White chocolate is a confection of sugar, cocoa butter, and milk solids. The melting point of cocoa butter is high enough to keep white chocolate solid at room temperature, yet low enough to allow white chocolate to melt in the mouth.
Origin and production:
White chocolate first appeared in Switzerland in the 1930s. It was invented by Nestlé in order to utilize excess cocoa butter. It was first popularly distributed in the USA in 1948 with the introduction of Nestlé’s Alpine White Chocolate bar, which contained white chocolate and almonds.
Composition and regulations:
White chocolate is made of cocoa butter, milk, and sugar. Most often, the cocoa butter is deodorized to remove its strong and undesirable taste that would hurt the flavor of the finished chocolate. Regulations also govern what may be marketed as “white chocolate”: In the United States, since 2004, white chocolate must be at least 20% cocoa butter (by weight), at least 14% total milk solids, at least 3.5% milk fat, and less than 55% sugar or other sweetener.
Before this date, U.S. firms required temporary marketing permits to sell white chocolate. The European Union has adopted the same standards, except that there is no limit on sugar or sweeteners. Although white chocolate is made the same way as milk chocolate and dark chocolate, the ingredients are different. Because of the ingredients, many people do not consider white chocolate to be chocolate at all although it does contain cocoa butter: a product that, like many cocoa solids, is derived from the cacao bean. However, some preparations (known as confectioner’s coating or summer coating) are made from inexpensive solid or hydrogenated vegetable and animal fats, and as such, is not at all derived from cocoa. These preparations may actually be white (in contrast to white chocolate’s ivory shade) and will lack cocoa butter’s flavor.
Since it does not contain cocoa solids, white chocolate contains only trace amounts of theobromine, a chemical compound which gives other types of chocolate their characteristic brown color. This means that white chocolate can be safely consumed by individuals who must avoid theobromine for medical reasons. Dark chocolate contains more theobromine than white chocolate because it contains the largest amount of cocoa solids. White chocolate contains only trace amounts of caffeine, a physically addictive stimulant present in cocoa solids.
Use in baking:
White chocolate can be difficult to work with. When melted, the cocoa butter can occasionally split and create an oily compound that can be recovered by re-emulsifying. This can be done by melting a small amount of butter or chocolate and whisking in the “oily compound”. As with chocolate, as soon as any water is introduced into the melted product it rapidly turns lumpy and grainy, i.e. split. Again, it can be saved by re-emulsifying. Like chocolate, it may be purchased in large or small bricks, but these can often be difficult to work with as one must cut off chunks with a knife, often resulting in inaccurate portioning. Pastilles/Feves (small chips) are often a more precise way to use white chocolate. White chocolate can be used for decoration of milk or dark chocolate confections or in any way chocolates might be used. Vanilla fudge is also marked as white chocolate fudge.