Nowadays no self-respecting chocolatier can consider themselves worth their salt if they’re not slipping some of that very substance into one of their cocoa creations. The salted caramel as a confection might have come to Britain from Brittany, but it’s become a big a part of our country’s chocolate culture; used as a basic benchmark test of talent.
As many major manufacturers who’ve hopped on the bandwagon should note, table salt will not suffice – too harsh, too immediate, altogether unpleasant. Paul A Young’s are proppa – to the extent that, upon eating, one’s brain actually can’t compute something so good is currently residing (and melting rapidly) in ones mouth.
Salt is not salt. Just like chocolate, coffee, or wine, the terroir and processing can vastly affect the characteristics of the end product. Hence ingredients and equipment emporium Divertimenti seeing fit to host the launch of US company Saltworks’ 60-strong range of artisan salts with a thoroughly diverting event where even seasoned salt-lovers found something piquant to pique interest – along with finding out about Fran’s salted caramels; an American offering with the presidential stamp of approval.
Back on this side of the pond, Marc Demarquette relishes regional salts. In the chocolatier’s Christmas line for Selfridges, you’ll see a trio showcasing three of the finest from our tiny isle. From Cornwall comes the cream tea-inspired, salt-spiked clotted cream caramel; vanilla and Halen Môn makes for a Welsh wonder; and a bonnie specimen from Scotland blends heather honey with Hebridean salt.
And, this month, yet more salty wisdom from top chocolatiers will be made material in the medium of their entries for the inaugural Great British Salted Chocolate Challenge. The gauntlet was thrown down to all those that champion the cause of combining chocolate and salt however they see fit; and later this week, chocolatiers including Paul Wayne Gregory, Aneesh Popat, and Fiona Sciolti will head to London to feed a greedy judging panel their creations.
Prizewise, the notion of a New York trip might be motivating – but so is the idea of seeing one’s salted chocolate sat on the shelves of a top London foodhall in time for Christmas. Ahead of the final, each entrant is working with ten specialist salts – artisan, smoked and fusion – and, no doubt, vast volumes of chocolate, big dollops of creativity, and some tightly-tuned skills.
The judges, meanwhile, will be fine-tuning their tastebuds and getting ready for an evening involving A Lot Of Choc. As jobs go, it doesn’t sound a particularly taxing task. Amongst the panel’s number is seasoned salted chocolate creator Paul A Young; seasoned chocolate consumer Andrew Baker – The Telegraph’s in-house cocoa fiend; and seasoned food writer Glynn Christian,whose recipe archive includes a dish that sauces salt water-dwelling fish with chocolate.
Whether or not fish is on the agenda, and whatever the outcome, the Great British Salted Chocolate Challenge will not just result in some top treats to eat. The event is annexed to the educative campaign ‘#BritainGetsSalted’, whose aim is to show salt should not be shaken off the menu; it’s merely a matter of choosing wisely, consuming consciously, and sprinkling judiciously.
Like topping a truffle with a few fine flakes, perhaps…
- For more information on the Great British Salted Chocolate Challenge, click here
- For more on what makes Paul A Young’s salted caramels so scrumptious, click here
- For more on Marc Demarquette’s use of regional British salts in his Christmas caramels, click here
- For more on Fran’s Caramels (the Obama’s favourite treats!), click here