White chocolate, is it real chocolate?
Susan M. Stokes, Chocolate Addict
14 November 2019
White chocolate has gotten a bad rep over the last few years with many people dismissing it as an artificially sweet treat rather than real chocolate.
“White chocolate is basically just sweet fat”, – Clay Gordon, Chocolate Life
But In my humble opinion how can it not be chocolate, considering the main ingredient of white chocolate(cocoa butter) is part of the cocoa bean just like cocoa solids are.
David Lebovitz, pastry chef, cookbook author, and dedicated white chocolate fan dispute the idea that it’s not really chocolate too.
“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 okay to group white chocolate in with the rest of the variety of things made from cacao beans since they all have the same base.”
White chocolate is not pale white but a caramel colour.
Back to basics
A cocoa bean is made up of 45% cocoa solids (the flavour) and 55% cocoa butter (the flavour carrier). After the fermentation process, the shell is removed from the cocoa bean to produce cacao nibs. These nibs are ground to produce cocoa mass or pure chocolate in a rough form. This cocoa mass is usually in a liquid form, this chocolate liquor can go on to be processed into its two components, cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
Chocolate liquor is blended with cocoa butter in various amounts to make different types of chocolate. Starting with the highest quantity of cocoa liquor first, this includes:
- Dark chocolate: cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, sugar and (sometimes) vanilla
- Milk chocolate: cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, milk or milk powder, and vanilla
- White chocolate: cocoa butter, sugar, milk or milk powder, and vanilla
As you can see white chocolate doesn’t include liquor and is made only from the cocoa butter portion of the bean(the vegetable fat portion of the cocoa liquor separated from the solids during milling) along with milk solids, sugar, sometimes vanilla.
“The history of chocolate begins with a plant whose scientific name – Theobroma cacao – means “food of the gods.”
Why is white chocolate white?
Cocoa butter is extracted from the cocoa bean when making cocoa powder. Even though white chocolate comes from the same cacao bean as dark chocolate, it’s white because it doesn’t contain cocoa liquor and has a caramel-like colour.
Craft chocolate makers use natural high-quality cocoa butter which is packed with flavour, antioxidants and healthy oils.
Cocoa butter destined for use outside of chocolate e.g. skincare is deodorized, through steam distillation or solvents to reduce volatile compounds that contribute to its aroma and also turns it a pale white colour.
What’s on a label?
The reason people argue that white chocolate shouldn’t be called chocolate is that it has no cocoa solids in it. But then we could argue that almond milk shouldn’t be called almond milk.
And considering many high percentage dark chocolate bars, made by large industrial makers, contain cocoa butter to make it less bitter for people who buy it for health benefits(flavinoids) without knowing much about chocolate.
For example, if you’ve got a 70% dark chocolate bar, 70% of that bar will be made up of that chocolate liquor + added cocoa butter and/or solids combination, with the remaining 30% made up of additives(mainly sugar).
So why is cocoa butter not considered chocolate, when it comes from the cocoa bean and contributes to the overall chocolate percentage? Does it depend on the end product?
Regulation & labelling
The European Union rules state white chocolate must contain at least 20 percent cocoa butter and at least 14 percent milk solids. In the United States, the FDA also states at least 20 percent cocoa butter, 14 percent total milk solids, and 3.5 percent milk fat, and in addition to the EU rules no more than 55% sugar or other sweeteners.
European Union labelling regulations for chocolate products
As you can see above the three main chocolate types, dark, milk and white chocolate, all contain cocoa butter.
What government agencies decide is what we label our foods, but these are minimum requirements and many craft chocolate makers are going above minimums.
Why the bad reputation?
White chocolates’ bad reputation comes from the fact that commercial white chocolate products often contain additives like palm oil and other fillers and sweeteners. So why so many fillers?
Well, between 2005 and 2015, the cost of cocoa butter more than doubled, according to the International Cocoa Organisation (2015). Cocoa butter is the only commercially available natural fat that is solid at room temperature and rich in saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. It’s valued not only in chocolate but cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. So to reduce costs, many large-scale manufacturers substituted a portion of their deodorized cocoa butter with fillers such as vegetable oil.
The potential of white chocolate
The rise in price of cocoa butter led some chocolate 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. “For us, it’s a chance to educate our consumers about what real white chocolate actually is.”
Eagranie Yuh, author of “The Chocolate Tasting Kit” says, white chocolate is a canvas for other flavours, offering “surprising breadth and utility.”
Think of white chocolate as a flavour carrier or canvas for other flavours, it’s a new frontier for flavoured white chocolate bars. Chocolate makers are embracing white chocolate and creating unusual combinations that push the boundaries including rosemary and sea salt, turmeric and pomegranate, kale with mustard and salted Sicilian almonds with broccoli!?
What to look out for in white chocolate
First, check the ingredients list, which should include only sugar, cocoa butter, milk solids or milk powder and possibly lecithin and vanilla. Second if possible, check the colour, high-quality white chocolate tends to be ivory in colour not bright white. This is because cocoa butter is naturally yellow if a bar is bright white, it’s been bleached and deodorized.
Some of the tasty benefits of white chocolate are that it has less caffeine than darker chocolate and a lower melting point (thanks to the cocoa butter). So it’s high enough to keep white chocolate solid at room temperature, yet low enough to allow the white chocolate to melt in your mouth… giving you that delicious melting moment.
We hope you enjoyed reading about white chocolate and why its gotten such a bad rep. There are some passionate craft chocolate makers out there who are helping to slowly change the perception of white chocolate by using only the finest ingredients. So let us know your favourites or if you’d like to nominate a white chocolate maker.
So like it or not white chocolate has a lot going for it not, next time you go chocolate tasting try a piece of white chocolate and experience first hand that exquisite melting moment after you place a square on your tongue.
And whether or not you consider it “chocolate” at the end of the day it’s still a product of the cocoa bean.
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