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Elizabeth LaBau

Sea Salt Caramels

By March 22, 2011

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The words "sea salt" are thrown about so much these days, they've just about lost all meaning. On every restaurant menu it's "sea salt flecked" this and "sea salt crusted" that. It's ubiquitous. It's annoying. So what, pray tell, is the big deal with sea salt?

In cooking, there are two basic kinds of salt: sea salt and table salt. Sea salt, as its name suggests, comes from the sea--but inside of that vague definition, there's a huge range of salt types. Some sea salt is moist, some is dry. Some is fine-grained, some is comprised of huge, hard crystals, while some salt has delicate flakes. Some sea salt is gray, from trace elements of clay left by the sea, some is pink, some is even black from added charcoal! Table salt, on the other hand, is usually obtained from salt mines, and is processed so that most of the trace minerals are removed, and iodine is sometimes added in as a supplement. As a result, many people feel that table salt has more of a harsh, bitter, chemical taste than sea salt, although of course this varies from person to person and from salt to salt.

Now that we have some basic definitions, let's talk Sea Salt Caramels. In this recipe, I recommend you use "fleur de sel," which is a specific type of sea salt, loosely translated as "flower of salt." It's known as a "finishing salt," meaning it's best reserved for sprinkling on finished dishes, as opposed to being used in cooking and food preparation. Fleur de sel has a subtle, complex flavor and a light and delicate flaky texture that almost pops in the mouth. When it's sprinkled atop these chocolate-dipped caramels, it adds a perfect contrast in flavor and texture to the smooth, sweet candies.

If you cannot find fleur de sel, or decide it's a little pricey for your tastes, I recommend substituting Maldon sea salt flakes instead. It's a large-flaked salt with a great flavor and a very reasonable price: $6-8 for a half-pound box! It's not as delicate as fleur de sel, but it's a decent substitute and a good all-purpose flaked salt for the kitchen. Try any of these flaked sea salts sprinkled atop brownies, chocolate chip cookies, or any number of fudges or truffles, and of course...sea salt caramels.

Get the recipe: Sea Salt Caramels.

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Sea Salt Caramels Photo ©2010 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to About.com, Inc.


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