Salt to the sweet

It may have started with Mc Donalds.

It seems skiing flaccid fries down the brown skids of caramel on a sundae was just the beginning.

From little things, big things grow. Even the golden arches of gluttony can help you learn a life lesson.

It’s something along the lines of the importance of the salt to balance the sweet.
The ying to the yang, the high to the low. Ambidextrous cooking.

Marry Poppins knew what she was banging on about; a teaspoon of sugar not only helps the medicine go down, but brings out softer middles, rounds flavours and mellows spice.

Evidence in hand; a sprinkle of the sweet stuff to the bolognaise, a splash of maple syrup to the pork rib marinade, a crumble of palm sugar to the dressing for thai beef salad.

But on the flipside, adding a dash of salty to the purposefully sweet gives a gruntish kick. It makes things just a little more grown up. It presents a couple of rough edges to beguile, make you think twice, come back for more.

Like tattoos under evening dresses, sugarplum blondes wearing black, or colourful language said in a posh english accent- a touch of salt to the sweet just makes the world a little more interesting.

At Bi-Rite in San Francisco– the salted caramel ice cream there took me on a merry go round of delight past McDonalds and then straight to eating turquoise Columbines by the sea.

These days it seems the combination is popping up everywhere in Sydney. I’m not the first to make this connection. Simon Thomsen had the same thought process not so long ago.

I present the evidence in our little realm:

Black Star Bakery in Newtown
Christopher Thé’s ginger ninjas may be hogging most of the attention, but his chocolate caramel tarts festooned with a touch of maldon are enough excitement for us. The Hungry One was in heaven. Tucked in next door to Oscillate Wildly, this bakery of goodness boasts Little Marionette coffee, ‘serious pies’- chunks of meat please- slightly chewy canneles and this tart like concoction that cases a salty dash of sweet choc and caramel sticky muck.

Neil Perry’s caramel peanut parfait at Spice Temple.

A slab of caramel, lick of sauce and the crunch of salty protein. The nuts may prompt epi pens at the ready, but this snickers bar of melting iced delight- is made all the more sexy but the slight twinkle of sea-riffic granules that grab its side.

Banana pudding with salted caramel sauce
A home made job for a special birthday lunch.

Gooey comfort of banana pudding, topped with caramel sauce spiked with two tablespoons of maldon- just enough to make your mouth pop to a cats bum purse and your eyebrows to slightly wrinkle. We served it up after a platter of bruschettas, enough cheese to prompt a coma and a huge roast lamb. When it finally came out of the oven we had it with great and rich vanilla icecream and a splatter of Ferran Adria’s freeze dried pineapple pieces- just to keep The Hungry One’s textural fetish at bay.

Sticky banana pudding with salted caramel sauce

Preheat an oven to 180 degrees and grease a springform pan. Line the bottom with baking paper.

Take 250 grams of butter and cream that with 1 cup of caster sugar. When it’s pale and fluffy like a duckling add in four eggs, one by one, beating in each egg before you add the next one. Add to that 1 cup of smushed, overripe bananas and 1 cup of self raising flour, all sifted and pretty.

If you want, at the bottom of the baking tin put long slivers of bananas so they make a pretty flower pattern. Then put the batter over the top and bake for about one hour.

To make the caramel sauce take an even ratio of unsalted butter to brown sugar to cream. Let them all slide over each other in a saucepan and bubble up. Add salt to taste.

If I was going to get philosophical at the end here I’d make some point about how you only realise how sweet things really are when you get a little dash of something else which forces you to stop and recalibrate.

But I’m not. This week, it’s just about the food.

  1. This is dangerous reading, right here. So hungry for sugary badness…. xxx

  2. Stay strong miss! They don't call it the white devil for nothing. 🙂

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