Le caramel au beurre salé

Sweet in Paris is guilty. Gently guilty. In life even more than in food, sweet is about discretely collapsing. Breaking the balance of life towards easy satisfaction. Nothing glorious. Some would say pleasure is a glorious thing. Not Parisians.

Sugar carries all the afflictions of decadence. It is coating and fattening, sensual and tempting, enjoyable and slippery. Sweet in Paris should therefore be consumed in great moderation. Just enough for the threatening shadow of decadence not to ruin the tender moment of sweet collapse.

In that unspoken tugging between good and bad, the Parisian found an ally in le caramel au beurre salé. Le caramel au beurre salé is as sweet as it gets. Devilishly so. But it’s ok. Because in all that sweetness and perversion comes a salvatory adjective, a redempting flavour: le salé. Taunting and irreverent. Obedient and rebellious. Le salé makes caramel acceptable for the Parisian. It makes indulging almost enjoyable.  Salt is one powerful little thing.

Le caramel au beurre salé was once a bretonne oddity. The uncanny account for the local tradition of salting butter. But its enchanting taste and redempting qualities made it popular beyond its bigounden nest. Over the past few years, le caramel au beurre salé has become Parisians’ battle flag in their inner battle against guilty feelings. Le caramel au beurre salé is now to be found virtually in anything sweet: la glace, les macarons, les bonbons… But the Parisian’s favorite expression of it is le bonbon. Le tiny bonbon. Circumscribed indulgences are small apotheoses to the Parisian. This bonbon is an expert stroke. Expert strokes is something most Parisians end up counting exclusively on their pâtissier for.

When a Parisian reads “Caramel au beurre salé” on a dessert menu, he usually bursts with an irrepressible “Oh, caramel au beurre salé…’”. At this point, the odds for the Parisian to give in reach a peak. Salt miraculously washed sugar away, brushed off decadence. The Parisian is freed.


Useful tip: When it comes to Caramel au Beurre Salé, Henri Le Roux is the man.
Sound like a Parisian: “C’
était servi avec une boule de caramel au beurre salé… hyper bon! J’adore le caramel au beurre salé

43 replies
  1. Lil
    Lil says:

    I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of caramel au beurre salé, even in actual caramel sauce form for my pancake (oh happy belateed shrove tuesday), ice cream, or just eat them by the spoonful ;)

  2. Nadia
    Nadia says:

    Sitting at a cafe terrasse (couverte et chauffée, pour faire face a ce froid de gueux, bien sur), je déguste ma oh! délicieuse et oh! déjà traditionnelle Tarte Tatin avec….avec….une boule de glace caramel au beurre salé! All my family lives for eating and cooking, all together, all the time. I love cooking for my friends.But my bad Parisians habits keep coming backg and I just cannot share this wonderful dessert. Fattenig, tempting, too much. Oui mais guilty et fière de l’être!

  3. Style Spy
    Style Spy says:

    J’adore aussi le caramel au beurre salé. I have always loved the sweet & salty combination (chocolate-covered pretzel, anyone?) and this is the apotheosis of it. Mmmmmmmmm, I can’t wait for May…

  4. Ingo
    Ingo says:

    Ces sont délicieux, les bonbons. Hard to resist of course. I have researched getting some caramel au beurre salé by Henri le Roux on the website and the price was a tad high, yet I’m sure the quality is well worth it. Embarrassingly, I had no idea that France had switched to using the Euro! I am so out of the loop.

  5. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Peter… Berthillon + caramel au beurre salé… hmm, getting there!
    StyleSpy… Pretzel and chocolate: never heard that! A essayer.
    Meghan… Best to count on this world’s redemption. It’s at least a good start.
    Lil… Well, I just learnt a new term thanks to you: “Shrove Tuesday”. Thank you. La chandeleur in French: we made crêpes chez O Chateau yesterday pour la Chandeleur. And I’m pretty sure that I saw – between the Nutella and the sugar – un petit pot de caramel au beurre salé…
    Nadia… I think women react to CBS even more than men. Though I must say 6.08PM having a little sweet treat at a café… you are one rare Parisian!
    Ingo… Hmm… yes! :-) But all in all, price in francs in that case would have been quite reasonable!

  6. Ruth Yunker
    Ruth Yunker says:

    I give salted caramel chocolates for Christmas gifts, and everyone trills with delight. “So Paris,” they all sigh…Paris being sooo far away from California, therefore all the more longed for.
    I LOVE your love of psychology. Are you a closet therapist, in spite of yourself???

  7. Ash
    Ash says:

    Small psychology reminder for foreign males trying (should they ?) to hang out with Parisian women : caramel au beurre salé = indulgence.
    Indulgence = no sex tonight (see post “Le moelleux au chocolat”.
    Don’t whine that you weren’t warned.

  8. Flartus
    Flartus says:

    I am about to confess my ignorance…is it the beurre that’s salé, or the final caramel product? Because, before I get all gaga over this délice, I need to be properly focused on the right combination of salty and sweet.

    I must also express my appreciation for opening my eyes / palate to this redemptive bit of sin!

  9. Stéphan
    Stéphan says:

    It is the butter that is salted !
    An old tradition in Brittany and Normandy to keep the butter from getting old too fast.
    I grew up with it, and cannot eat normal butter…

    What I love about the caramel au beurre salé is that it allows adults to eat in a disgusting way, just like children eat carambars.
    It is impossible to eat one without having teeth, tongue, lips or anything generating noise or drool…

  10. Berit
    Berit says:

    Could you please send this article to Bonne Maman? I was so happy to have finally found Caramel Cream and now you start me on this….

  11. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Ruth… :-) I never actually pinpointed that I liked psychology. Interesting. Now as per being a therapist… Woh! Nope! Plus I’m really not that good at it: couldn’t even figure out what you meant by “in spite of yourself”.
    Ash… :-) Wow. Have I become the theorist of sexual frustration in Paris?!
    Flartus… You’re welcome. Mostly the butter, yup! Though I think some pâtissiers will add a tiny bit of salt on top of it.
    Samantha… :-)
    Stephan… Very true, yes! Same here, big beurre salé fan!
    Berit… Until CBS makes its grand début in Germany, maybe you could look for Chocolat Côte d’Or (if you have that brand there) aux amandes caramelisées avec une pointe de sel… One of my favorites! But still, German patissiers should roll up their sleeves and start making CBS!

  12. Ruth Yunker
    Ruth Yunker says:

    I should have said sociologist. Not therapist.
    Next you’ll need to write a book–about the study of the Parisian–their character and social interactions. Funny and droll, of course, like you do so well!

  13. Moktarama
    Moktarama says:

    You made an unforgettable mistake here ;-)

    After talking so brillantly of Berthillon, how could you not mention in this post the ultimate combo : the “caramel au beurre salé” ice-cream taken at Berthillon during a little ballad on the Seine, which allows the parisians to do so many things he loves ! He can make himself as a tourist (but with the second degré take on it “c’est sympa de faire le touriste de temps en temps” ) , feel the utter pleasure of elitism and accord himself a suger-salted treat. All of that in one take… and it seems that commentators agree with me :-)

  14. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Barbra… Next SPL get-together!
    Ruth… On it :-)
    Jerome… Interestingly enough, most of my clients at O Chateau tell me that they are actually quite surprised with how well they are treated in Paris!
    Moktarama… Je bats ma coulpe. (and try not to repeat myself too much) ;-)

  15. my castle in spain
    my castle in spain says:

    j’ai presque envie de dire : putain, qu’est-ce que c’est bon!
    j’ai lu tes posts précédents et me suis franchement régalée…justement en lisant le post sur le mot impoli ci-dessus…
    Tu fais très fort ! :-)

  16. Claudine
    Claudine says:

    Zut! I really sound like a parisian même si je suis 100% bretonne! Je sors justement d’un resto de saint malo où j’ai pris des macarons au beurre salé en dessert… so delicious!
    Mais, How are you guys? Wish you all the best pour 2010….
    Des bisous
    Clo (partie à l’assaut des Champagnes!!)

  17. Minette
    Minette says:

    David Lebovitz has a recipe for salted butter caramel ice cream that is simply amazing. I have made it several times and it is wonderful and similar to Berthillon. And it is fun to make!

  18. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    Olivier, was that you guiding Paul Merton in Paris for his documentary? If so, you’re really funny (I have nothing more interesting to say except that I wish you would be my tour guide when a come in March *coughs*)

  19. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    My Castle… Merci. Si mes petits posts plaisent, deci delà… ca me réjouit.
    Claudine… Ohhhhh… ca me fait plaisir de te voir ici. O Chateau party soon! Let’s paint the town red!
    Minette… Dave and I might actually start doing a Wine and Chocolate tasting together soon! Stay tuned!!
    Sharon… Yes, it was me. It’s funny because I haven’t seen the show – it’s only accessible to UK residents at this point. Still waiting for the CD from the production company. Anyway, thanks for your kind words – I’m glad you thought it was good. Last comment I heard about it – was from a friend – on my voicemail – and it was ” you need to stop wearing those shirts Olivier”. :-)

  20. Minette
    Minette says:

    Olivier, sounds wonderful, you and Dave… and wine and chocolate! Sadly, I live in NY so can’t taste it with you… except for one Paris visit each year for a short two weeks :(
    Having friends in for dinner tomorrow and will be making David’s ice cream for dessert despite more than a foot of snow ~ everyone loves salted butter caramel ice cream anytime of year, especially meeeee!

  21. Isabel Nazare
    Isabel Nazare says:

    Caramel au beurre salé is indeed one of the best things the world has to offer to parisians!
    Cannot get enough of this! Berthillon does the best caramel of beure salé ice cream!

  22. elaine
    elaine says:

    Olivier, your blog is awesome!! I’m learning so much about Parisians while I’m falling on the floor laughing!! Your English is so totally American sounding!! That’s so cool that you can speak and write both languages so perfectly!! I especially like practicing the “sound like a Parisian” phrases! I’ve recommended a million people to go to O Chateau, and it’s a hit every time!! I can’t wait to come back myself and see your new place…especially for the wine and CHOCOLATE tasting…now your talking!!! forget the cheese!!

  23. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Minette… Isn’t two week’s worth of vacations what most Amercicans get in a lifetime?!
    Isabel… There seems to be such unanimity about Berthillon’s CBS ice cream, I feel like I should go do my homework at some point!
    Elaine… Well thank you very much really. We need support! And yup – the wine and chocolate tasting is awesome. We’re all quite excited about it too!! Found this great chocolatier… nice!! As per my American English, I’ll have to plead guilty on this one :-)

  24. Minette
    Minette says:

    Olivier, yes, two weeks a lifetime is the norm in USA… Did I mention I hate working here???
    And yes, you should try Berthillon’s salted butter caramel ice cream — AND THEN — try David’s — If he’s a good friend, maybe he’ll make you some. And then tell us all which one you like better! :)

  25. Lil
    Lil says:

    Hey Olivier, hmmm, rather sheepishly I need to correct something – Shrove Tuesday was really equivalent to Mardi Gras and not la chandeleur per se. Just for some reason I always think of them as more or less the same, because of the presence of pancakes. La chandeleur is actually Candlemas in English. All this only occurred to me this week because, of course, Shrove Tuesday actually happened this week!

  26. parisbreakfast
    parisbreakfast says:

    There are potholes to look out for with le/la Caramel au Beurre Salé
    For ex. the gorgeous brew that Henri Le Roux sells in a jar is afloat with chopped almond nuggets. Why oh why put almonds into caramel is beyond me.
    and at Berthillon be sure to specify the caramel au Beurre Salé. Don’t think you can just say caramel and get your salt included -they have two flavors.
    I rue the day I made that horrid erreur in their restaurant :(
    No exchanges bien sur.
    c’est la vie

  27. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Lil… Thanks for the clarification. I m,ust be very pagan for I mostly care for the crepes really.
    Paris Breakfast… Almonds in CBS sound lovely to me. I just like crunchy! Besides this, it seems liek yoru life is pretty risqué!!

  28. Athena
    Athena says:

    hmmmm… I just looooove caramel au beurre salé – I guess I now have to try the salty caramel ice cream at Berthillon next time I’m in Paris. :-)

  29. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    The day I discovered caramel beurre sale my whole relationship with Paris changed! Le Petit Josselin on rue Montparnasse is my favorite place for a crepe caramel au buerre sale.

  30. Dalli Bacon
    Dalli Bacon says:

    I am not supposed to have sweet stuff for my health. At the airport, flying back home from Paris, using up euros left over, I bought a bag of Caramel Beurre Sale a la fleur de sel de Guerande! OMG…I am not supposed to eat this but now, having a whole bag of the caramels, I don’t even share them with my loved ones in family. I bought them for my daughter so will try to save the left over for her.
    The best mix of salt and sweet in caramel!

  31. Dalli Bacon
    Dalli Bacon says:

    I am not supposed to have sweet stuff for my health. At the airport, flying back home from Paris, using up euros left over, I bought a bag of Caramel Beurre Sale a la fleur de sel de Guerande! OMG…I am not supposed to eat this but now, having a whole bag of the caramels, I don’t even share them with my loved ones in family. I bought them for my daughter so will try to save the left over for her.
    The best mix of salt and sweet in caramel! But, where can I buy them, I mean on line?

  32. Julie
    Julie says:

    Dalli Bacon- I too bought the same caramels at the airport. Sadly, I have three left and I already feel the depression of an empty bag looming!

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  1. [...] shop also makes their own toppings for sundaes: Homemade chocolate sauce and crème beurre salé as well as Crème Chantilly, or whipped cream with liqueur and sugar, are made on [...]

  2. [...] beware that the cheese course has given way to just coffee, although the addition of a little beurre sale will make the sweetest concoction acceptably ascetic;Wine, too is passé; lunch means water – San [...]

  3. [...] shop also makes their own toppings for sundaes: Homemade chocolate sauce and crème beurre salé as well as Crème Chantilly, or whipped cream with liqueur and sugar, are made on [...]

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