I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked the question, “do you like white chocolate?” and heard, “no, I like dark chocolate.” It’s a pet peeve of mine when people say this, because I didn’t ask if they liked white chocolate or dark chocolate… why does it have to be one or the other?
Poor white chocolate, always living in the shadow of its dark counterpart. Why can’t we just appreciate it for what it is? Rich, creamy, decadent… and bursting with potential.
I’ll be the first to tell you that I am a lover of all things dark chocolate (the darker, the better!), but white chocolate and I have our own little love affair. The two are so different from one another, it isn’t really fare to compare them, or choose just one or the other. They are almost yin and yang to each other. One dark and bitter, one light and sweet. Both rich, smooth, and melting.
Whether you love it or hate it, though, there is one thing white chocolate has above dark. And that is this: it can be turned into caramel.
I first learned about caramelizing white chocolate when David Lebovitz shared the technique way back in 2009. I immediately added it to my list of must-make things, but have only now gotten around to trying it. Procrastination is apparently my forte, as this post was supposed to be published a couple days ago, now. Better late than never, right?
The idea here is really quite simple. At its base, white chocolate is little more than milk, cocoa butter, sugar, and vanilla. When exposed to heat, the sugar caramelizes, transforming our plain white chocolate into a flowing pool of sweet, molten caramel.
The technique was first created at the Ecole de Grande Chocolat, Valrhona’s French school of chocolate arts. Thank goodness the people of Valrhona were kind enough to share it with the rest of the world, because this stuff really is a gem. A sweet and decadent caramel, which acts exactly like chocolate — solid at room temperature, easily melted, and able to be turned into most anything regular chocolate can. Even if you aren’t a fan of white chocolate, I urge you to give this a try.
Making a batch of this luscious stuff is simple. All you need is some good quality white chocolate — the higher the cocoa butter content, the better. According to the FDA, white chocolate must contain a minimum of 20% cocoa butter to be called “chocolate.” Beware of the stuff labeled “white morsels” or “white chips,” as these are not real white chocolate. If your chocolate has a low cocoa butter content, it may develop a grainy texture, or not taste as good. I suggest looking for something with at least 30% cocoa butter for this.
I used Guittard white chocolate wafers, here. Of course, Valrhona is another obvious choice. Or, if you find your only options are those available in the candy aisle, I’ve found Green & Black’s white chocolate bar to be one of the better ones on the market, and should work just fine. Whatever you use, be sure to check the cocoa butter content — it may be hidden in the fine print, but it should be there.
So, funny story… I ordered a pound of white chocolate to play around with, and two kilograms showed up at my front door. Now, I’m tempted to turn it all into caramel and just eat it by the spoonful until I go into a sugar-coma, but there’s a small part of me that says that probably isn’t a good idea. So instead I’m going to ask you guys for help. What are some of your favorite uses for white chocolate? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll try to take one of your suggestions and turn it into a blog post in the (not too distant) future.
Now, where were we?
Start by preheating your oven to 250 degrees F. If your chocolate is in discs, wafers, or chips, dump them onto a rimmed baking sheet. If your chocolate is in a block or a bar, roughly chop it and then dump onto a baking sheet. Place the pan on the middle rack of your oven, and set a timer for ten minutes. When the time is up, give the chocolate a stir, and return it to the oven, setting your timer for another ten minutes.
Repeat the process, making sure to scrape the chocolate from the pan and stir until smooth each time. It may be tempting to stick your finger in there and give it a taste, but keep in mind that chocolate is a molten pool of burning, not safe for fingers, tongues, or other extremities. You’ve been warned.
The chocolate may appear dry and crumbly at times, but don’t worry, this is normal. Just keep stirring and it will become smooth and creamy again right before your eyes. The only difference in the two photos above is about 40 seconds of moderate stirring. Crazy, right?