Friday, March 4, 2011

Salty Sweets

Salty dessert may sound like an unusual prospect – until you think about the sweet-and-savory treats you’ve been eating since childhood. Salted watermelon, caramel corn and peanut butter cookies are all examples of the ways we love our salt with our sugar.

“Salty” is one of the five basic tastes our tongues can detect. Our taste buds can perceive and enjoy saltiness on its own, and salt also helps suppress our detection of bitterness. Salt is a flavor enhancer that adds dimension to sweetness, making it more intense and interesting. Sodium gets a bad rap for increasing health risks like high blood pressure, but our bodies do require a certain amount of salt to function properly, as it helps regulate fluid balance. Hyponatremia, a rare but potentially fatal condition, can occur from overconsumption of water without a compensatory amount of sodium.

But enough gloom and doom. High-quality sea salt is a delicious component of many desserts. Here are a few of my favorite savory sweets:

Salted Caramel Budino

110 S. 13th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
This pudding from celebrated chef and pastry queen Marcie Turney is a no-brainer for the favorites list. Craig LaBan is a fan, and Foobooz readers voted it their favorite dessert of the year. A dark chocolate cookie base supports a light, creamy salted caramel body glazed with a crispy caramel top. A perfect sprinkle of salt, along with chocolate shavings and a puff of whipped cream, send this dessert soaring. Six-packs are available for special order at

Salted Peanut Fudge/Ben’s Smokehouse Fudge

Betty’s Speakeasy
2241 Grays Ferry Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19146
Betty’s is a tiny, unmarked coffee shop with some of the best homemade fudge and cupcakes in town. They carry different daily varieties of both, infused with everything from bourbon to basil to curry powder. My favorite fudges, of course, are the salty ones: Salted Peanut features a milk chocolate base with creamy organic peanut butter and sea salt. For the more adventurous dessert lover, try Ben’s Smokehouse – dark chocolate with fat flakes of smoked sea salt. It’s every guilty-pleasure flavor imaginable packed into each bite. Betty’s organic, fair-trade products are also available for special orders and catering at

Chocolate-covered Pretzels

Artisserie Chocolate Café
3401 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
The bakery behind Naked Chocolate has taken over and changed the name, but the chocolate remains the same. At around $1.50 apiece, the chocolate-covered pretzels are the perfect portion to fill a salty-sweet craving. There are several candy-covered varieties, with both milk and dark chocolates. Try the ones covered in miniature Reese’s Pieces (swoon) or toffee bits (salty, buttery, amazing).

Sea Salt Gelato

3925 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA
Capogiro’s artisanal gelatos and sorbettos are irresistible even in chilly weather. The inventive flavors change daily; keep checking back for the Sea Salt variety. The makers use a Fior Di Latte base made from local sweet Amish milk, then dial up the taste bud stimulation with a healthy dose of high-grade sea salt. Especially when paired with a dark, bittersweet chocolate, this is a memorable treat that blows saltwater taffy right out of the water! Other locations: 119 S. 13th, 117 S. 20th, 1625 E. Passyunk (spring and summer only).


  1. FYI that the salted caramel budino at Barbuzzo is probably the single best non-ice cream dessert I've yet to have in Philadelphia! :D

  2. Try the mascarpone cheesecake at Matyson. I had it the night after trying the boudino for the first time, and it immediately dethroned that as my favorite Philly dessert. I don't know what they do to it, but it was at once rich and light, decadent and silky, and hella flavorful. (Careful, though; it's not always on the menu.)



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