#5: White Chocolate Wonderland

“Hey Erica, why are you launching this week’s post on a Monday night instead of Sunday?”

“Well dedicated blog follower, it was not as a ploy to build up anticipation and interest.  Also it was most definitely not because I got busy this weekend and didn’t write it on time…. It is to celebrate today being NATIONAL WHITE CHOCOLATE DAY!”

“But Erica… NWCD was yesterday.”

“….I had some misinformation.”

Isn’t life funny and coincidental like that sometimes?

.

Screen shot 2013-09-22 at 5.18.53 PM

White. Chocolate. Wonderland.

John Mayer may be a fan of my body, but I nominate white chocolate as more deserving of the Wonderland title (Hey John… call me).  For two decades I have been crusading for the worth of WC in the face of a bittersweet obsessed world.  WC = white chocolate. I’m not typing that 50+ times. Come on.  Growing up I couldn’t get enough of the buttery, vanilla rich, sickeningly sweet stuff.  To be fair this is coming from a kid who made Kool-Aid with two=three cups of sugar rather than the suggested one cup.  But in any case WC gets shit from milk and dark fans alike, and it is time I take a stand.  This one is for you, baby.

Me circa 1990. Gimme dat sugar.
Me circa 1990. Gimme dat sugar.

.

It. IS. Chocolate…. Kind. Of.

The question of white chocolate’s legitimacy has been ringing ever since people had enough time to ask trivial asinine questions about candy.   White chocolate typically contains about 20% cocoa butter, 14% milk solids (the solid stuff in milk…. ta da), tons of sugar (but no more than 55%), and usually vanilla.  Note that cocoa solids did not make the ingredients statement.  Cocoa solids are the brown stuff that make milk and dark chocolate brown.  They are bitter, tannic, anti-oxidant rich, and packed with complex flavor.  But shwhere does this cocoa stuff come from? Great question:

Cacao pods grown near the equator are harvested and cracked open to remove the cacao seeds inside.  These seeds are fermented in open sunny fields before being ground into a paste.  The fermentation and roasting darkens them to a deep brown, similar to the process used on coffee cherries.  The nibs inside cacao beans are then ground and heated, forming liquid chocolate liquor.  This is made up of cocoa solids (the solid stuff) and cocoa butter (the fat).  White chocolate producers use the separated cocoa butter to whip up their nom-able goodness.  In contrast, dark chocolate producers (boooo) use high proportions of cocoa solids in their “artisan creations.”  Cocoa solids are the component that contain bitter tannins along with anti-oxidants and protein.  Dark chocolate is the “healthy” kind due to higher proportions of solids to fat.  Now you can explain to your friends/office mates/lovers/children/pets/brick walls with smiley faces drawn on them what the little percentage on chocolate wrappers means.  “You go Glen Cocoa, four for you Glen Cocoa.”

cacao-fruit-beans-ecuador1
This here is a burlap bag filled with nice clean cacao seeds and a big pretty cacao pod. In real life these guys are strewn across dirt fermenting areas among leaves, bird shit, spiders, and more. YUM. But this inaccurate portrayal of chocolate production makes for a pretty picture, huh?

.

Hold. the. Chocolate. Phone.

So get this… after ranting about the validity of WC among other chocolate friends I whipped up my white chocolate recipes (see below for noms).  I glanced at the baking chips’ ingredients label and to my HORROR there was no actual cocoa butter to be found.  The geniuses at Ghirardelli and Nestle substitute palm kernal oil for cocoa butter in their formulas.  This calls for a shifting of my stance on the “White Chocolate Isn’t Chocolate” issue.  If there is in fact NO cocoa solids and NO cocoa butter than SURVEY SAYS it is not chocolate.  Am I right or am I right?  The United States requires a minimum of 20% cocoa butter in the standard of identity for WC.  So how did these products make it to store shelves?  Shwell,  my mistake was in assuming that “Classic White Baking Chips” meant “WC Chips.”  Apparently the loop hole is all in a name.  The regulation does not stretch to imitations, so Ghirardelli is free to use sweetened palm kernel oil in place of my rich rich cocoa butter.  I felt cheated.  I felt wronged.  I felt downtrodden. #sadface  #1stworldproblems.  But more research (read: googling haphazardly) revealed the benefits of cooking with said fake WC.  Cook’s Illustrated wrote a wonderful review of “real WC” as compared to “fake WC.”  Read the short recap  here for some unexpected results in the world of confection.

.

Random. 1980’s.  Advertisement.

White chocolate is a relatively young food, bursting onto the food scene in post WWII Switzerland.  In 1984  Nestle launched their “Alpine White” bar  to a U.S. market to rave reviews.  Well, maybe not quite, considering they discontinued the bar several years later.  However, we did get a cult classic jingle out of the mix set to steriotypical 80’s music video effects.  Air five!

.

Life. Changing. Recipes.

Working at Asheville, NC’s Biltmore Estate in 2008 left a lasting impression on my culinary expression.  The world-class food produced there was playful yet refined, fusing Southern tradition with modern trends all gift wrapped with a sustainable/go-local bow.  My dishes still retain a spirit I would define as whimiscal and unexpected.  One of the most profound changes Asheville had on my style was infusion of sweetness into my savory.  Honey in collard greens, brown sugar on bacon, peaches in BBQ sauce: it all made my dinners sing louder.  A great chef at The Inn on Biltmore Estate prepared a soup as the amuse bouche one evening that I will never forget.  I have tried to recreate it every autumn when the leaves change and beleive I have finally nailed down an adequate recreation.  So thank you David, this one is for you:

IMGP3150
White Chocolate Parsnip Soup. Click photo for recipe.

.

Here is another throwback to the late 2000’s… wait… the 200x’s? 2000-2009’s?… the first decade of 2000? Whatever.  Anyway.  After learning how to ganache in culinary school I decided to make truffles as Christmas presents (ganache, its a verb).  I stopped after three years due to a melted-chocolate-induced breakdown (My sister S held me while i cried on the candy-covered kitchen floor).   These guys are a reincarnation of my truffling ways, complete with adorable artificially colored stripe accents:

IMGP3155
Pomegranate Infused White Chocolate Truffles. Click photo for recipe.

.

Thanks. for. the. Laughs.

A big thank you as always to my resident food photographer and kitchen floor cradler S (she rocks).  Also props to my main squeeze C for her help coating the ganache balls – it was a bit of a process.  And holla to my panel of elite parsnip soup taste testers for their expert opinions (thanks mom and dad).

Tune in in TWO weeks when I unleash a beast of a blog on… drum roll…. GREEN TEA!

Bon App Y’all.

.

.

.

Sources de la Info

The All-Mighty Wiki

A fellow blogger

Cook’s Illustrated Comparison

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “#5: White Chocolate Wonderland

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s