A Pinch Of Salt Helps Coax Out The Deepest Flavors In Hot Chocolate

Hot chocolate with salted caramel
Hot chocolate with salted caramel - Nataliya Arzamasova/Shutterstock

Not so many years ago, salt and chocolate seemed mutually exclusive, at least in mainstream cooking. Now, the idea of sweet-and-salty chocolate is not only accepted, it's very much elevated as an artistic culinary technique. The practice reportedly grabbed attention in the late 1990s when a Parisian pastry chef dusted chocolate with flaky, hand-harvested fleur de sel salt. Before long, it spread across the Atlantic to chocolatiers and pastry chefs in major U.S. cities such as San Francisco and New York. It was eventually slipping into everything from ganache to molten chocolate cakes, dark chocolate truffles, and custom salted chocolate tarts. 

Fast forward to the 2020s, and you'd be hard-pressed to find any chocolate lover who hasn't discovered a hint of salty pleasure in the most common candies, desserts, and drinks -- including hot chocolate. Trends come and go, but this one's likely here to stay, for good reason. Even the tiniest twinge of salt in a chocolate-based recipe creates a transformative taste, as it intensifies sweetness, enhances the flavors inherent in the chocolate, and reduces bitterness. Salt also helps release chocolate aromas, which in turn intensify taste perceptions.

But the marriage of salt and chocolate isn't quite as simple as it sounds, especially with hot chocolate. The ratio of salt to chocolate is crucial for coaxing out those deep, multi-faceted, luscious flavors in your cup.

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More Isn't Better With Salt And Chocolate

Cocoa powder, chocolate, and salt
Cocoa powder, chocolate, and salt - Piece of Cake/Shutterstock

A popular old adage notes that "too much of a good thing" can ruin something otherwise wonderful. That definitely applies to the salt-chocolate tango. Anything more than a pinch of salt could devastate a perfect batch of rich hot chocolate. You want it to elevate the chocolate flavor, not overwhelm it or create a salty sensation in your mouth. Moderation is crucial for creating the balance you're seeking.

The type of salt for hot-chocolate pairing comes down to personal preference, as long as you understand its potency and consistency. If you're familiar with specialty salts such as Himalayan pink, fleur de sel, red Hawaiian, or Maldon, then by all means, sprinkle a tiny amount into your hot chocolate. Each brings its own unique personality to the chocolate party. Just remember that less is more in this case, and you can always increase the amount in increments of your liking. Regular table salt works perfectly fine as well, in hot liquids rather than in solid chocolate confections.

Assuming that you're making your hot chocolate rather than using a premade packet, you'll simply add the salt to your mixture of cocoa, milk, sugar, and other preferred ingredients. Incorporate salt into any existing recipe, or follow this Tasting Table recipe for ultimate hot chocolate, which calls for a pinch of salt in the dry ingredients, plus an option to garnish the final creation with a soft wisp of flaky salt.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.