If you're under the impression that words like salary, soldier, and salt share no common ground, then you're in for a surprising revelation.

In the times of yore, salt was a precious and rare resource. Its rarity and high demand made it a valuable trade good and in certain cultures, it even assumed the role of currency. Unsurprisingly, the word 'salary' is derived from the Latin term 'salarium', translating to 'salt money'. Intriguingly, the term 'soldier' is believed to stem from 'sal dare', meaning 'to give salt', as Roman soldiers received part of their wages in the form of salt.

Does this remind you of something else?

Just like salt, cacao also enjoyed an esteemed status among the Mesoamerican people. Its worth was so profound that cacao beans were literally used as cash! For instance, in the Aztec society of Nicaragua, you could trade a rabbit for 10 cacao beans, a slave for 100 beans, or even acquire a courtesan's service for 8 beans. Each time they indulged in their chocolate drinks, they were literally consuming money.

Fast forward to the present day, salt and cacao have reunited, forming some of the most tantalizing chocolate concoctions globally.

The Science Behind Salt and Chocolate Pairing

Ever wondered why most dessert recipes recommend adding 'a pinch of salt'? Contrary to initial thought, salt can heighten the perception of sweetness. When sodium is present in a dish, it prompts our body's sugar detectors, both on our tongue and in our intestines, to process glucose as sweet. The effect? A mouthful of flavors that are amplified and given a vibrant character. Chocolate, with the addition of salt, unveils a rich, full flavor, and its inherent nuances are swiftly highlighted for the palate's enjoyment.

Apart from enhancing flavors, salt is also admired for the texture it adds to chocolate. The choice between a finer salt or specialty salt largely depends on whether the aim is to accentuate the chocolate flavor or to make salt an integral part of the recipe. While finer salt subtly boosts the chocolate's taste, specialty salt contributes its own unique texture and flavor, enhancing the graininess and giving a salty crunch. However, the key here is balance, ensuring that the saltiness is perceptible but not overpowering the rich chocolate flavor.

While a dash of salt can boost sweetness, a greater amount can serve to balance the sweetness of a chocolate creation. Let's remember that cacao is naturally bitter, not sweet. So when other sweet ingredients like caramel, milk, vanilla, or dried fruits are introduced, it's easy to tip over into an excessively sweet territory. By incorporating salt, chocolatiers ensure that the sweetness of these ingredients is counterbalanced, paving the way for innovative creations that challenge our palate's boundaries.

The Enduring Symbiosis of Salt and Chocolate

Whether you favor it or not, the marriage of salt and chocolate resembles timeless duos such as bread and butter, peanut butter and jelly, cheese and wine. It's a pairing that has stood, and will continue to stand, the test of time.

July 11, 2023 — Ryan Dunn

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