For years, connoisseurs dismissed white chocolate — a confection made with cocoa butter, milk solids and sugar, but with none of the cocoa solids that give darker chocolate its recognizable flavor and color. “White chocolate or white lie?” one online video asks. The host opens with: “If you love white chocolate, I hate to break it to you. You’re not eating chocolate.”
Besides the absence of cocoa solids, the reputation stems from the fact that white chocolate products often contain such additives as palm oil and other fillers, plus an excess of sweeteners. But a growing number of specialty chocolate companies are now giving the same attention to white chocolate as dark or milk chocolate, and trying to highlight the ways it can showcase flavor.
Pastry chef and cookbook author David Lebovitz, an avowed white chocolate fan, disputes the idea that it’s not really chocolate. “Bickering over the nomenclature becomes tiring,” he said in an email. “We still call hamburgers by that name, even though they are not made of ham, and milkshakes actually aren’t shaken these days, but blended. So I think it’s OK to group white chocolate in with the rest of the variety of things made from cacao beans, since they all have the same base.”
The history of white chocolate is largely unclear, but “the general consensus,” says Eagranie Yuh, author of “The Chocolate Tasting Kit” (Chronicle, 2014), “is that Nestlé was the first to develop white chocolate commercially in 1936 in Switzerland. The story is that it was a way to use up excess milk powder that had been produced for World War I and was no longer in demand.”
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A rise in cocoa butter price led some makers to expand their efforts to produce quality white chocolate. “We started manufacturing white chocolate ourselves because there is very little white chocolate on the market that is pure and made only with cocoa butter, milk and sugar,” says Denise Castronovo, founder of Florida’s Castronovo Chocolate.
Six tastes that could change your mind about white chocolate:
White chocolate infused with lemon oil and lemon salt: $10, Castronovo Chocolate, Stuart, Florida, castronovochocolate.com. Inspired by lemon flake salt that conjured memories of Sicily, Denise Castronovo has created a bar that, she says, “reminds us of a light, summery lemon mousse dessert.”
Goma: $7, Cocanú, Portland, Oregon, cocanu.com. Featuring black sesame seeds, matcha and vanilla, this nontraditional bar is gray in color and only lightly sweetened.
White Chocolate Nibble Bar: $10.50, Askinosie Chocolate, Springfield, Missouri, askinosie.com. The cocoa butter and cocoa nibs featured in this bar are from the identical batch of Filipino cocoa. “In just one bite,” the company writes, “you can taste the entire story.”
Vanilla Bean Rice Crisp: $7.99, Charm School Chocolate, Gwynn Oak, Maryland, charmschoolchocolate.com. While most white chocolate contains milk powder, this vegan treat is made with coconut and tastes like a virtuous (and delicious) Rice Krispies Treat.
Horchata Bar: $6.50, Madre Chocolate, Honolulu. mkt.com/madre-chocolate-llc. This nondairy bar is inspired by horchata, the delicious Spanish/Mexican drink made from rice milk, almonds, cinnamon and vanilla.
Za’atar Pistachios: $10.95, Fruition Chocolate, Shokan, New York, tastefruition.com. Former pastry chef Bryan Graham enrobes roasted pistachios in white chocolate seasoned with candied orange and za’atar, a blend of Middle Eastern spices.
Roasted parsnip white chocolate soup
Yield: 8 servings (makes about 10 cups).
This is an interesting and delicious soup with just the perfect hint of white chocolate sweetness. It’s an unusual treat that you could start – or end – a meal with.
Be sure to use a good-quality white chocolate, preferably with 35 percent cacao, such as Valrhona brand.
Make ahead: The parsnips can be roasted, cooled and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance.
Adapted from a recipe at FrancineSegan.com.
2 pounds parsnips (about 4 or 5 large parsnips)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 medium Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
2 quarts no-salt-added or low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup chopped, good-quality white chocolate (see headnote)
1 cup heavy cream
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Trim, peel and cut the parsnips crosswise into 1-inch-thick rounds, placing them on a rimmed baking sheet as you go. Use the 2 tablespoons of oil to brush them lightly. Roast (middle rack) for about 40 minutes, until they begin to soften and brown.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large pot over medium-low heat. Stir in the onion and cook for about 10 minutes, or until translucent. Add the broth, vanilla extract and the roasted parsnips. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for about 20 minutes, until the parsnips are very soft. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Stir in the white chocolate; cook for about 5 minutes, until melted. Remove from the heat, then stir in the heavy cream.
Use an immersion (stick) blender to puree until smooth, then add the lime juice and puree just long enough to incorporate.
Divide among individual bowls; garnish with the dill and serve warm.
White chocolate unicorn bark
Yield: 24 servings pieces.
White chocolate provides a simple canvas for making this fun and colorful treat. Feel free to use whatever candy, sprinkles and colors you have on hand.
Make ahead: The bark needs to set for at least 2 hours, and up to overnight. It keeps, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 1 week.
Adapted from a recipe at BBCGoodFood.com.
Food coloring gel in 4 or 5 colors (such as yellow, blue, green, purple and/or red)
1 to 2 teaspoons sprinkles of varying colors and sizes
1 tablespoon mini marshmallows, coarsely chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons gummy candy or jelly beans (optional)
12 ounces good-quality white chocolate, such as Callebaut, coarsely chopped
Set out all the mix-in ingredients (coloring, sprinkles, mini marshmallows, candy) in separate bowls. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Heat the white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl on HIGH in 30-second bursts until melted, stirring each time.
Divide the melted white chocolate among 4 or 5 small bowls; add different food coloring a few drops at a time to each bowl, stirring well to combine. The gel colors can be quite strong, so start light and add more as needed.
Drop spoonfuls of the different-colored chocolates onto the prepared baking sheet in puddles, making sure they are close enough to one another that one big puddle starts to form.
Use a skewer or a toothpick to swirl the colors as you like, taking care not to muddle them too much. Gently shake the baking sheet from side to side to help the chocolate sit in an even layer and fill in any gaps.
Decorate with sprinkles, marshmallows and candy, if using. Leave the chocolate to set in a cool place for about an hour or up to overnight, until hard. Cut it into angled pieces for serving or storing.