As you go to search for that perfect late-night snack, you may have found yourself wondering, what is white chocolate? This type of chocolate can be very divisive compared to other forms. Some people love it, while others put it down, saying that it is not real chocolate. Although it’s not my go-to sweet snack, I can always appreciate a high quality sweet treat.
How is it different?
First of all, white chocolate differs from other kinds of chocolate in that it lacks cocoa solids. Its basic ingredients are cocoa butter, milk solids, and sugar. Cocoa solids are the main ingredient of milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Because of its lack of cocoa solids, it doesn’t have a bitter taste. It also contains an extremely small amount of caffeine compared to other types of chocolate.
Because the primary ingredient of white chocolate is cocoa butter, which comes from cacao beans, this food can be considered a chocolate product. You may still be wondering however, is white chocolate real chocolate according to the formal definition of chocolate? Many chocolate experts argue that since cocoa solids are the main defining property of chocolate, it is in fact not true chocolate. That does not mean it can’t still be a high quality confection, though.
Besides, the famous pastry chef David Lebovitz argues that fighting over white chocolate’s categorization is “tiring.” Whether it’s considered chocolate or not, what matters is that people enjoy it.
Interestingly, the FDA regulates what can and cannot be labeled white chocolate. A product must have at least 20 percent cocoa butter in order to legally be considered white chocolate. The FDA standards for this food have been around since 2004.
White chocolate has been around since the 1930s; the first major bar was created by Nestle. No one knows exactly who invented white chocolate, but it may have been created to make use of excess cocoa butter.
How is white chocolate made?
What is white chocolate exactly? How do manufacturers make it?
The first step to making any kind of chocolate or chocolate derivative, including white chocolate, is to obtain cocoa beans, which must undergo fermentation, drying, and roasting. The chocolate maker then grinds the cocoa nibs, the inside of the beans, which yields chocolate liquor. Chocolate liquor contains two main components, cocoa solids and cocoa butter. These components can be separated.
- Cocoa butter is used in white chocolate, but the cocoa solids are not. Other ingredients, including milk solids, sugar, and lecithin, are mixed in. Vanilla is another common ingredient used to flavor it.
- Milk solids are also known as evaporated milk or powdered milk. The milk adds a creamy flavor and texture to the this confection.
- Lecithin is a fatty substance that works as an emulsifier. Emulsifiers are simply food components that make other ingredients stick together.
- The amount of sugar in this product varies, but the FDA caps it at 55 percent of the total composition.
How popular is it?
According to the market research firm Mintel, white chocolate is the least popular chocolate with only eight percent of respondents saying that they prefer it.
Despite this low number, it still accounts for hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for chocolate companies globally. Those who love this sugary treat will continue to be loyal consumers. Meanwhile, many chocolate manufacturers are working to convert people to this milk chocolate alternative by making creative and high-quality products.
In addition, it is predicted that the demand for this confection will grow in the next few years. The market size may increase by over a billion dollars by 2023. This increase is linked to growing interest in high-quality white chocolate products.
How do you find high-quality white chocolate (and avoid mass-produced, processed stuff)?
White chocolate has a very different taste from milk and dark chocolate because of its lack of chocolate solids. A lot of people don’t like it for this reason. However, some people who think they dislike this white confection may have only had low-quality versions of it. Unfortunately, cheap, low-quality products prevail on the market. It can be difficult to find high-quality white chocolate at the average store.
Here are some characteristics of high-quality white chocolate:
- High-quality products do not have any fats besides cocoa butter and lecithin. They do not have added oils like coconut oil or palm kernel oil. Those ingredients are cheap for manufacturers to add, but they reduce the quality of the candy.
- This food should have an off-white color that resembles ivory. It may be yellowish. This is the natural color of cocoa butter. If it is a pure, snow-white color, it likely is not truly white chocolate. A very pale white color indicates that undesirable ingredients or extra sugar have been added. This creates a sweeter taste, which overpowers the rich flavor of the cocoa butter.
- In general, it should have few ingredients. A long ingredient list indicates that a lot of filler ingredients were added. Some variants have flavors like vanilla, and some have added bits like fruits pieces. Those are okay and do not decrease the quality of the chocolate. However, ingredients with long and difficult-to-pronounce names are a bad sign.
Where does chocolate originate from?
It is also important to know that high-quality products have a range of taste profiles depending on the source of cocoa butter and how much cocoa butter is used in the recipe.
The main regions that produce cacao are South America, Central America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania.
Cocoa butter from South America tends to be very soft, while Asia and Oceania produce hard cocoa butter. Cocoa butter from Central America and Africa, which is in the middle, is best suited for chocolate bars. Soft cocoa butter from South America is more likely to be used in cosmetic products.
A higher percentage of cocoa butter can also indicate higher quality. While the FDA requires white chocolate to be at least 20 percent cocoa butter, high quality versions may be 30 percent cocoa butter or more. Manufacturers often boast about the cocoa butter percentage on the label to set themselves apart from other makers.
Finding high-quality white chocolate at the average grocery store is a challenge. Chocolate shops and specialty grocery stores are more likely places to find good products.
In conclusion, white chocolate, though it is not technically chocolate, is a delicious treat. Millions of people around the world enjoy it, and it may be growing in popularity due to manufacturers’ focus on producing high-quality versions of this delicious treat.