The ultimate guide to white chocolate

4 Jun 2020

White Chocolate

Whilst many of us can’t refuse a bit of white chocolate, how much do you know about the sweet treat?

White chocolate is a dream for those with a sweet tooth. Its creamy, velvety taste is a great alternative for those who find the deep cocoa flavours of milk and dark chocolate slightly too rich, or if they just want something a little different. You may be a longstanding aficionado of white chocolate – but have you ever wondered where it came from and what is in it that makes it, well, white?

Who made the first white chocolate bar?

Compared to dark and milk chocolate, white chocolate is a relatively modern invention. Whilst Chocolatiers Fry’s of Bristol made the first commercially-available chocolate bar in England as early as 1847, it wasn’t until the 1930s that white chocolate graced our shelves after Nestle released the Milkybar.

The Swiss brand allegedly developed the white chocolate as a way to use up excess milk powder that had been produced for World War I and was no longer in demand, according to “The Chocolate Tasting Kit” author Eagranie Yuh. It is also a good way to use up excess cocoa butter from chocolate production; although cocoa butter is used in the creation of milk and dark chocolate, there is usually cocoa butter left over.

blocks of cocoa butter
Blocks of cocoa butter are solid at room temperature

Although white chocolate may have developed through a need to use back-of-the-cupboard ingredients, it has developed into a chocolate product that is beloved by many.

What is white chocolate?

White chocolate is made from ingredients that are extracted from the cacao plant. Chocolate nibs – dried, fermented and roasted bits of cacao beans – are ground to create a fine paste known as ‘chocolate liquor’. This paste is then put under large amounts of pressure, which separates the mixture into two of chocolate’s main ingredients: cocoa solids and cocoa butter (the fat extracted from the beans).

Cocoa solids give chocolate that deep, complex taste and darker colour. Cocoa butter, on the other hand, is a natural vegetable fat that melts at 34-38℃ and is the element of chocolate that gives it the perfect melt in your mouth texture. Milk and dark chocolate bars all contain a mixture of the two ingredients, but white chocolate eschews the cocoa solids for an indulgent cocoa butter experience.

By adding milk and sugar to the cocoa butter, you end up with a product that doesn’t contain any of the bitter, savoury cocoa notes to that of its dark chocolate sibling. Instead, when you bite into a square of white chocolate, you’ll be met with an infinitely meltable, smooth and creamy concoction. Ideal for those looking for some unadulterated decadence, or if you find the bold flavours of a high cocoa content chocolate bar just a little too intense.

cocoa beans drying
Cocoa beans are left to dry in the sun before they are processed.

What does white chocolate taste like?

As white chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids, it has a much more subtle and delicate flavour to that of milk and dark chocolate. Its flavour also depends on the type of cocoa bean used to make it, with some cocoa butters having a light, floral taste and others with a more classic creamy flavour. The texture is not dissimilar to a milk chocolate, although the higher cocoa butter percentage does add a silkier feel in the mouth.

What flavours go well with white chocolate?

Typically, white chocolate is flavoured with vanilla to give it a delicate, slightly floral flavour. As both vanilla and white chocolate have creamy undertones, it makes perfect sense that the two would go well together. We’ve balanced the two flavours with our Vanilla White Selector bar: this bar is boosted with extra vanilla seeds, adding a subtly aromatic note to the creamy white chocolate.

For another subtle but satisfying taste pairing, our award winning Dominican Republic 42% White Chocolate uses a blend of caramelised milk and sugar to add butterscotch notes, ensuring that each bite brings bursts of sumptuous flavour.

However, this is not to say that white chocolate doesn’t pair well with bolder flavours.

Our Passion Fruit Chocolate Bar tempers zingy passion fruit with creamy white chocolate.

Fruity tastes go great with white chocolate – we combine punchy passion fruit with a wave of white chocolate in our Passion Fruit Chocolate Bar Selector to create a heavenly balance between tangyness and creaminess. White chocolate is also good to soften other flavours: our Mojito Chocolate Selector tempers zesty lime, fiery rum and breezy mint beautifully, bringing all flavours together into one delicious morsel.

What else can I use white chocolate for?

As with milk and dark chocolate, the melting point of cocoa butter is high enough to keep white chocolate solid at room temperature, unless sweltering weather means your room temperature rises above 34℃! This isn’t too much of an issue in our beloved British climate, so you can carry your white chocolate with you on the go to snack on, or stash it away safely in the treat cupboard.

White chocolate can also be melted in the same way as milk and dark chocolate, although its higher sugar content means that you might have to keep a closer eye on it to prevent it from catching.

white chocolate and almonds

Once melted, white chocolate has an astonishingly velvety texture, making it perfect to dip sweet and savoury bites into. Our Large Chocolate Dipping Adventure allows you to dunk both crunchy and soft snacks into a melted white chocolate pot, along with milk, dark and caramel chocolate pots.

Although white chocolate may not have an obvious flavour at first glance, this is not to say that it lacks any taste. The cocoa butter used results in a smooth, silky texture, with light hints of cocoa running through. If you prefer stronger flavours, then white chocolate blends fantastically with other tastes, so you can satisfy all your cravings in a single bite.

Can I make white chocolate at home?

If you’re in the mood for a culinary challenge, then you can make white chocolate at home! You just need cocoa butter, milk powder, sugar and any flavourings you’d like to add, but try and get the best possible quality cocoa butter you can.

melting cocoa butter in a pan

Simply melt 100g of cocoa butter on the stove or in the microwave until it is completely liquid, then stir in 65g of powdered sugar and half a teaspoon of powdered milk. Stir thoroughly until all the ingredients have completely dissolved, and then feel free to add any flavourings you like! Add in some zesty orange oil, a drop or two of vanilla essence, or even a sprinkle of ginger powder for a warming tingle – it’s up to you!

Then, pour the mixture into moulds and allow to set completely in the fridge. You may want to eat the chocolate quickly (not difficult!) and not expose it to lots of temperature changes, as homemade white chocolate can be a little more volatile and resistant to blending smoothly; that’s why we add a little natural emulsifier to ours.

If you’d rather buy white chocolate and bake with it, it can be used the same way as any other chocolate; melt into a ganache, whip into a frosting or create a decadent white chocolate cheesecake. Don’t forget to temper the indulgence with some strawberries!

How to choose a quality white chocolate

Just like other types of chocolate, the quality of white chocolate can be compromised if it contains a low percentage of cocoa bean products. If it has a reduced cocoa butter content then it is likely that the bulk of the bar has been substituted with vegetable oil. You can tell if this is the case if the bar is strikingly white in colour – golden hues are what you should look for if you want the best tasting chocolate.

When in doubt, check the label of your white chocolate – it should contain milk powder, sugar, cocoa butter and an emulsifier, along with any natural flavourings like peppermint oil or passion fruit juice. If there are any other oils, like vegetable or palm oil, try another brand.

It’s also a good idea to check the percentage of cocoa butter used; the EU standard requires any white chocolate to have a minimum of 20% cocoa butter. At Hotel Chocolat, we decided to create as luxurious a white chocolate as we could; so we use a minimum of 36% cocoa butter for an astonishingly smooth melt. We’ve looked, but we haven’t found another white chocolate with as much cocoa butter and as little sugar as ours.

If we’ve piqued your interest in white chocolate, then our extensive variety of luxury white chocolate has everything you need for a cocoa butter carousel!