Something about salted caramel has always seemed hardwired into the oh my god receptors of our brains. And, it turns out, for good reason: The effects of the sweet and salty combination may actually be a chemical one. Pin-up nerd Jonah Lehrer, a contributing editor at Wired (Isn't he dreamy when he talks action potentials?), has speculated that the presence of sodium ions may be integral to the detection of taste in general, not merely saltiness. In other words, it's possible that salt may intensify whatever else you're tasting, in the same way a few well-chosen words can make a kiss that much more knee-buckling.
Read on for five salted caramel desserts that are currently evoking oh my gods across Los Angeles.
5. Carmela: Salted Caramel and chocolate cookie ice cream sandwich. Carmela is not the only game in town for salted caramel ice cream--Brentwood's Sweet Rose Creamery does an especially notable version. But Carmela edges out the competition by capturing its creamy, salty scoop between two chocolate cookies. Not just any cookies, either--redolent of earthy cocoa, these delicate crisps make Diddy Reise's quintessential sandwiches seem positively ham-fisted. Available at Joan's on Third, and the Saturday Hollywood Farmer's market.
4. KindKreme: Raw, vegan chocolate soft serve ice cream and salted caramel syrup. 'Raw, vegan' anything smacks of the kind of inevitable disappointment you will encounter when you hope a heavily processed soy product is going to taste as good as its non-vegetarian equivalent (see: Tofurkey, et al.). But in fact, KindKreme's chocolate soft serve is delicious in its own right. Especially with a generous splash of salted caramel topping, an admittedly thin but nonetheless convincing version of the real, butter-packed thing.
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3. Little Flower Candy Company: Salted Caramels. The chewy resistance between your teeth. The rush of butter, then sweet, then salt. The stringy tendrils stretching from your mouth as you tug off each bite. These caramels are the real deal.
2. Gjelina: Butterscotch Pot de Crème with Salted Caramel and Crème Fraiche. Purists may prefer Nancy Silverton's butterscotch budino, but the flavor of Gjelina's pot de crème seems cranked up just a little bit higher. While you brave the wait (and the deafening roar--is there a louder restaurant in all of Los Angeles?) for a table, try spying on other diners. Odds are 20:1 you'll catch their eyes flying skyward with the first spoonful.
1. Huckleberry Café & Bakery: Salted Caramel Bar. We're not a fan of baked squares, in general--they've always seemed like cookies' lesser cousins. But Huckleberry's version is less a bar than a pile of gooey, half-melted caramel on top of a perfect, crumbly crust. Don't think for a second you can finish a whole one in a single sitting. That initial hit of butter, sugar and salt in your mouth is so intense that we've yet to see someone take a first bite without either crying out or cursing.