White chocolate has gotten a bad rap for far too long. True, it's extremely sweet and tends to lack the complexity of dark and milk chocolate, but white-chocolate loyalists have been arguing for years that white chocolate has the capacity to be complex and toasty — all you have to do is caramelize it.
White chocolate's biggest strength is its creamy, milky smoothness. The flavor of white chocolate is extremely sweet, but if you caramelize it in the oven for about 30 minutes, it darkens and becomes a warm golden color with a complex and nutty flavor. It's a bit like butterscotch or caramel, but with all the creamy smoothness of white chocolate. It's an easy trick to try at home with our guide to making caramelized white chocolate.
Read more: Have You Tried Caramelized White Chocolate?
Once the chocolate is caramelized, you can let it cool back to a hard chocolate and use just like regular milk or dark chocolate. We particularly like it for caramelized white chocolate "hot chocolate."
Now Eater's Whitney Filloon says we're about to be seeing caramelized white chocolate everywhere. She writes that it was actually invented in 2006 by a chef at Valrhona who accidentally left some white chocolate heating in a water bath for several hours. When he came back, it was a light golden-brown and gave off the aroma of "roasted Breton shortbread," the company said in a press release.
That was a happy accident, because the caramelized white chocolate was delicious. Top pastry chefs and chocolatiers learned the technique from Valrhona, and they went back to their restaurants and started putting it on menus. But it was still a pretty esoteric, insider ingredient.
Then in 2012, Valrhona started selling its roasted white chocolate commercially as "blonde" chocolate, which made it a lot easier for people to start using it at home, without having to make their own by roasting white chocolate in the oven.
In recent years, toasted, roasted, blond, or caramelized white chocolate has been a favorite of chefs and bloggers.
As Eater points out, the Pioneer Woman even included a tutorial on how to make caramelized white chocolate on her blog two years ago, and suggested using it to frost Irish cream brownies or gingerbread Hostess cupcakes.
Boston Girl Bakes calls it "liquid gold."
Cathy Mini of Our Mini Family used it for her milk and blond chocolate drop cookies after receiving a bar of Valrhona blond chocolate from the French Ministry.
Caramelized white chocolate has been beloved by pastry chefs and food bloggers for several years, and now it looks like it's about to break out into a big, mainstream trend.
This year, Starbucks' holiday drinks included a toasted white chocolate mocha made with just this technique.
"We took white chocolate and applied a culinary twist by slowly roasting white chocolate to brown the cocoa butter and caramelize the milk and sugar. This deepens the flavor, makes it more complex, and brings out toasted nutty notes that linger as you sip the beverage," said Starbucks beverage developer Erin Marinan.
For La Maison du Chocolat's Christmas collection this year, blond chocolate was studded with cranberries, roasted almonds, and pistachios for one of the pieces in his "Starlit Night Bouchees" gift box.
Godiva has a blond chocolate and salted caramel candy bar, and this year Hershey's debuted its Hershey's Gold bar, which is made of "caramelized creme" with pretzels and peanuts. That "caramelized creme" is toasted white chocolate, and if Hershey's has it in the candy aisle, we're almost certainly going to start seeing even more of it in the near future. It can't be long before we can buy caramelized white chocolate ice cream at the grocery store, can it? I sure hope not.
What do you think of caramelized white chocolate?