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Our Blog: Chocolate Talk

Is White Chocolate Actually Chocolate?

White Chocolate

White chocolate is one of those foods, like olives or anchovies, that causes people to take sides. You either can’t stand it, or you’d defend it to the death. Proponents love its satiny, creamy texture and mild flavor. Detractors say it’s unbearably sweet, lacking in complexity, and - perhaps the worst insult - not actually chocolate at all. The debate about what white chocolate is (and isn’t) is not new. At Hedonist, we get a lot of questions about whether white chocolate deserves its name. Here, we’ll answer your questions once and for all.

First, a quick lesson on how white chocolate is made and why it’s different from the brown stuff. All “real” chocolate begins with cacao beans. In the early stages of chocolate making, those beans are finely ground into a smooth, brown paste called chocolate liquor (no, not that kind of liquor). The chocolate liquor is then separated into its component parts: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.

Cocoa solids are responsible for the fruity, bitter, nutty, and tannic notes in the chocolate - in short, the ‘chocolaty’ flavors. (It’s also the part that contains antioxidants). Cocoa butter is the fat of the cacao bean, and is responsible for chocolate’s silky, melty texture. After the solids and butter have been separated, they are then mixed together again with sugar and/or dairy in certain proportions according to the type of chocolate being made. Here’s the important part: in making white chocolate, the cocoa solids are never added back in. The final product is composed of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk. Because no cocoa solids are present, it appears light yellow or ivory in color and is considerably smoother than milk or dark chocolates. Its flavor is subtle and milky, delicately perfumed with a cocoa aroma.

But is it chocolate?

Some are of the opinion that because white chocolate contains no cocoa solids, it can’t be chocolate. But what chocolate does have in abundance is cocoa butter, which comes straight from the cacao pod just like the solids. Some high-quality white chocolates can be up to 40% cocoa butter by mass! For us, that makes white chocolate part of the chocolate family.

Whether white chocolate is “real” chocolate isn’t just a matter of taste. It’s a real, legal issue with significant ramifications for the chocolate and confectionery industries. Until recently, the FDA considered white chocolate to be “confectionery” and not actually chocolate.

Standards dictated that chocolate must contain cocoa solids in order to be marketed as chocolate. That changed in 2002, when the FDA established new standards for white chocolate in response to petitions from Hershey and the Chocolate Manufacturers Association of the United States of (yes, that’s a real thing). The new standards dictated that for a product to be labeled and marketed as ‘white chocolate,’ it must contain at least 20% cocoa butter, and least 14% milk solids, and 3.5% milkfat.

Even with FDA standards, white chocolate isn’t always taken seriously. Some of its bad PR is attributable to the large number of cheap imitation white chocolate products on the market. Maybe you’ve seen them in the supermarket aisles labeled as “white baking morsels” or “white baking bar.” These are products which haven’t met the standards for white chocolate, most likely because they contain little or no cocoa butter. Imitation white chocolate contains sugar and milk just like the real stuff, but the cocoa butter is swapped out for a different fat like hydrogenated vegetable oil. Why not just stick with cocoa butter? Because cocoa butter is extremely valuable, and not just to chocolatiers. For example, the cosmetics industry uses cocoa butter in lotions, lip balm, and makeup.

These white chocolate wannabes are likely to be chalky, waxy, and super-sweet, rather than soft and subtle. If you want to discover the breadth and depth of what white chocolate truly can be, go for quality and always read your labels! True white chocolate is voluptuous and silky and yes, sweet, but not overpoweringly so. Pair it with some salty almonds or tangy fruits and you just might become a white chocolate believer.

Pleasure, handcrafted. Hedonist Artisan Chocolates are handmade with fresh ingredients to give as gifts or indulge yourself.
© 2018 Hedonist Artisan Chocolates. All Rights Reserved. Hedonist Artisan Chocolates 674 South Avenue Rochester, NY 14620 585.461.2815
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