They do exist. Those people who claim, “I’m not really a dessert eater. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.” I just don’t happen to be a member of their tribe. I do have a sweet tooth! However, I also happen to have a salty tooth. Wait; is there such a thing? I do know that I love the combination of salt and sweet. I think I first discovered this as a young child, when my mom would put out snacks when we were having company.
There would be bowls of jube jubes, chocolate covered almonds, salted cashews and potato chips. I would eat a few jube jubes and then follow them with a few salted cashews. Of course that was the gateway to the huge glass cookie jar filled with red licorice and then some salty potato chips to chase the sugar with. When I got older, I discovered Milk Duds at the movie theatre. A few handfuls of popcorn, followed by the sweet chocolate caramel flavour of Milk Duds is an incredible flavour combo. Then my daughter introduced me to McDonald’s French fries dipped into a chocolate milkshake. Hey, don’t judge until you’ve tried it!
All this to say that when I serve those from the “Non Sweet Tooth” Tribe, one of my salty-sweet treats, I get an entirely different reaction. There is something about the addition of salt that makes sweet taste so much better. Suddenly, they’ve grown a sweet tooth.
But, have you ever wondered why salt and sweet taste so good together? Justine Sterling, contributor to the food blog delish.com, explained it so eloquently,
“We all know that taste buds allow us to taste (it’s in the name, after all). But what you may not know is that each taste bud contains 50 to 100 taste cells, which are actually what do the tasting. Each of these cells responds to a different flavor: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, or umami. We perceive taste (let’s use sweet as an example) when sugar and a sweet receptor protein interact, causing the sweet cell to become excited and send a signal to the brain, which then registers the flavor as sweet. This is a process that scientists have known for a long time.
But recently the process has been further complicated by what researchers have found out about certain sweetness receptors. A study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that certain sugar receptors that were thought only to exist in the stomach, were spotted on sweet taste cells on the tongue. Researchers, led by Dr. Robert Margolskee, of the Monell Chemical Sense Center, found the SGLT1 receptor — which transports sugars into cells only when sodium is present — on sweet taste cells on the tongues of mice. This could explain why sweetness is accentuated by salt — the receptors are activated when salt accompanies sugar.”
O.K. science lesson is over. On the fourth day of holiday baking I bring to you a yummy salty and sweet treat guaranteed to convert those from the “No sweet tooth” tribe over to the dark, oops,I mean, sweet side!
Chocolate Covered Pretzel Toffee, comes from Lucy Baker, contributor to www.seriouseats.com. Essentially you make a sort of peanut brittle, but with crushed pretzels instead of peanuts. Then the whole slab is covered in dark chocolate and finished off with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt.
I have altered her recipe slightly. She originally called for topping the hot toffee base with chocolate chips, letting them melt and then spreading them out. I find that chocolate chips don’t melt quite as nicely as bar chocolate. Chocolate chips are actually formulated to hold their shape and are a bit too sweet for this, so I would recommend buying bittersweet chocolate (at least 64%) and chopping it up quite fine. I used Cocoa Barry 64%. I buy it in bulk (20 kilograms at a time, and I get a great price of $15.79 per kilo. (The chocolate will keep for 2 years in a cool dry place.)
This is quite quick and easy to put together, provided you have the right equipment. Invest in a candy thermometer if you plan to do any sugar or caramel work. This is a great one as it has a foot at the bottom of the thermometer which prevents the bulb from touching the bottom of the pot, and giving you a false reading.
Butter, sugar, corn syrup, salt and water are cooked to 300° F.
Baking soda, vanilla extract and crushed pretzels are mixed in.
Spread out on parchment lined baking sheet and top with good quality finely chopped chocolate (NOT CHOCOLATE CHIPS!). I used Cocoa Barry 64%. I buy it in bulk (20 kilograms at a time, and I get a great price of $15.79 per kilo. (The chocolate will keep for 2 years in a cool dry place.) Wait 3 minutes, spread chocolate and top with a light sprinkling of sea salt. Chill and break into pieces.