Taking a break from this week’s theme that everything in life is better with a Himalayan salt plate underneath it (still testing the millions of more strange permutations of food with variously shaped pink salt bricks), we recently conducted a salted caramel class with our good friend David Briggs of Xocolatl de David. Dave demonstrated the finer points of making caramel, I talked about our gourmet salt “starter set,” which includes briny fine Fleur de Sel de Camargue, minerally moistly coarse Sel Gris de l’Ile de Noirmoutier, sharp flaky Maldon sea salt, bold but subtle flaky Black Diamond Pyramid, clean granular Molokai Red sea salt, and lustrous rich pastry-flaky Halen Mon Gold oak smoked sea salt.
Something interesting came up in the class. After the presentation of the six exotic, fun-sounding salts, many people gravitated toward the Halen Mon Gold. And why shouldn’t they? Rich, warm, oaky nose. Crackly texture. Pungent smoky saltiness. That combined with caramel? Sounds like a no brainer; and indeed, there was much ooing and aahhhing over that particular salted caramel combination. I had suggested the stalwart and steady fleur de sel as caramel’s ultimate companion, if only to provide a stodgy voice of reason to The Meadow’s boisterous crowd of over 30 people.
However, several others of an adventurous ilk tried salting the caramel with Turkish Black Pyramid, a Mediterranean sea salt blended with activated charcoal to give it a bold, beautiful appearance and imparting a delicate earthiness to its bold, solidly structured pyramidal crystals. And… Drumroll please…
The Turkish Black Pyramid finishing salt was a hit! As a matter of fact, the appreciative rumblings spread, and everyone was trying it. When David Briggs asked the group as a whole which salt they would like to stir into the caramel sauce he had been mixing up while the rest of us were experimenting with cubes of more solid caramel, Turkish was the crowd’s suggestion.
Mixed into the cooling caramel sauce, Turkish Black Pyramid sea salt was even better. I am at a loss to explain why. It is sharp, but partially masked with the pure but earthy-tasting charcoal. It is massive and bulky and crunchy, and it only partially dissolved in the salted caramel sauce, sticking around just enough to give the finished sauce a rare, delicate, crunchy saltiness. Perhaps it is the crisp boldness of the salt crystals picking up the cream in Briggs’ salted caramel recipe. The alchemy of such things is beyond comprehension. There is nothing more fun than refuting your own expectations and discovering something new.