What is White Chocolate Made From?
As soon as the words “white chocolate” come out of someone’s mouth, you can bet that someone will add, “White chocolate really isn’t chocolate.” The explanation, of course, is that there is no cacao in white chocolate. However, the demand for white chocolate has increased recently in the United States. Though common in Europe in the 1930’s, it took another half century for it to gain popularity in the U.S. It is commonly available as in bars, chips, and novelty items such as white chocolate Easter Bunnies.
White chocolate is made much like typical chocolate, with one main difference. After the cacao beans are ground into a paste, the cacao solids are separated from the cocoa butter. White chocolate is made from cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids, and predictably, vanilla. Some producers include soy lecithin, a popular emulsifier. One reason for the increased popularity seems to come from the improved quality of the white chocolate being produced. Specifically, as of 2004, white chocolate must contain a minimum of 20% cocoa butter. This fat is responsible for that creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Previously, other fats such as palm oil were used in white chocolate.
Of course there is a wide range of white chocolate products on the market with various ingredients. Chances are the white bunny sold at the local drugstore is not going to be the same tasting experience or high quality that you would find at your favorite chocolatier’s. But, there is a lot going on in the world of chocolate and some of the trends will be mentioned in this article.
Arguably, I gravitate toward dark chocolate. As a child, I really loved white chocolate. Perhaps it was because it was so sweet, or because it was not as available as other confections. I have been intrigued with the popularity and availability of quality white chocolate that has become more and more available. Specifically, I am seduced by the wide variety of flavor profiles offered by today’s white chocolate producers.
White chocolate made its debut in Europe (most likely in Switzerland) shortly after WWI. Nestle is credited with making it, supposedly to use up excess milk powder produced during the war. Although brought to America soon after, it was nearly a half century before it received notable space on the candy shelf. Nestle offered a “White Chocolate Alpine Bar” and a few years later Hershey introduced a “white candy Kiss” called Hugs, to offer alongside the classic Kisses already popular since the early 20th century. Soon after, Hershey marketed a “Cookies and Cream” bar, which contained America’s favorite cookie, the OREO. Branching out, Nestle debuted the “Flipz” or (white) chocolate covered pretzel. Other artisans have developed the availability and variety of white chocolate offerings in the form of truffles, bars, and even the ganache used on drip cakes. Today, 11% of Americans identify white chocolate as their preferred chocolate type.
Much of the current trends in white chocolate sales stem from the flavors and add-ins that have been created. For instance, the creamy, sweet white chocolate acts as a blank canvas for flavor combinations that are unique to white chocolate such as the use of spices and herbs as well as the traditional nuts and fruits. White chocolate bars containing Combinations such as rosemary, basil, pink pepper, and black sesame seeds are on the market as well as traditional pairings such as macadamia nuts and cranberries, crisp rice, and pistachio and orange zest.
Although still the underdog, demand for white chocolate products is forecasted to increase at a rate of nearly 2% until 2025. This is due to the rise in disposable incomes as well as increased curiosity about the flavor possibilities as well as the demand for organic, vegan and gluten-free products. The rise favors the makers of premium chocolates.
White chocolate isn’t necessarily white. Since the cocoa butter is removed from the chocolate liquor to produce white chocolate, you can expect a quality white chocolate to have a bit of an “off-white” tint (the same color as cocoa butter). Chocolate that is bright white may have been “bleached” in the process, or had other fats added to the formula. The same cocoa butter is high in demand-not just for truffles and bars, but also for beauty products such as face creams and suntan products.
White chocolate has a lower melting point than typical milk or dark chocolates. Even chips, formulated for baking cookies in a hot oven, often catch a sunburn. Although white chocolate only has a few ingredients, it is difficult to make at home unless you have a stone grinder (melanger). With so many quality chocolates on the market and many more on the horizon, there is a lot to look forward to if you want to experiment with endless flavor possibilities.
About THE AUTHOR
Lori has been a Culinary Arts instructor for twenty years. She has taught in the public school setting, at the collegiate level and through adult continuing education as well as running several cooking and baking camps for children. She has participated in several cooking, cake & chocolate contests and has been well recognized. She has raised thousands of dollars for charities using the byline “Saving the World one Cupcake at a Time”. Additionally, she has had several articles regarding food published in various magazines.Read More About Lori Gilmore