Everyone has their favorite type of chocolate. Bittersweet, milk, white…but is white chocolate even chocolate at all? You’ve probably heard the debate around white chocolate and whether we may call it chocolate, or whether it’s just creamy candy. Whether you love it or hate it, read on to find out where it comes from!
Chocolate has already been produced for hundreds of years. It’s made from beans produce by the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao. The name actually comes from the Greek term “food of the gods”!
But going from cacao bean to a chocolate bar is quite the process! The fresh cacao beans are bitter and astringent, so producers include several steps in the process of chocolate-making, to create the smooth, sweet chocolate taste we love so much. The first step is a fermentation process of two to eight days, which initiates the flavor-development and decreases the astringency of the beans. To develop these flavors to the full, the beans are then roasted. During this roasting step, the Maillard reaction occurs, where amino acids and sugars within the beans react with each other while browning. Finally, the beans are grounded to a paste, sugar is added, and further mixing creates a silky ‘chocolate liquor’. This liquor can be separated into cacao solids, which came from the cacao nibs, and cacao butter, the fatty component. The cacao nibs contribute to the flavor (taste and smell) of chocolate, whereas the cacao butter gives chocolate a rich mouthfeel. The higher the proportion of cacao solids used in making chocolate, the more pronounced the chocolate flavor would be.
White chocolate was invented in the 1930s, and the first white chocolate bar was developed by Nestlé, which is known today as the Milky Bar. White chocolate does not contain any cacao particles. This explains why white chocolate has a distinct ‘milky’ taste, without the chocolate flavor. It’s made from deodorized cacao butter, milks solids, sugar, and lecithin (an emulsifier). In fact, there are even some recipes online on how you can make your own white chocolate at home! Cacao butter is not only used as the main ingredient in white chocolate, but it’s also popular in cosmetics. The cost of cacao butter has doubled in the last decade, so cheaper chocolate would often substitute some of it with vegetable oil.
The question that many ask: Is white chocolate real chocolate or an imposter? Well, that depends on who you ask. Technically it’s still part of the cacao bean, but it does not contain any cacao solids, the defining component of ‘real’ chocolate. But to many chefs and confectioners, saying white chocolate is not a chocolate at all, seems overly pedantic. In pastry kitchens, white chocolate is celebrated for its versatility. Because of the neutral, non-chocolate flavor, it’s an excellent medium to use with other flavors. In some restaurants, it’s even part of savory dishes. When you buy white chocolate, it should be a pale-yellow color. Then you know it contains a good amount of quality cacao butter. If the color is bright white, then the cacao butter was most likely bleached and deodorized.
Do you like white chocolate? Tell us in the comment section below!