Friday, April 6, 2018

Fun Friday Facts #137: Is White Chocolate Even Chocolate?

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a bag of what I thought was my favorite Easter treat, Cadbury Mini Eggs. When I got home, I was dismayed to discover that I had bought, not delicious milk chocolate Cadbury eggs, but disgusting white chocolate Cadbury eggs. How could Cadbury do this to me?

In the interest of 100% pure journalism, I ate a few of them anyway. So when I say they were disgusting, you know I’m telling you the truth. White chocolate is not chocolate.

Or is it?

There is apparently some debate about whether or not white chocolate is chocolate. While Wikipedia remains appropriately neutral on the matter, publications as august as Mental Floss and Huffington Post assert that white chocolate is not chocolate. It doesn’t contain any of the delicious cocoa solids derived from the cocoa bean and used to make milk and dark chocolates. It is made with cocoa butter, the vegetable fat extracted from cocoa during the (real) chocolate-making process. As the beans are processed, cocoa nibs are removed from the bean, roasted, and then crushed into a paste known as chocolate liquor. This paste is further processed in a cocoa press, which separates the cocoa butter from the cocoa solids. The cocoa solids can then be reincorporated with cocoa butter to create milk or dark chocolate; or the cocoa butter can be mixed with milk fat, milk solids, sugar, emulsifiers, and other flavorings to make white chocolate. Cocoa butter is also valuable in the cosmetic and pharmaceuticals industry; I’ve got a jar of cocoa butter Vaseline upstairs, but I’m not going to eat it, because cocoa butter isn’t food.

A block of not-food. ~Image by David Monniaux from Wikimedia Commons

I mean, okay, it’s food. But only technically.

Of course, the people who make and sell white chocolate would have you believe that’s it’s chocolate. Cookbook author, pastry chef, and presumed member of the White Chocolate Illuminati, David Lebovitz, told the Chicago Tribune that saying white chocolate isn’t real chocolate  is“bickering over nomenclature” because, after all, it’s made from cocoa beans. I’m squinting real hard at this assertion, by the way.

But, apparently cocoa butter doesn’t even have a flavor of its own; the flavor of white chocolate comes from added milk and sugar, because who doesn’t love sweetened milk. As a matter of fact, I’mma go pour myself a nice refreshing glass of sugared milk right now. Yum.

Nestlé, purveyor of sh*tty chocolate and pure evil, invented white chocolate in the 1930s, marketing the world’s first white chocolate bar, the Milkybar, to European customers. It’s believed, or at least widely repeated, that Nestlé needed to use up a surplus of powdered milk left over from World War I, which…ewwwww. World War I ended in 1918; if Nestlé started selling white chocolate in 1930, that means they were using 12-year-old powdered milk. I know powdered milk lasts a long time, but it does go bad eventually -- after about five years, according to members of this survivalist forum -- and this website claims the Milkybar (marketed in some countries as the Galak bar, after the sound you make when eating it) was introduced in 1936. That means they were using 18-year-old powdered milk. If they’d just been patient for another couple of years, they could have used that powdered milk for World War II and saved the rest of us the trouble of existing in a world in which white chocolate is a thing.

A Milkybar.

If you like white chocolate, though, you’ll be happy to know it’s improved in quality somewhat. Prior to 2004, the sale of white chocolate wasn’t regulated in the U.S., so some manufacturers were just using vegetable oil or some other, cheaper, even grosser vegetable fat instead of real, genuine, tasteless and yellow cocoa butter. Thanks to Standard of Identity regulations passed by the FDA in 2004, products labeled white chocolate in the U.S. are required to be at least 20 percent cocoa butter, 14 percent milk solids, and 3.5 percent milk fat – and no more than 55 percent sugar and sweeteners. Milk chocolate may have added flavors, such as vanilla, the most interesting flavor of them all, after milk sugar itself, that is.

It is alleged that there is such a thing as good white chocolate. Artisanal white chocolate appears to be taking off, and high-quality white chocolate is yellowish, just like pure cocoa butter and my Vaseline.