What is White Chocolate?
by Valerie Beck, chocolate expert
We didn’t have a white Christmas in Chicago this year, but my family did have a delicious white chocolate bread with peppermint hot fudge on our dessert table, so we counted that as a blessing indeed!
What is white chocolate? And is it really chocolate?
It is and isn’t chocolate, depending on the quality, and the semantics. Here’s what I mean:
There’s premium quality white chocolate, and commercial grade white chocolate, just as with milk and dark chocolate. Premium quality white chocolate is made with cocoa butter, which comes from the cocoa bean from which all chocolate is made. Mix cocoa butter with milk and sugar, and you have quality, delicious white chocolate.
Commercial grade white chocolate is usually made with palm oil and other ingredients that do not come from the cocoa bean. If it doesn’t come from the cocoa bean, it isn’t chocolate. It gets worse: palm oil is a saturated fat that is bad for our health, and it is farmed in such a way as to be harmful to the environment, to animals who live in the rainforest, and to workers who in some cases aren’t paid a fair wage. The World Health Organization recommends avoiding palm oil. This means we want to be careful of palm oil in milk and dark chocolate, as well as white chocolate.
So, if you have good quality white chocolate, with cocoa butter, is it chocolate? It depends on your semantics. When chocolate is made, the cocoa bean is ground up and the white (or more accurately: ivory colored) cocoa butter is separated from the solid brown cocoa mass. White chocolate doesn’t contain the cocoa mass, though it does contain the cocoa butter, so chefs sometimes call it “chocolate-less chocolate!”
Was that answer confusing enough? Bottom line: read your labels. If you pick up a white chocolate bar and see that it’s made with cocoa butter, with no vegetable oil, you’ve got a delicious chocolate product. If the label says vegetable oil, that generally means palm oil, and you may want to back away from the bar, and proceed quickly to your nearest artisan chocolate shop or bakery to find the real thing!
Meanwhile, snow or no (and I like to call snow “white chocolate from heaven!”), I wish you a beautiful and delicious new year!
Keep eating chocolate!
“Sweet speaker, chocolate consultant”