Everybody’s Doing It.
I don’t know what you were thinking from the title of this post, but I’m talking about caramel and salt. Chocolate with caramel and salt, that is. If ever there were a trend to take off unanimously, this would be on top of that list. With macarons and designer cupcakes just below.
As you all know, I have my chocolate radar on 24/7, always on the lookout for new chocolate bars, whether in my local Coop or around the world.
I have always loved the combination of dark chocolate and salt, and have had the habit of sprinkling a touch of fleur de sel on the former for years. The trend is not new, and chocolate makers have been adding salt to their bars for quite some time now. You can be sure that any dark chocolate bar made with sea salt will find its way into my repertoire. And so, that was the case with Vosges’ Haut Chocolat “exotic candy bars” (US), Theo Bread & Chocolate (US), de Bondt‘s Cioccolato Fior di Dale (Italy) and Goldhelm‘s Chocolate Extra-Fino 70% Flor de Sal de Ibiza (Germany). More recently, I discovered ChocoLate Organiko‘s Chocolate Negro Bio 70% Cacao con Flor de Sal de Ibiza (Spain), Leysieffer‘s Halbherbe Schokolade mit Meersalz (Germany) and Pierre Hermé’s Mélissa Chocolat au Lait à la Fleur de Sel (France). Along the same lines, local Swiss favorites are Nobile 71% Nusskrokant Maldon Salz, Beschle Grand Cru Trinitario 65% Fleur de Sel et Pistaches and most of all, my favorite of the bunch, Lindt Noir Fleur de Sel (there are always at least 2 of these in my chocolate drawer), which I discovered upon moving to Zürich in 2008. If ever there were a sign that I made the right decision to move to Switzerland, that was it !
I used to sprinkle salt on my caramels too, until I got my hands on Fran’s Chocolates when living in New York City, divine buttery caramels dipped in dark chocolate sprinkled with gray sea salt. Chocolate, caramel and salt. There are few combinations more heavenly. And few chocolates that reach perfection like Franck Kestener‘s Atlantique (sablé croquant et caramel tendre à la fleur de sel) and Bernachon’s Kalouga (chocolat noir au caramel au beurre salé).
The big chocolate brands have once again jumped on the bandwagon and presented their own bars featuring this winning trio – chocolate, caramel and salt. So the natural thing for me to do…was taste each and every one.
And here they are… the latest chocolate bars to hit the shelves here in Switzerland: two new dark and two new milk, featuring chocolate, caramel and salt.
Lindt‘s new bar, Noir Caramel & Fleur de Sel, caught my eye because it looked anything but Lindt. Completely new packaging, even a new look to the chocolate itself – a departure from the classic squares you saw up top. I really liked the “window” that allows you to see the actual bar through the front of the wrapper, and I loved the new look of the chocolate. It’s thin, smooth and has these great waves to it, as you can see below left, that make for a silky mouth-feel. Turn the bar over and it is covered with tiny caramel pieces. I tend to like my dark chocolate sweet, and wow did I enjoy this. The salt just enhances all the flavors. Verdict: addictive.
I had the same reaction when in France last year, when noticing completely new and modern packaging from Nestlé: an envelope-like opening, not to mention an undulating surface to the chocolate itself. I was ready to grab a bar or two for just those reasons. But when I saw Noir Éclat Caramel Pointe de Sel, my feet nearly left the ground. What’s not to love? Rich dark chocolate (cacao from Ecuador and West Africa), perfect snap, added texture to the chocolate, crisp bits of intense and sweet hard caramel with just enough salt. Warning: these little squares disappear fast.
No coincidence that Cailler has the same packaging and updated shape to its chocolate, considering the source is the Cailler-Nestlé Factory in Broc-Gruyère. Even though it’s milk, I was still curious to taste Cailler’s Lait & Caramel Pointe de Sel. On the back of the packaging, it says, “Did you know that a chocolate’s shape influences its taste?” What do you think? Do you agree? Inside the flap, it says, “Cailler has reinvented the chocolate square. It is now a softened shape that reveals all the unctuousness of an extra-fine Swiss milk chocolate.” I have to say, I do like the new shape and the packaging, but I’m sticking with dark chocolate.
The other new milk chocolate under the Nestlé name is Lait Caramel Beurre Demi-Sel. Unfortunately I have to say that my number two tester and I were disappointed with this bar. The texture seemed off; the caramel was not hard enough that it cracked, nor soft enough to be chewy. My tester’s reaction was that the chocolate itself tasted too much of milk directly from the Swiss cows! Indeed, there was a very high percentage of milk (even lighter than Nestlé’s other milk bar featured below), and it was almost a turn-off. Sorry.
These brands also recently introduced bars with flavor profiles other than our sweet trio above. Lindt Noir Caramel Intense et Feuilleté d’Amandes in its classic black and white packaging, is dark chocolate with pieces of caramel (no salt) and almond slivers (exactly as in Orange Intense), the interior richly striated as in the image below right. Sugar is the first ingredient in this bar though, and I do think that’s apparent. With the newer design as above, Lindt also just released Lait Orange & Pistaches, milk chocolate sprinkled with crushed caramelized pistachios and almonds, as well as little bits of orange crisps. Again, I’m not a huge fan of the milk chocolate here, but the play on textures and flavors was quite nice.
And last but not least, Nestlé added a new Lait Praliné Suisse to its lineup, with a darker milk chocolate and a nice crispy, crumbly interior. Nestlé, if you’re reading this, how about Praliné Suisse… Noir?! And while you’re at it, sprinkle a few flakes of salt on top…
So… are you a fan of the chocolate, caramel and salt trio? What bar above are you most tempted to try? And what have you tried lately?