Saturday, 24 November 2012

Once bitten, forever smitten - Sweet Salt

Various  tweets this week  have inspired me to write a piece about the salty sweet combo that the Americans love so much - call it the positive Thanksgiving effect. We are more traditional but celebrity chefs are enjoying a full on love affair with salted caramel so be brave and give it a try. 
 To make the salted sweets combo work you need to make a a salty flavour a featured ingredient rather than a secret. It is virtually impossible to buy a commercially produced pudding that doesn’t have salt added to a sweet recipe and the reson for this is that salt enhances sweetness on the tongue.
Lets start with peanut butter – Nuts have a neutral flavour profile so they combine perfectly with savoury or sweet. The ingredients on a jar of peanut butter are peanuts 95%, sugar, salt so if you add peanut butter to any cake or cookie you immediately have the salty sweet combo. The reason why it works is that a little salt brings out the sweetness and you get two flavour profiles alternating  and blending as you chew and this creates a more interesting taste. 
Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins
Here is a simple recipe for 10 large muffins I call PJ’s You can make and bake them in just over 30 minutes. Just mix the wet ingredients into the dry ones you cannot go wrong.  Go on - put the jam in!
In a bowl beat with a wooden spoon:  1 egg,  150g crunchy peanut butter, stir in 60ml of vegetable oil, then 180ml milk. In another bowl sift together 200g self raising flour,  2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, stir in 130g sugar.
Make a well in dry ingredients and pour in wet ones, quickly mix together. If you want a jam surprise cooked into the muffin one third fill 12 large cake cases, spoon on 1 teaspoon of jam per muffin, (essential to keep the jam neatly in the centre of the muffin) cover with remainder of mixture and bake for 20-25 minutes at 160 fan oven = 180 degrees. 
Covering up the secret surprise -a jelly centre
 They will rise and might crack on top depending on how smoothly you fill the cases, whatever the finish they will smell and taste delicious.  If jam’s not your thing fill after cooking and cooling with chocolate or caramel spread.  

For the more adventurous I give you Chocolate Crisp. First discovered many years ago when small child decided that both chips and chocolate milkshake tasted better if combined. However a bit of research and trial and error in the kitchen means not only can you tantalize your taste buds with a salty sweet pairing but you can have smooth and crunchy too.  In California   sells an amazing chocolate bar that is filled with crisps – yes CRISPS. 
Crushed Sea Salted Crisps
 Here is my recipe for this daringly different salty sweet snack which is perfect with a glass of red.
Gently Melt 100g dark chocolate and 50g white chocolate in a bowl (microwave for 1 minute then stir ). Take your chosen crisps – my favourite are sea salted – and crush up so some are quite small and the rest are the size of cornflakes. Tip crisps into melted chocolate and pour out onto a baking tray lined with non stick baking paper. Smooth out till level with a spatula and leave to set. I prefer to make the chocolate very thin so I can cut it into diamond shaped crispy thins with my pizza cutter and arrange decoratively on a plate.
In most circumstances I don’t like dark chocolate but here a little darkness makes this the perfect nibble with a glass of red wine. 
Chocolate Crisps
 So if you have been inspired make something different this week. If you need a propper celebration cake just check out the Delicakes website or email