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Chef's Hat: The mystery of white chocolate

White chocolate enhances - and does not overpower - flavors of other ingredients in a recipe

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Photo illustration / Shutterstock.com
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According to some culinary experts, white chocolate is not really chocolate.

The classic chocolate and its varieties have a base of what is known as cocoa solids. White chocolate does not contain cocoa solids; instead, it is made from cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids and sometimes vanilla.

Although this has been a longstanding debate — that white chocolate is not actually chocolate — according to Food and Drug Administration rules, a confection can be marketed as white chocolate if it contains at least 20% cocoa fat and at least 3.5% milk fat.

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So legally, if it meets these requirements, whatever product is being called “white chocolate” has every right to do so.

Why use white chocolate instead of the traditional chocolate? White chocolate is creamy and melts on your tongue. Because it is creamy, it is a great additive to frostings and icings.

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When you put white chocolate into cookies or muffins, you get a pop of sweetness when you bite into the muffin and hit that chocolate piece.

If you're using ordinary chocolate, the flavor of the chocolate can overpower the other flavors of the recipe. White chocolate is different. Instead of overpowering the other flavors, no matter if ingredients are apples, bananas or something like pumpkin, it instead enhances their flavor.

Can you replace milk chocolate chips with white chocolate chips in a recipe? Probably not. Although it is chocolate, white chocolate is more of a sweet, creamy additive and does not have that rich chocolate flavor that is desired in items like chocolate chip cookies.

A good recipe to start with when experimenting with white chocolate is Pumpkin-Banana White Chocolate Muffins. The combination of the banana and pumpkin makes these muffins extremely moist, and the bits of white chocolate add just the right amount of sweetness.

Whether you consider it a “real” chocolate or not, white chocolate is a creamy, rich confection that adds a delightful harmony to recipes. Its white, creamy color makes it festive and a great ingredient to use during the holiday season.

Forget the old standby chips and reach for a bag of white chocolate chips to try some new and creative recipes. Happy Eating!

Pumpkin-Banana White Chocolate Muffins

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Experimenting with white chocolate by baking Pumpkin-Banana White Chocolate Muffins.
Donna Evans / Echo Journal Correspondent

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (2 large bananas)
  • ½ cup white chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

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In a large bowl, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, sugar, and salt. Mix well.

In another bowl, add the liquids and wet ingredients — canola oil, vanilla extract, eggs, pumpkin and mashed bananas. Mix well. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix just until they're combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir slightly.

Line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners or spray the tins with nonstick cooking spray. Fill each cup with batter until it is 3/4 full. Note: You may have enough batter for an additional 6 muffins if you make smaller muffins.

Place the muffin tins into the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the tins from the oven. Insert a toothpick into one of the muffins and if it comes out clean, the muffins are done. If the muffins are not done, place them back in the oven and cook them for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, checking them every 3 minutes to see if a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Remove the muffins from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan and place them on a cooling rack or plate. Let them cool for an additional 10 minutes before serving.

Hot White Chocolate

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Photo illustration / Shutterstock.com

  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 cup good quality white chocolate chips, or chop a block of white chocolate into cube-sized pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Garnish – white chocolate chips, sprinkles, marshmallows, whipped cream or candy canes

Place a medium sized saucepan on the stove. Pour the milk into the pan. Add the white chocolate, vanilla and salt. Turn the stove to medium-low heat. Cook until the chocolate is melted. Stir occasionally. Once the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth, remove it from the heat and pour it into mugs.

Garnish with white chocolate chips, sprinkles or whipped cream and serve immediately.

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Macadian Nut Cookies with White Chocolate Chips

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Photo illustration / Shutterstock.com

  • 1 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped white chocolate or white chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Mix until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after adding each egg. Stir in the vanilla extract.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Mix until well combined. Add a couple spoonfuls at a time to the wet mixture, stirring well after each addition.

Add the macadamia nuts and white chocolate and lightly mix.

Spray cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Scoop up the dough in rounded tablespoons and place it on the prepared cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, just until the edges are golden brown.

Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and remove the cookies off the baking sheets on to a wire rack to cool.

Donna Evans is an Echo Journal correspondent.

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