Its true the world over, that there are few truly affordable luxuries in the modern world that compare to chocolate. Often imbued with semi-mystical qualities that reach far beyond its actual taste, it’s one of the few foods that has universal appeal.
If you’re looking for something a little different, however, it might be time to try a bite or two of white chocolate to get your taste buds tingling. Often dismissed as dark chocolate’s hapless relative, white chocolate is being used more and more in modern cooking.
If you’re a purist, you may be more than a little annoyed that this is called chocolate at all. It contains none of the cocoa solids that give dark chocolate and even milk chocolate their distinctive taste.
Instead, what chocolate is manufactured just from the fat or butter of the cocoa beans and then condensed, or powdered milk is added along with sugar. It has a different texture to traditional chocolate and certainly carries with it slightly higher calories than its darker counterpart.
The truth: It's a fact that cocoa butter doesn't actually taste very good on its own, so we add milk solids, milk fat, sugar, and vanilla to turn it into the white chocolate we all know. Like with all the best fine gourmet foods, the quality of the cocoa butter — and how the cocoa beans and nibs were processed — is the most important factor in the final quality of white chocolate.
If you are lucky enough to be given a box of Belgian chocolates, you are likely to be treated to a mix of dark, milk and white chocolate goodies. These are virtually all derived in some part from the cocoa bean but are considered different types of chocolate each with their own unique taste:
White chocolate was first created in the 1930's in Switzerland and shortly after became a staple in Europe with the launching of Nestle's Milky Bar. It originally came about because manufacturers wanted to do something with the leftover cocoa butter after making dark or milk chocolate.
When you consider that over half of a cocoa bean is comprised of cocoa butter, you can understand why people were looking to do something with it.
The creation of white chocolate has, however, caused no small amount of snobbery. In Europe, for instance, white chocolate is still not considered real chocolate at all, but that seems to be changing as it becomes fashionable again. Since 2004, for a product to be allowed to be marketed as white chocolate, it must (by weight) contain at least 20% cocoa butter, 14% total milk solids, and 3.5% milk fat. Also in the USA, they have set limits on the amount of sugar it may contain.
Milk chocolate and white chocolate have fairly similar manufacturing processes. The only real difference is that milk chocolate has more cocoa beans or solid added which gives it that distinctive colour and taste.
Milk and other ingredients are mixed with a chocolate liquor and cocoa powder. This creates a slightly crumbly mix that forms a powder. The key to making great milk chocolate is in the mixing process which follows, called ‘conching’.
This determines the colour, smoothness, taste and texture of the chocolate and, in the hands of a master chocolatier, can produce something really memorable.
White chocolate is slightly more difficult to melt than darker varieties as it can quickly turn lumpy be difficult to manage if direct heat is applied. The usual practice is to create a ‘protective’ barrier which means putting your chocolate in a bowl and then placing that in a saucepan of hot water, and taking slow.
Another option is to put the bowl in a microwave. You need to have your device on a medium level heat and give it short bursts to avoid overcooking it, but this is often a lot quicker and easier than the traditional method (though not quite so satisfying if you love your chocolate).
The answer is yes and it’s really simple. Coffee outlets like Starbucks today offer white hot chocolate and it’s also easy to make at home.
You don’t need to add any sugar as the drink will be sweet enough as it is. Some recipes also use a little vanilla essence in the milk to add some more flavour.
If you fancy a luxury drink that really hits the mark, try our 1930 - Artisanal 30% White Hot Chocolate which is blended with Madagascan vanilla.
White chocolate tends to contain a few more calories than dark chocolate but the difference isn’t major. A lot always depends on the quality of the chocolate you choose in the first place. Cheaper products also tend to have more additives.
Milk and white chocolate have slightly more saturated fat and more calcium than dark but both contain around a gram of protein at the most. Dark chocolate has been associated with health properties over the years as it’s quite rich in antioxidants and has been linked to good cholesterol and may even help promote weight loss when taken in small amounts.
Because it doesn’t contain the cocoa solids from the beans, white chocolate also doesn’t include many of the health benefits of dark chocolate. However, scientists are now discovering there are also benefits to eating white chocolate.
Generally, it does tend to have higher levels of sugar and fat, including cholesterol, so shouldn’t be eaten or drunk in large amounts. Unless you are buying more premium quality, that uses very high percentages of cocoa fast and less sugar.
As with anything though, a little of what you fancy can undoubtedly be right for you. If you imagine a luxury hot chocolate once in a while, then there’s no harm in adding white chocolate to your diet. It’s also great for a wide range of different recipes.
White chocolate is very widely used in cooking, and there are some excellent recipes to try. Here are just a few that have caught our eye recently:
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Seán Farrell – Founder, Chateau Rouge