?
Sea salt tends to be a popular choice in cooking and baking as it’s seen as the more natural alternative to table salt. We extract sea salt by evaporating it from (unsurprisingly) the sea, meaning its main component is sodium chloride. Because sea salt requires minimal processing it retains a small number of minerals, including potassium, iron and calcium. Table salt, on the other hand, is heavily ground and loses most of its nutrients.
Our Salted Dark Chocolate 70% Slab uses a very particular kind of sea salt for the ultimate dash of luxury. We selected grey sea salt from the salt marshes of Guérande on the French Atlantic coast. This area is known for its thousand-year-old salt production techniques which produce salt with high levels of minerals. In our opinion, this really gives our sea salt dark chocolate the edge. But why not try it for yourself and see what we mean?
Sea salt is a classic way to add an extra touch to high-cocoa chocolate, but do other salts work as well?
Himalayan rock salt (pink salt)
Known for its rosy hues, pink salt is found in the Punjab region of Pakistan. Pink salt gets its delightful shade from traces of iron oxide, although its main component is that of sodium chloride, the same chemical found in sea salt. This kind of salt also complements chocolate beautifully, intensifying cocoa notes in a similar way to sea salt.
This salt has large crystals, similar to that of sea salt. However, its texture is more coarse, and it’s commonly used to salt meat, making the meat kosher. While it could be an alternative seasoning in sea salt chocolate, the flakes might actually be a little too large, creating pockets of intense saltiness rather than a cohesive blend of flavours and textures.
Which chocolate works best with sea salt?
Sea salt doesn’t just bring out the sweetness in chocolate. High cocoa chocolates, such as 40% milk or 70% dark, have a certain depth to them from the cocoa. Adding in sea salt intensifies this depth, bringing out additional notes found in the cocoa bean. If you’re opting for an even higher cocoa percentage, then sea salt can help offset the natural bitterness of cocoa, bringing out the more fruity tastes of cocoa.
White chocolate, on the other hand, is known for its creamy texture and delicate vanilla notes. At Hotel Chocolat, we pride ourselves on more cocoa, less sugar, and ensure all our white chocolate contains at least 36% cocoa butter for a luxurious, melt-in-the-mouth experience. Sea salt may overpower those gentle flavour nuances and distract from its natural gorgeousness. We rather like our white chocolate in its purest form, such as in our velvety Simple White Chocolate Truffles. However, if you want to try a bit of white chocolate beside a nibble of salty goodness, then you can always explore The Brownie collection. A treasure trove of brownies, reimagined by the chocolatier and crafted in milk, dark, white and salted caramel chocolate.
What about salted caramel chocolate?
And speaking of salted caramel chocolate… Salted caramel is an indulgent, decadent flavour combination. Paired with chocolate, it takes on a whole new shape. The contrast of tang and sweetness in salted caramel works beautifully with high-cocoa chocolate. If you find chocolate caramels slightly too sweet then we suggest you try the salted version before rushing to any judgements.
We think salted caramel chocolate is such a delight that we’ve dedicated a whole category to it! Whether you’re new to this opulent combo or you’re a salted caramel connoisseur, we’re confident you’ll find a delectable new favourite in our collection. Where will you start?