What is white chocolate?
We usually hear there are three kinds of chocolate in the world; we have milk chocolate, dark chocolate and white chocolate, right? Well, even though “white chocolate” has the word “chocolate” included in its name, many say technically it’s not chocolate (but it is a cacao base product just without the cacao fiber)! The whole issue sounds weird, like when you learn that tomato is actually a fruit instead of a veggie. Let me explain what happens here…
Ever since I was little, I have heard that white chocolate is not really chocolate; but, it wasn't until, as an adult, I started to get interested in baking that I decided to investigated the truth about white chocolate and the story behind it.
The story says that the first white chocolate bar was created by the Swiss brand Nestlé in the year 1936, they called it “Galak”. In some countries you can find it as “Milkybar”. Both versions are still on the market nowadays and I hope they keep them for much much longer because that’s one of the favorites of my dad! After that creation, many other brands started to create their own white chocolate bars and combinations as the market was starting to be popular.
So, why isn’t white chocolate considered a real chocolate? Well, the white chocolate has an ingredient called cocoa butter, which comes from the cocoa beans, and you might think that if it has “cocoa” then it has to be chocolate but the truth is that cocoa butter doesn’t contain any of the cocoa fiber that are required in order to name something as chocolate (this is a paradoxical loop hole in FDA definition and what perception is with everyone).
A cocoa bean consists of, roughly, half cocoa butter and half cocoa fiber. The cocoa butter is what gives chocolate its richness and the cocoa fiber is responsible for the chocolate color and taste. According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for something to be called chocolate, it has to contain at least 10% of cocoa mass, which includes nibs and the cocoa fat inherent to the bean, they don’t mention any specifics for the cocoa butter content.
On the other hand, the FDA establishes that for something to be considered “white chocolate” it needs at least 20% of cocoa butter in its content, it doesn’t have to have cocoa fiber. Some people think you can’t find high quality white chocolate because usually they have too many ingredients that work as fillers but, nowadays there are many options that are astounding.
Cocoa butter is also used for cosmetics and pharmaceutical purposes. The cost of this ingredient has risen a lot since around 2005 and that’s why there are some cosmetics and chocolates for that matter where they are not as high quality, because sometimes it is decided to substitute part of the cocoa butter with other things like shea or vegetable oil.
So, to answer the question “what is white chocolate?”, it is a derivative of cacao. White chocolate is usually composed of: sugar, cocoa butter, milk and emulsifier (which helps it melt evenly). You want your white chocolate to have the least amount of ingredients possible, this will help you to make sure it doesn’t have unnecessary fillers. Another tip to find good white chocolate is to get the ones that are slightly yellow instead of totally white, this is because the natural cacao cocoa butter is yellowish white.
I recommend you start using white chocolate in the kitchen, it helps you to improve flavor and the appearance of dessert recipes. I love to use it to make ganache or to drizzle on some baked goods. It looks awesome when combining it with dark chocolate brownies or when making chocolate chip cookies when having a dark cookie and white choco chips!