After enjoying the caramel truffle from Stone Grindz so much last week, I had to pursue more caramel with this Dark Salted Burnt Caramel bar from Alter Eco. Caramel, however, can mean many things, and this chocolate bar was completely distinct and separate.
Once you unwrap the bar from the earthy orange card box and the silver foil, a wonderfully sweet and smooth caramel aroma emergences. It's reminiscent of the inside of a Lindor truffle--that same butteriness, just in smell instead of flavor.
This chocolate has, as you can see, a standard 70% cocoa content, Ecuadorian in origin. The salt inside is specifically Fleur de Sel de Guerande. And it looks like the caramel is made with butter and cream, among other ingredients. You can see dots of the caramel on the front of the ten square bar, though not really on the back. And yes, in case you missed the "deep salty crunch" description in small lettering on the label, this caramel is indeed crunchy, almost more like toffee. Not the same texture as toffee, but more like that than like the usual sticky caramels. This is what they mean by "burnt" caramel.
The first flavor to emerge is a little darkness from the chocolate; this isn't quite a bitter flavor, yet it is darker than what you might expect from a caramel chocolate. Then you start crunching into the little pieces of caramel and you taste the salt along with a mild buttery flavor. The effect of all the flavors isn't very sweet, and the salt is stronger than I'd expected.
So I did find that I had to readjust my expectations. I had to get used to the idea of a toasted, salted caramel. This is deep chocolate, as well. And while I say that there was more salt than I'd been expecting, I don't mean that as a complaint. Lately I've been coming across salted chocolate that doesn't have enough salt, so this bar came with a welcome balance of salty flavor. It's still just one flavor note in there, nothing to overtake everything else--yet there is enough of it. Just the right amount.
Now, while there are enough caramel pieces in the chocolate that you do get some with every bite and they do add a butteriness to the flavor, you can't expect them to affect the taste in the same way that a traditional caramel would. This is just a different experience. The chocolate provides a serious base and the caramel pieces add sweetness and a kind of milkiness--and the salt links the two together. I did need to get used to the effect at first, but once I did, I found this chocolate irresistible.
It's a unique chocolate--and yet one that doesn't feel odd or strange. The elements all feel familiar; they just come together in a singular way. The only other chocolate I can think of that was similar was Theo's Bread and Chocolate bar, which had salt in it and little pieces of crisped bread (instead of the toasted caramel here). Though it's been enough years since I had that one that I can't say how specifically similar these two bars are, I do remember loving Theo's Bread and Chocolate bar.
I'm also hooked on this Dark Salted Burnt Caramel. The caramel pieces mean it's a chocolate bar to munch through and chew (rather than letting each piece slowly melt), and both the salt and the caramel keep your taste buds asking for more.