Most people assume all women crave chocolate. Confess that you don't and that you don't even much care for it and reactions vary from "Cool, that leaves more for me" to "What kind of strange monster are you?"
It's the story, or one of the stories, of my life.
Every now and then I enjoy a well-made bittersweet bonbon — Gandolf's, based in Forestville, are my current favorites — but I don't find chocolate irresistible. I can take it or leave it and I usually leave it. I pass up chocolate cake, am not tempted by brownies and wouldn't walk across the street for chocolate fondue. Serve me ice cream with chocolate sauce and you'll find the sauce in the bowl after the ice cream is gone. If you want to get my attention, a strawberry dipped in chocolate is not the way.
However, there's been a change.
A friend brought me a platter of brownies for my birthday a few months ago. I accepted it with gratitude, as I would accept any gift, and felt obligated at least to taste her handiwork before passing the brownies on to my grandson, Lucas.
I took a nibble shortly after she left. The world was transformed. The chocolate was no longer dull and cloying, as I've always found it. Instead, it blossomed with new dimensions, tastes that were ignited by little crystals of salt on top of the brownies and salt that had been folded into the batter. As TV personality Tim Gunn might say, it was a "wow" moment.
I find a lot of today's culinary inventions and gymnastics silly and sometimes annoying, but adding salt to sweets, especially to chocolate, is not one of them. Lately, salt has been showing up in caramel, too, and it's another fabulous idea. Indeed, Trader Joe's sells a bittersweet chocolate bar filled with salted caramel that I probably shouldn't tell you about.
If you want to add a little spark to Valentine's Day, consider salt. The folklore about the way to catch a bird is by putting salt on its tail may be a myth, but put a little salt on my tongue and I just might follow you anywhere. And I'm certain I'm not the only one who reacts this way.
If you have a favorite recipe for brownies, you can use it to make Salt Brownies. Just add 2 to 3 teaspoons kosher salt to the batter and sprinkle a course salt flake on top. You can do the same with butterscotch brownies and get equally delicious results.
Makes about 2 dozen
1 tablespoon + 6 ounces (1? sticks) butter, preferably local and organic
2 ounces best-quality unsweetened chocolate, grated or chopped
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 large eggs from backyard or pastured hens, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons best-quality unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons Maldon salt flakes teaspoon sea salt
— Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Use the tablespoon of butter to coat the inside of a 9-inch square baking dish. Set aside.
Fill the bottom part of a double boiler with a couple of inches of water and set over high heat. When the water begins to simmer, reduce the heat to very low. Put the 6 ounces of butter and the grated chocolate into the top part of the double boiler and set it over the simmering water. Remove from the heat and let cool.