White chocolate is made without the presence of cacao solids. There are a many steps involved, and for this to make any sense, we have to back up just a bit.
Chocolate is made from cacao (or cocoa) beans, which are seeds from the cacao pod. After the pods are harvested, the seeds are separated from the pod itself and are both fermented and dried. The seeds are comprised of fat (cocoa butter) and solids (cocoa powder).
A ripe cacao pod being inspected by our team in Colombia
Once we receive the cacao, we give them a quick sort. We keep an eye out for any defects or foreign objects that may harm either the equipment or the quality of the chocolate. Next, we roast the cacao to highlight or balance specific flavours found in the cacao itself.
We are now tasked with removing the shells from the cacao. This step is what we call 'winnowing'. The seeds are lightly cracked with a 3 roll mill, releasing the outer shell. Powerful airflow blows away the lighter shell, leaving the heavier inner seed, or nib, to escape the airflow and fall into a reservoir.
After we collect enough nibs, we load them into our refiners. These refiners are beastly machines that are tasked with crushing the nibs finer and finer until it reaches an optimal texture. We are looking for a silky smooth mouthfeel which can be found with a particle size of 20 microns or below.
Katie loading the refiner with cacao nibs
So, now we have refined the nibs into what we call chocolate liquor. We have taken the appropriate amount of steps to get to where white chocolate begins its journey.
First, we need to separate the fat (cocoa butter) from the solid (cocoa powder), and a cocoa butter press is used. This type of press can reach a pressure of 6500psi, which is around 50x more pressure than you would have in your bike tire. The liquor is forced through a sieve that separates the fat and leaves the solids behind. The fat, or cocoa butter is one of the core ingredients in white chocolate.
Now that we are briefed on some of the terminology and processes surrounding chocolate, we can go back and answer the question:
White chocolate is comprised of cocoa butter, sugar and milk powder. An absense of cocoa solids gives white chocolate its distinct pale ivory colour.
There are regulations that govern what may or may not be called white chocolate. White chocolate must be at least 20% cocoa butter, 14% total milk solids, and 3.5% milk fat, and no more than 55% sugar or other sweeteners.
The absense of cocoa solids makes white chocolate a perfect candidate for adding in other flavours. Our favourite inclusions include freeze dried raspberry, pistachio, or even black sesame!
Our pistachio white chocolate bar
So, there you go - you have the inside scoop on white chocolate and the processes involved to make it.
But, is white chocolate even considered chocolate? The debate rages on. I would like to say yes, as all types of chocolate share similarities and have their differences. Now get out there and find some tasty chocolate to nibble on, no judgement here if you prefer white, milk, or dark!
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