Salt, with its many applications in the culinary world is often associated with savoury foods. Yet this exceptional mineral also works its magic on those foods on the sweeter side. It was the French who discovered the perfect balance of sweet and salty to create the loved salted caramel, but have you ever wondered why this combination of flavour works so well?
Well, it’s all down to science!
An essential mineral, our bodies have evolved to crave sodium (salt), and its presence within foods excites the salt specific taste receptors on the tongue. The tongue itself can detect 5 basic tastes – sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami. These taste receptors were initially thought to work alone, however recent research has shown that they can actually influence each other.
By studying the effect of the combination of tastes on the senses researchers found that in the presence of glucose (sugar), sodium acts to supress the bitter taste receptors, and thus heightening our ability to taste sugar, this is known as ‘bitter blocking’.
It is well-known that salt is a natural flavour enhancer acting to bring out the perfect balance of flavours in food. But it’s ability to supress bitter flavours explains why foods such as dark chocolate which is naturally bitter works so well with sea salt. The salt brings out the sweet notes of the chocolate to create an extra dimension of flavour, often referred to as the layering effect.
While the use of flaky sea salt as a finishing salt rather than a fine salt adds not only an extra layer of flavour but also creates a pleasant texture to contrast against the smoothness of the chocolate.
Because of this perfect pairing, Achill Island Sea Salt have partnered with several chocolate companies in the past few years including Clonakilty Chocolates, Lily O’ Brien’s chocolates, Cocoa Atelier and Cócó Chocolate Company, in Canada to create beautifully tasting chocolates. Brambleberry Jams also use Achill Island Sea Salt for their award winning Salted Caramel sauce which we could drink by the jar!
Next time you have a square of plain chocolate and then add a flake of Achill Island Sea Salt to the chocolate or try sprinkling is over a chocolate chip cookie (our favourite) and let us know the difference- we can bet you won’t be disappointed!
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Lovely blog post, a great detailed look at how salty and sweet work together. I’m totally addicted to the combination.