What Is White Chocolate?
Plus, how to melt it and bake with it.
By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen
Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.
Is white chocolate really chocolate? If it is, why doesn’t it taste like chocolate? If it isn’t, what is it? Read on for all you need to know about this candy, including what it’s made from, how it’s classified, how to buy good quality white chocolate and how to melt it.
What Is White Chocolate?
White chocolate is a sweet, melt-on-your-tongue creamy treat and ingredient.
As with all food products, the USDA determines what can be labeled as white chocolate and what can’t. To claim true white chocolate status, a bar must be made up of at least 20 percent cocoa butter (no palm or other vegetable oil allowed to add creaminess), 3.5 percent milk fat, 14 percent milk solids (the sugars and proteins in milk) and no more than 55% percent sugar or other sweeteners (such as honey or corn syrup).
White chocolate does not contain cocoa solids, the dried parts of the cocoa bean that impart classic “chocolate” flavor to milk and dark chocolate bars. Therefore, white chocolate is not technically chocolate at all. And this makes sense because white chocolate tastes nothing like classic chocolate.
What to Make with White Chocolate
One of white chocolate’s assets is its ability to take on flavors and deliver them in a sweet morsel that almost instantly melts in your mouth. When paired with any strong flavor (like tartness, spiciness or fruitiness), the creaminess and sweetness of the white chocolate is the perfect foil. That’s why it’s used in truffles with fruit flavors and spiced barks and fudges or peppermint treats that are popular around the holidays.
White chocolate chips or chunks stirred into cookie dough will add pockets of melting sweetness when baked.
The creamy properties of white chocolate make it ideal for frosting and glazing cakes. Silky smooth and able to take on any color or flavor, white chocolate frosting can add flavor to any cake it covers. When combined with cream cheese, the acid in the cream cheese balances some of the sweetness in the white chocolate, letting the flavor of the cake shine.
The Best White Chocolate for Melting
What you’re making with white chocolate is what determines which one is best.
For frostings, cheesecakes and any recipe where you want the chocolate to be super smooth and soft, real white chocolate is best. The pure cocoa butter in real white chocolate causes it to melt in your mouth, and that’s what you want here. Callebaut, Guittard, Ghirardelli and Baker’s make pure white chocolate that is easily melted and stirred into batters and frostings.
When you’re looking for white chocolate to melt for bark or to drizzle on cookies or pretzels, you’re better off using imitation white chocolate made with palm oil instead of cocoa butter. These packages will be labeled with terms like white baking chips or morsels. Chips or morsels melt very easy, are very white when drizzled and used to decorate and firm up quickly and solidly, snapping satisfyingly after they harden. Callebaut, Guittard, Ghirardelli all make baking chips, discs or morsels.
How to Melt White Chocolate
There are two important rules that you should try your best to follow when melting any kind of chocolate: don’t get water in it and don’t let it get too hot.
How to Melt White Chocolate In the Microwave
Melting white chocolate in the microwave is the easiest way to melt it and also ensures that you don’t get water in it.
- Chop it into small pieces. Cut up your bar into the size of chocolate chips. If you’re starting with chips or discs, you can skip this step.
- Put the chocolate in a glass microwave-safe bowl.
- Microwave in short spurts. Microwave the white chocolate at 50 percent heat for 15 seconds. Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir the white chocolate with a silicone spatula. Microwave the white chocolate for 15 seconds and stir again; repeat this process until 90 to 95 percent of the pieces are melted.
- Stir the mostly melted chocolate until it’s smooth. At this point, remove the bowl from the microwave once and for all and stir the chocolate until the remaining pieces melt from the heat of the bowl. The mixture should be completely smooth. (You don’t want to keep microwaving it because you could overheat it, causing it to seize and become grainy).
How to Melt White Chocolate on the Stove
To melt white chocolate on the stove, you’ll need to set up a double boiler to provide gentle steam heat that slowly melts the white chocolate so it doesn’t burn.
- Set up the double boiler and add the chocolate. Get a bowl that fits over a saucepot that is 5 to 8 inches tall. Bring 3 inches of water to a low simmer in the saucepot. Place the chopped white chocolate or the chips in the bowl and then put the bowl over the water.
- Stir the chocolate continuously with a silicone spatula. Keep the chocolate at the very bottom of the bowl while you stir (the circle on the bowl where it rests against the metal pot can get very hot and should be avoided). It the white chocolate looks like it’s drying out instead of melting smoothly, it’s probably melting too quickly. To slow down the cooking, remove the bowl from the pot and continue to stir to cool it a bit.
- Melt the chocolate 90 to 95 percent of the way. Take the bowl off the pot and stir until all the chocolate is melted.
White Chocolate Recipes
Almost-Famous Peppermint Bark is as close as our test kitchen could get to the Famous Peppermint Bark from Williams-Sonoma. White chocolate is the perfect way to highlight the peppermint.
White chocolate cheesecake is always a hit. The cranberry compote is tart and a striking contrast to the sweet white cheesecake.
White chocolate is a great way to balance spice in a creamy hot drink. The cardamom makes this classic winter beverage a standout, perfect for a snowy day.
Just a few ingredients and less than 30 minutes will give you a creamy sweet, fudge. We went with blue, but any color will be lovely. You can also add a few drops of mint extract to flavor it.
Fluffy white chocolate and cream cheese buttercream can dress up any cake. Here it’s paired with an almond white cake, but it would be delicious on any number of cakes.
The red cranberries and green pistachios shine like jewels in this bark: white baking chips are the key to the pure, shiny white palette. Sprinkle some extra nuts and berries on top for visual impact.