Errors in the professional kitchen can sometimes give rise to a new culinary component.
So it was in the French Valrhona kitchen in 2006 when white chocolate left to melt on a bain marie (water bath) was forgotten. A few hours later the chocolate had turned a brownish color, like caramelized milk becomes dulce de leche when slow-cooked with sugar for one to two hours.
HOW DOES WHITE CHOCOLATE “CARAMELIZE”?
The resulting “caramelization” of white chocolate is actually the Maillard reaction, well-known in professional kitchens, where prolonged (not high) heat causes proteins and milk solids to turn brown, like in clarified butter or caramelized onions.
At Valrhona the caramelized white chocolate had taken on a deeper, more pronounced smell, and was richer and less sweet in flavor than white chocolate. Former Chez Panisse pastry chef David Lebovitz posted the technique on his blog in 2009. The technique appeared about a year later in Eric Ripert’s book, Avec Eric.
IS ROASTED WHITE CHOCOLATE AVAILABLE COMMERICALLY?
Valrhona launched Dulcey, its commercial version of roasted white chocolate, in 2012. Valrhona chocolate is favored among many professionals so Dulcey’s use lept into prominence in pastry kitchens. Valrona labels Dulcey as “blond”, its own category among white, milk and dark.
Hershey’s launched its Hershey’s Gold Bar in 2017. Like the Gold Bar, Kit Kat White and Reese’s White Peanut Butter Cups cannot be called white chocolate as they contain less than 20 percent cocoa butter.
In 2017, Valrhona launched a second blonde chocolate called Orelys, deeper in color and with a slight licorice profile, evidently the result of using dark muscovado sugar.
Although roasting white chocolate is a simple procedure, consistency of product is a major attractor among pastry chefs. In my personal experience, roasting times and end results can vary with different brands of chocolate that have varying percentages of cocoa butter.
I recently created a dessert at Nicoletta’s Table to pair with a 15-year old Tudor Hall Barrel-Aged Dessert Wine. The sweet wine had strong background notes of dark chocolate and blackberry. As a companion to the wine, we served Chocolate Pot de Crème with Caramelized White Chocolate Shards and Fresh Blackberries. Because of its richness, pot de crème is typically served in a 2-2.5 oz ramekin.
Use your favorite pot de crème recipe, and savor, savor, savor small bites. Notice how the flavors complement one another and add to the overall profile.