A Flavorful Marriage We All Love
“Pumpkin Spice Is Dead, Long Live Salted Caramel.” You might have stumbled upon this article from the Washington Post while researching flavor trends for the fall season. While it is arguable that pumpkin spice is over when looking at the many flavor offerings in existence, there is no doubt that salted caramel is, more than ever, EVERYWHERE. The list of sweet-salty offerings seems limitless: sea-salted caramels, salted caramel roasted almonds, salted caramel popcorn, salted caramel cupcakes, salted caramel donuts, salted caramel coffee drinks, salted caramel martinis, salted caramel pumpkin pie … and even salted caramel-scented candles! Declared a hot flavor back in 2008 by numerous food channels and trend reports, the essence of salted caramel continues to seduce our senses. So, what makes this gourmet artisanal ingredient so intriguing?
Caramel versus salted caramel
Caramel candies are made by boiling sugar until it turns a light brown color, then mixing in cream, butter, and vanilla. Once the mix cools down, it becomes flexible and chewy. Salted caramel is made by sprinkling fleur de sel, or any other sea salt on top of the concoction. As the popularity of gourmet sea salts started to increase, its inclusion in caramel treats began to rise as well. The enormous appeal of this sweet and salty combination is simple, seeing as blending two flavors doubles the taste sensation. Moreover, people generally like sweet because it brings pleasure and comfort, while salt is enjoyable (at the right ratio) due to its flavor-enhancing abilities. Furthermore, the mineral is essential to the healthy function of our bodies. Keep in mind, while too much salt can taste terrible, a subtle sprinkle over a sweet base will stimulate the taste buds and create a pleasurable experience.
How caramel started to grow a taste for salt
Salted caramel flavor became a staple in the U.S. first debuting in fine-dining and gourmet stores, and then eventually appearing in popular chain establishments, high-end supermarkets, and finally superstore shelves. But who initially had the idea of adding salt to caramel? According to Debra Ronca, author of the article “Who Invented Caramel?,” it all started in France with an innovative chocolatier. In the 1960s Henri Le Roux attended candy school in Switzerland, later returning to France to open a store in Brittany – a region known for its salted butter. In an attempt to offer something different while using the region’s key ingredient, he came up with a salted butter caramel with crushed nuts. For this culinary creation, Le Roux was awarded Best Sweet in France by the Salon international de la confiserie in Paris in 1980.
Salted caramel was then popularized by French chef Pierre Hermé in the 1990s when he invented a salted caramel macaron. American chefs quickly adopted the concept and began combining sea salt with a variety of sweets, including caramel and chocolate. Nonetheless, 2008 was the year salted caramel catapulted into mainstream culture, going from an elite culinary obsession to the American mass market. During this time, Häagen-Dazs introduced salted caramel ice cream and shortly after Starbucks began selling salted caramel hot chocolate. Today, retail giants such as Walmart carry products including sea salt caramel truffle ice cream, salted caramel nut protein bars, salted caramel sweet and salty pretzel pieces, salted caramel biscotti, salted caramel brownie brittle, and much more.
Why did it become so popular?
Some have attributed the boost of salted caramel’s popularity in North America to U.S. President Barack Obama. Kim Severson explained in the New York Times that the President favorited a truffle coated in dark chocolate and sprinkled with smoked sea salt, thus a supply of the sweet treat was kept on hand during the 2008 presidential campaign. But salted caramel also owes gratitude to dulce de leche, the caramel made from cooked milk that is popular in South America and Mexico. According to the Nielson research company, dulce de leche is what revitalized caramel flavor among consumers, giving precedence to salted caramel and helping to boost its popularity.
Salted caramel all the time, everywhere
The growing popularity of the original salted caramel candy inevitably led to the development of other confections. Because it is made with butter, cream, and lots of sugar, it is also an ideal flavoring for dairy-related products. Frozen desserts manufacturers were first to jump on the trend. Fluid dairy products also fared well with the flavorful ingredient and suppliers started to offer it both in natural and artificial formats, from protein powders and lattes, to cream makers. Non-dairy consumers enjoy the sweet-salty essence through vegan beverages, coffees, and teas.
Salted caramel is generally a delicious complement for specialty food items, making it a great investment for niche business models such as online retailer, Salted Caramel. The Chicago-based store produces its entire line of sweet and savory confections in an industrial kitchen, while its owner plans on opening a brick and mortar location to keep up with demand.
In the foodservice industry, flavor trends are known to come and go, though some showcase staying power and remain popular for years. Sweet and salty is a popular dessert trend dominating the industry, showcasing the perfect balance of two strong flavor profiles with a successful consumer hold, simply because caramel mixed with salt is not only delicious but also satisfying.
Having lent its appeal to countless menu options and specialty products, the allure of salted caramel continues to grow in popularity with no signs of slowing down.
SALTED CARAMEL GELATO
DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Easy
PREP TIME: 15 minutes
2500g (88.2oz) milk
1 bag (38.8oz) PreGel Salted Caramel Super Sprint – 305022
as desired PreGel Mou Topping (Creamy Caramel) – 19906
METHOD OF PREPARATION
- Combine milk and PreGel Salted Caramel Super Sprint – 305022 in a large plastic bucket.
- Mix well for 2-3 minutes using an immersion blender.
- Place in ice cream machine and process according to machine instructions.
- Decorate with PreGel Mou Topping (Creamy Caramel) – 19906.