It was the weekend. My mom and I were out at the mall, spending money here and there on things we didn’t necessarily need. We were tired from walking from shop to shop and carrying our shopping bags, and we were hungry. On the way home, we stopped at our then-favorite fast food restaurant, where we ordered our usual. Cheeseburgers, fries, and a Frosty – I’m sure our arteries were screaming in horror each time we stopped at this place!
Our conversations covered many topics as we calmed our hungry bellies, but there was always one topic that came up every time – my mom’s lifelong habit of dipping her French fries into her Frosty/milkshake/ice cream and then eating them. I found it appalling, yet somewhere deep inside, secretly, I knew exactly what she meant. I liked to drink a big swig of my milkshake after eating a handful of fries. But never, never, would I ever blatantly dip a French fry into my milkshake like that. The very act was offensive, to say the least.
Back then, I had no appreciation of food. I knew what I liked and I ate it. I knew that my mom was dipping fried potatoes into chocolate ice cream and I did not like that at all. Now, however, I understand that my mom liked the combination of salty and sweet. It wasn’t just a potato being dipped in ice cream – it was the saltiness and the sweetness that she liked.
These days (and perhaps its been happing for years?) people are dipping their pretzels and bacon in melted chocolate, and adding salt to caramels and chocolates. Perhaps they like the sweet and salty taste, or perhaps they understand that the salt can help enhance the flavors of the chocolate, or perhaps they just like trying something a bit out of the ordinary. It certainly is a confusing treat for the senses when you eat a salty dessert – it looks sweet, it smells sweet, it tastes sweet, but yet it’s got a saltiness to it that your senses would normally expect to find in a savory dish, rather than a sweet one. How interesting!
I’ve been wanting to create something chocolatey and salty so that I could experience this myself. I was inspired by Lindt’s A Touch Of Sea Salt chocolate bar, which I found on special at the grocery store and impulsively snatched up a handful of. This chocolate bar is the best I have ever tasted. Lindt describes it, “The complexity of dark chocolate is enhanced by the addition of Fleur de Sel”. I ate one whole bar over the course of a week, savoring each square that I broke off. Eventually I decided that I wanted to use it in a ganache.
And this was born. Delicious, crumbly, buttery chocolate shortbread made with Green & Black’s Dutch cocoa and iced with Lindt’s fleur de sel chocolate ganache. Topped with a tiny sprinkle of pink sea salt flakes. A delicious, luxurious not-too-sweet treat geared toward a more sophisticated palette. Or so I described it on Flickr!
It is truly amazing, if I do say so myself. The addition of the pink sea salt on top of the ganache lent a subtle crunch and delicate saltiness – you could definitely leave off the salt sprinkles if you’d like to make this yourself. In fact, if you’re still too frightened of the sweet and salty combination, feel free to use regular chocolate in the ganache recipe. I’m sure it’ll taste just as nice, but I feel that the addition of the salt adds an extra dimension to the flavor of the chocolate and I highly recommend trying it. At least once.
Adapted from Valli Little
Makes 12 slices
300g unsalted butter
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
2 1/2 cups (375g) plain flour
5 tablespoons good-quality cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Icing sugar, to dust
Grease and line base and sides of a 18cm x 28cm lamington pan. Beat butter and sugar in a bowl with electric beaters until pale. Sift in flour, cocoa and soda and beat slowly until just combined. Spread in pan and smooth with a spatula. Prick all over with a fork. Chill for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Cook shortbread for 25 minutes or until firm to touch. Cool completely.
Salted Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from myself
Makes enough to frost the chocolate shortbread in the recommended size pan, as above
2 100g Lindt A Touch Of Sea Salt chocolate bars, finely chopped
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small cubes
sea salt flakes
Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until just under a simmer (do not boil), then pour the cream over the chopped chocolate. Sit for 1 minute, then stir until smooth. Add butter and stir until combined. Place bowl in refrigerator for approximately 20-30 minutes to firm up, stirring every 5-10 minutes. The ganache will need to be at just a spreadable consistency. Test it by running the back of a spoon across the top of the ganache – when the lines from the spoon remain indented in the ganache, it is ready. Use an offset spatula to smooth the ganache on top of the cooled shortbread. Let it set for about 30 minutes, or until the ganache is firm to touch. Cut the shortbread into 12 squares, wiping the knife clean after each cut to keep crumbs out of the ganache. Just before serving, sprinkle the ganache lightly with sea salt flakes.