By Erika Mathieu
White chocolate can be a bit polarizing. Milk and dark chocolate are almost always in the spotlight while white chocolate tends to carry the connotation of being cloyingly sweet, bland, and a bit basic. I am not knocking high-quality white chocolate, but instead offering a way to level up an ingredient which isn’t always a universal favourite. White chocolate must contain a minimum cocoa butter content of 20 per cent to be considered good quality, while some pastry chefs say 30 per cent cocoa butter should be the minimum.
The claim that white chocolate isn’t “real chocolate” is a bit misleading. It is true that unlike its milk and dark chocolate counterparts, white chocolate contains no cocoa solids, but it does contain cocoa butter, a component of the cocoa bean, and therefore qualifies as chocolate. To create white chocolate milk solids, sugar and vanilla are added but since there isn’t always a lot going on in terms of flavour, it is often overlooked and used to enhance other more complex flavours. There exists a process to transform regular white chocolate into a smooth, nutty, and toasty byproduct which can be used in a myriad of applications including pastries, cakes, and seasonal desserts such as fruit tarts and more.
When I came across this technique, I was immediately intrigued. Working with traditional milk or dark chocolate can be challenging and intimidating, especially for home bakers without access to temperature-controlled work spaces, sous vide equipment, and is more daunting if you have a traumatic history with chocolate tempering. This technique to elevate white chocolate is easy enough that time and patience supersede flawless technique and results in low and slow caramelized white chocolate. It is a bit caramel-y, a bit toasty. Although the resulting chocolate is still quite sweet, the added flavours from cartelizing the chocolate creates more depth and nuanced flavour. Once complete, this chocolate works well when incorporated into a ganache or similar fillings, and pairs perfectly with summer’s best berries
To make, cover a clean and unlined rimmed baking sheet with high-quality white chocolate and bake for one and a half hours at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 90 minutes total. Every 15 minutes, remove the baking tray from the oven and stir thoroughly, making sure to redistribute the chocolate evenly. Gently work out any lumps and bumps with an offset spatula before returning to the oven, and remove again every 15 minutes to stir and redistribute, to ensure even baking.
One of the keys to this process is ensuring the chocolate stays liquid, by thoroughly mixing after each interval and working the chocolate so it does not seize. Continue this process until the white chocolate begins to resemble liquid caramel in colour. At this point, transfer the mixture to a harden in a clean container or chocolate bar mould to use in future applications, one of which being the most perfect whipped ganache.
According to the recipe originator, Edd Kimber, the perfect ganache is created by adding 150 grams of finely chopped cooled caramelized white chocolate to a bowl, followed by 75ml of gently simmered heavy whipping cream (33-35 per cent fat) and stirring until the chocolate melts and is fully incorporated into the cream. After refrigerating for 30-40 minutes to firm up, whip the mixture to stiff, spreadable peaks, and use to fill your favourite pastries, or skip the ganache step altogether and use in your next batch of salted chocolate chip cookies.
Bake off your desired amount of tart shells, pipe with the toasted white chocolate ganache, and top with ripe summer berries, and edible gold flakes for the most perfect summer potluck dessert.