As a child, I used to wrinkle my nose in disgust when my mother ate saltines with her ice cream. Little did I know, combining salty and sweet flavors would someday be a culinary trend.
Recently, The Food Channel named sweet-salty one of their top 10 dessert trends. And a quick trip through any grocery or convenience store uncovers a whole crop of sweet-salty taste satisfiers including salty granola bars, kettle popcorn, M&M’s with pretzels inside of them, and dark chocolate bars with sea salt. Salted caramel is becoming a standard flavor at ice cream and frozen yogurt shops, and Starbucks offers both salted caramel mocha and hot chocolate.
A 2006 press release from Kellogg’s stated, “Research shows that there are a growing number of people who love the delicious and somewhat contradictory sweet-and-salty taste combination.” Wanting a piece of that sweet and salty dollar, the food giant created Sweet & Salty Granola Bars.
Salt has historically been an important dessert ingredient. The Chinese have been making salted egg custards for more than 4,000 years and the French are believed to have created salted caramel four centuries ago, because salt tempers caramel’s heavy sweetness. Today, most pastry recipes call for a quarter to one half teaspoon of salt to round out flavors.
If you are intrigued by the sweet/salty taste sensation, you don’t have to purchase prepackaged snacks. Try a few of these ideas at home:
– Next time you make trail mix or Chex Mix, throw in some chocolate bits or M&Ms.
– Sweet & salty can be healthy too. Try peanut butter on apple slices, eating salted peanuts between bites of apple, or mixing a few raisins with your popcorn.
– Sprinkle salt on your watermelon.
– Drizzle caramel and sprinkle coarse salt on your next batch of Rice Krispies Treats.
– For a sweet-salty party appetizer, wrap a half slice of bacon around a date and an almond and bake at 400º F. for 20 minutes, or until the bacon is cooked.
– Place caramels or chocolate-covered caramel candies (like Rolo) on top of small pretzel twists and bake at 350º F. for 5 minutes. Then push a pecan half onto the top of the soft candy for a homemade salty/sweet treat. These can also be made in the microwave.
– When roasting pumpkin seeds, add a little sugar and cinnamon as well as salt.
– When baking brownies or chocolate cookies, substitute coarse salt for regular salt to get little bursts of salty flavor with each sweet chocolaty bite. Or sprinkle the tops of cookies with coarse salt before baking.
– Eat saltines with your ice cream!