Why is chocolate and salt a match made in heaven?
Feeling the love this Valentine’s Day? We’ve been hanging around with Cupid recently, and wanted to share with you all the love story behind adding salt to chocolate and why this combination works so well together.
We then shine the light on our good friends’ Bare Bones Chocolate, looking into their own thoughts as to why they add Maldon Salt to their chocolate bars, including their delicious Dominican 68% Salted Chocolate. We also had the chance to sit down with Lara, who is one of the co-founders of Bare Bones Chocolate, where we got to understand their own thoughts behind sprinkling salt into chocolate and learning their ethos as a micro-batch, bean to bar company.
With our mouths watering for more, we end things on all things dessert, showcasing our favourite, easy-to-follow recipes which are perfect to make for your loved ones on Valentine’s Day.
A very similar history!
Did you know salt and chocolate share a very similar history, dating back thousands of years! Salt was an element that was very difficult to obtain back in the Roman era, which is why it was considered as a form of currency due to the high-value item status it obtained. This is why the word ‘salary‘ comes from, the Latin word ‘salarium‘ which directly translate to ‘salt money‘, due to to powerful, monetary value it possessed from being so difficult to come by.
Similarly, chocolate, or cacao beans, also acquired the same value with the Mesoamerican population. (The southern part of North America which extends to most of Central America, containing the countries of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica). Cacao beans held such a high value that many of the employed population received this as a form of ready cash! Around 1000 B.C the Mayan population used cacao beans as currency, where goods would be priced in units of cacao.
From thousands of years ago to the present day, salt and chocolate are still being combined together, which leads us nicely into the science behind pairing the two elements together – and why it works so well!
It’s a scientific attraction…
Did you know that salt enhances the sweetness of a food and counteracts the bitterness? Researchers at Gizmodo explain how there is a sensor found in the human intestines known as SGLT1, where this specific sensor acts as a transporter with glucose moving into the ‘sweet taste cell’ when sodium is present, triggering the cell to register sweetness. Therefore, when you are adding a pinch of salt to your chocolate, not only are you balancing the flavours of the cacao beans, but the salt is literally acting as a detector, locating the sweeter notes of the chocolate and enhancing them to form a delicious tasting sweet treat!
Additionally, salt is a direct contrast to the sweet, sugary elements in chocolate. Thus, when the sodium ions of salt are first received on the receptors of our tongues, we are being prevented from tasting the harsh bitterness of the cacao beans, opening up to a pallet of more sweet tasting flavours – also known as cross-modal perception.
The benefits of adding sea salt to chocolate
The main benefit in adding sea salt to chocolate is that you are gaining a purer flavour profile. Table salt is mostly iodized and processed to prevent gauter, which results in an artificially-tasting salt. In contrast, Maldon Salt is completely natural in it’s processes of being hand-harvested. This results in a salt which contains traces of minerals to give a more natural, fresh tasting flavour when added to chocolate.
Furthermore, adding sea salt to chocolate also enhances the texture. Maldon’s unique pyramid-shaped flakes allow the texture to become slightly crunchy, transforming your standard, flat chocolate bar to a treat to now having added layers of both complex flavours and texture.
Lastly, you only require a small amount of sea salt in comparison to using an excessive amount of table salt to chocolate. This is because the sea salt crystals tend to be larger in size, diffusing more slowly into the chocolate and making the flavour last longer. As a result you are lowering excessive sodium intake with substituting your standard table salt with Maldon Salt, where a pinch can make a whole difference to chocolate!
Now that we understand the benefits of combining sea salt with chocolate, we’re going to head over to our good friend’s Bare Bones Chocolate who use Maldon Salt within some of their delicious chocolate bars…
Bare Bones Chocolate and Maldon Salt
Bare Bones Chocolate is a micro-batch, bean to bar chocolate company situated in the bustling city of Glasgow, Scotland. The co-founders are Lara & Cameron, who are well and truly experts when it comes to all things chocolate, quality and sustainability.
With a remarkable ethos of chocolate needing to be pure, delicious and ethical, Bare Bones Chocolate is a company which honours their cacao farmers and cherishes their process from start to finish…resulting in glorious tasting chocolate from the quality and nurture of the cacao beans.
Being pioneers for both quality and flavour, Bare Bones Chocolate have created a bundle of delectable chocolate bars and hot chocolate to choose from, including their Dominican 68% Salted Chocolate Bar. Maldon Salt is added to the dark chocolate which is grounded smooth for 24 hours to elevate the natural sweetness of the cacao beans. Not only this, but the salt is also used to give that flavour combination we all know and love, sweet-and-salty! Mixed to perfection, the chocolate bar contains flavour notes of salted caramel and roasted hazelnuts to give a gentle warmth.
In conversation with Bare Bones Chocolate…
We caught up with Lara and Cameron and took a look into the story of how they were able to transform the humble cacao bean to their brand Bare Bones.
Here’s their thoughts on why they add salt to their chocolate bars.
Happy Valentine’s Day Bare Bones Chocolate! We wanted to know what inspired you to create your own bean to bar chocolate company?
Myself and Cam have always loved specialty foods, coffee and handcrafted goods. We were so inspired by small food businesses in London when I lived there and always dreamt of having our own business one day where we made something we were really proud of. We fell in love with bean to bar chocolate and obsessively began researching and making our own chocolate at home. We were hooked! Cam is an engineer which is perfect for chocolate making – it’s all process, engineering and fixing broken machines! Our skill sets compliment each other so well, which I think makes us a great wee team.
Can you share with us the story of how you transform cacao beans into chocolate bars?
Making chocolate from scratch is a magical (but extremely scientific) process. We source cacao from Central America and Madagascar from small co-operatives of farmers. Just like wine, cacao tastes different from different origins depending on the beans genetics, the terroir and how it has been fermented and processed. As a chocolate maker, it’s our job to highlight the incredible work the farmer has already done and retain as much of those unique, natural flavours as possible. Amazing chocolate starts with amazing farmers!
Once the beans arrive at our workshop, we sort them for defects or any cracks that might affect the roasting process and the flavour. We roast the beans in a modified coffee roaster (other chocolate makers roast in ovens) which gives us an incomparable level of control and precision to bring out the best of each bean!
The shells are removed from the beans through a process called winnowing, leaving us with the cacao nib which is what we use to make chocolate. The nibs are crushed by a melanger, which is like a giant mortar & pestle, to squeeze out the natural cocoa butter from the nibs and to make the chocolate fluid and smooth. At this stage we are also removing acidity (as chocolate is a fruit and can be very acidic!) through the introduction of air and the friction of the machine’s wheels. We add raw unrefined cane sugar, which tastes SO good as it has the natural molasses intact, and stone-grind it with the nibs.
Once it’s smooth and tasting incredible, we age the chocolate to mellow/or intensify the flavour (depending on what suits the origin). After ageing, we temper the chocolate into bars and blocks to shave for hot chocolate. Tempering aligns the crystal structure of the chocolate creating a crisp snap and glossy finish.
We hand-wrap all of our bars in compostable paper and package in beautiful colourful boxes made from recycled paper coffee cups! Each stage is so handcrafted… without ageing, it takes a week to make a bar of chocolate!
In your own opinion, why do you think chocolate and salt are often paired together?
Salt brings out the natural sweetness of the cacao. For our 68% Dominican Salted chocolate, we stone-grind Maldon through the batch for 72 hours. The salt transforms the cacao’s flavour profile, highlighting tones of salted caramel and hazelnut. It wouldn’t be the same without Maldon!
It’s no secret that we are BIG fans of your chocolate bars! Can you tell us why you use Maldon salt flakes within a few of your bars?
Maldon is the only salt for us! Growing up my Mum and I loved watching Nigella’s cooking shows. Proudly sitting on Nigella’s countertop with its foiled lettering was a Maldon Salt box. We paused the TV, eager to see what the brand was and found it in a local deli! So we have Nigella to thank for our great love of Maldon.
There are so many delicious chocolates that you have created! Come on, you must have a favourite flavour?
My favourite has to be the salted chocolate! It’s so moreish as it is the perfect balance of sweet and salty. It works incredibly well as a hot chocolate too, as the caramel tones really shine through the milk. I couldn’t live without it!
We see that sustainability and origins of your ingredients plays a big part in your company. Are you able to share some more light into this?
Sustainability is so important to us – from the farmers and beans that we work with, to the packaging we use, the resources in the factory and our lifestyle too! We believe it is a businesses responsibility to make sure they are creating as little waste as possible and be conscious of the products they are making and their impact to the planet.
Being a single origin chocolate maker means we are highlighting the beauty and differences of each origin. We work with small co-operatives of organic farms who are nourishing the land and its natural eco-system instead of depleting it.
Name 3 things you can’t live without in the kitchen.
- Soy sauce
- A really good non-stick pan. (And of course, Maldon).
Hungry for some chocolate?! Head over to Bare Bones Chocolate’s online store to purchase your very own sweet treat now!
Recipes to make for Valentine’s Day
Do you need some inspiration in what sweet treats to bake for your loved ones this Valentine’s Day? We’ve got you covered! We’ve shared three sweet-based recipes in which marriage the harmonious pairing of chocolate and Maldon Salt to impress your friends and family.
Dark Chocolate Torte with Maldon Salt
Talk about a show-stopping dessert! This recipe is made with a dark chocolate short pastry, filled with a creamy, rich ganache. Maldon Salt is added on the top of the torte to reduce the bitter notes of the rich, dark chocolate and illuminate the sweeter accents.
Remember to add a pinch of Maldon to the pastry as well – it not only adds a subtle flavour element, but salt actually helps in strengthening the dough, creating a stable pastry crust for the creamy ganache to be poured into.
This decadent recipe is filled with a bundle of delicious, chocolate flavours; including dark, milk and white! Make sure to sprinkle a generous pinch of Maldon Salt on the batter before baking to elevate the sweetness of the chocolate and counteract the bitterness from the cocoa powder.
Chocolate & Amaretto Truffles
This truffle recipe is so easy to make and packs a punch full of flavour! Dark chocolate is paired with amaretto to give a warming, nutty flavour to the truffle balls. A generous sprinkling of Maldon Salt is definitely required for this recipe to bring out the sweetness from the dark chocolate, whilst also adding a gentle crunch from the pyramid-shaped flakes to give texture…delicious!
Happily Ever After…
To conclude, within this article we were able to share the historic love story between chocolate and salt, dating back to 1000 BC! We found out that science backs up this flavour combination through the use of sensors and the benefits that Maldon Salt brings when added. We had the delightful chance in catching up with Bare Bones Chocolate, who were kind enough to share their own thoughts on the sweet-and-salty pairing and how they use Maldon Salt within some of their chocolate bars! Ending things on a ‘sweet’ note, we hoped you enjoyed some of our favourite recipes to make for your loved ones this Valentine’s Day…