“It's the sophisticated older cousin of Nutella.”
White chocolate gets a bad rap. Some people think it's too sweet. Others hate on the fact that white chocolate isn't actually chocolate. That's right: white chocolate is made of cocoa butter, milk solids, and sugar but doesn't contain any cocoa solids like milk and dark chocolate. But, there are chefs out there who believe in the deliciousness of white chocolate, and they're willing to defend it wholeheartedly.
In honor of National White Chocolate Day, we spoke to seven chefs and pastry chefs who love to use white chocolate in their cooking and baking. When it comes to choosing a white chocolate for your own kitchen endeavors, Food & Wine Culinary Director Justin Chapple recommends Valrhona Ivoire white chocolate. Chapple’s favorite way to use the confection? Slow-roasting it then slathering the spread atop toasted bread, with a sprinkling of sea salt. Chapple says, “It's the sophisticated older cousin of Nutella.”
Here's what the chefs had to say:
Tyler Malek, co-founder and head ice cream maker, Salt & Straw: “It’s a lot easier to be creative with white chocolate. Take toasted white chocolate for example. Knowing that burnt sugar and milk solids are the key to a great caramel, baking white chocolate yields a solidified essence-of-caramel godsend. Or take ice cream magic shells. Knowing that cocoa butter and sugar is one of the only combos that melts quickly and hardens on ice cream, white chocolate becomes the cheat code to making any flavor of shell you can dream of. I love white chocolate. It’s one of the most important ingredients in our arsenal at Salt & Straw. My favorite recipes include: Toasted White Chocolate & Roasted Strawberry Custard, Caramelized White Chocolate and Peanut Butter Ice Cream, and our Honey Lavender White Chocolate magic shell.”
Candace Nelson, co-founder & pastry chef, Sprinkles and Pizzana: “I love a high quality white chocolate that delivers a creamy mouthfeel and milky sweetness. White chocolate is also an incredible vehicle for highlighting other flavors like matcha or mint, and its creamy sweetness is an ideal complement to the sharpness of bittersweet chocolate.”
Nicole Guini, pastry chef, Blackbird: “I love white chocolate and use it often in ice creams and mousses. It’s sweet and milky and the perfect canvas for inserting other flavors and elevating them. In ice creams particularly, it adds a silky creaminess and luscious mouthfeel.”
Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins, chef/owner, El Jardín: “White chocolate definitely has a place in pastry—I can appreciate the richness that it gives a dessert. You can balance it with other non-sweet components. We have a ‘plátano macha’ dessert on the El Jardín menu, for example—it was inspired by a savory item, so we use a lot of salty and sweet components. We make a white chocolate semifreddo that gets folded with caramelized banana puree in the shape of a banana before it gets coated with a white chocolate shell that’s been colored yellow and painted with chocolate brush strokes to look like a banana!"
Thomas Raquel, executive pastry chef, Le Bernadin: “White chocolate is a great canvas for other flavors. At Le Bernardin, we frequently use it in our macarons as the base for our ganache fillings, often adding flavors such as lemon, matcha, dulce de leche, or blueberry, just to name a recent few!”
Paul Donnelly, executive chef, Chinese Tuxedo: “Have you ever had the white chocolate from Godiva? No? Well, you should. White chocolate has many different uses, I particularly like to roast it at a low temperature around 250℉. As it melts, it changes color and the aroma changes, becoming nutty and butterscotch-like. You can stop here if you like and dip some marshmallows in it, or keep the white chocolate roasting a little longer until it caramelizes. I then like to freeze it and crumble it or microplane it over desserts, or why not throw some toasted coconut and raw oats through it and make yourself a little cheeky afternoon snack.”
Miles Thompson, executive chef, Michael’s Santa Monica: “I like to use white chocolate because it has a very direct and defined sweetness that not only lends itself naturally to desserts but can really take on—and even amplify—botanical or spicy flavors. I typically use white chocolate for savory applications, such as pairing it with juniper, green vegetables or roasted green chilies.”
Anna Posey, pastry chef/owner, Elske: "Poor white chocolate! It definitely doesn’t get the love like dark and milk chocolates. I liked white chocolate a lot more when I stopped looking at it like ‘chocolate’ and started thinking about it as its own separate ingredient. Because its main flavors are cocoa butter and sugar (and it doesn’t contain actual cocoa solids) it’s just not fair to white chocolate to compare it to ‘chocolate.’ I like it because you can create amazing flavor through caramelization, and it can add body to dishes that need structure, similar to a ganache. It’s a nice layering flavor when used along with fruits and veggies in desserts. And a little goes a long way. Thank you, white chocolate!"
Elaine Townsend, pastry chef, The Bakery at Fat Rice: "White chocolate is such a versatile ingredient! Because of it's subtlety, it pairs well with so many different ingredients from the traditional to more exotic and really enhances the natural flavor profiles of whatever you're combining it with. We used it here [at Fat Rice] to enrich Chantilly Cream for our Batatada, a Macanese White Sweet Potato Cake, and it really added a great complimentary richness.”
Adrienne Cheatham, chef and founder of Sunday Best: "When I started my career, I worked in pastry for a few years. White chocolate was actually one of my least favorite ingredients—I found it harder to work with than real chocolate and cloyingly sweet. Months after I made the switch to the savory side of the kitchen, I noticed the most amazing aroma wafting out of the pastry kitchen one afternoon which I discovered, upon investigation, was roasted [white chocolate]. My curiosity continued over the next few weeks, and the pastry chef showed me new applications and ways to manipulate and develop the flavor in white chocolate's milk solids. In that moment, I realized that white chocolate has even more flavor potential than other chocolates, as long as you understand it and learn how to coax that flavor out."
Leigh Omilinsky, pastry chef, Nico Osteria : “I enjoy using white chocolate because I think it can act as a neutral flavor. For example, if I want to make a whipped ganache for a macaron, however I do not want the flavor of chocolate, white chocolate is perfect. It can absorb the flavors of fruits, teas, and spices while still having the stability and other benefits of chocolate. I currently have caramelized white chocolate on the menu, used in a similar manner: a neutral in the butterscotch cremoso. In this dish the white chocolate adds a nuttiness that plays well with the butterscotch flavor itself.”
Alon Langleib, pastry chef, Mercer Street Hospitality: “I’m a big fan of white chocolate because it can work so well with both nuts and fruit. White chocolate is less dominant and more subtle than both milk and dark chocolate, so flavors that I mix with white chocolate will be more pronounced. One of my favorite combinations for white chocolate is using citrus fruit. At Lure Fishbar in NYC, we make white chocolate with Yuzu and cover it with pistachio. It’s delicious!”