If this is the first time you’ve heard of blonde chocolate, please accept my apologies; you’re a little late to the party. Blonde chocolate, also known as toasted white chocolate or caramelized chocolate, is a newer addition to the chocolate family. It is essentially a cooked white chocolate that uses the Maillard process to provide a caramel-like taste to the finished chocolate. Milk chocolate can also be caramelized!
I first had caramelized white chocolate and caramelized milk chocolate on the same day in 2015, while living in Guatemala. In the years afterwards, the dessert has failed to garner the same popularity as Callebaut’s legendary ruby chocolate, which was introduced in 2017. Despite the fact that blonde chocolate is officially classified as chocolate (unlike ruby).
Blond chocolate was invented by Valrhona Chocolate, who made a valiant attempt to market it as the fourth form of chocolate many years before ruby. There were public launch events all throughout the globe! Yet, blonde chocolates continue to be the territory of pastry chefs and sophisticated tasting menus, while ruby seems to have taken up the fourth slot in the public’s eye, at least.
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What Exactly Is Blonde Chocolate?
Simply put, blonde chocolate is a caramelized version of white chocolate. This is accomplished by either heating the final chocolate or incorporating caramelized milk powder into the original mixture (more accurately described as milk crumb). Blond chocolate, like ruby, manipulates existing chocolate components to create a new taste character. In this instance, they modify the taste of the milk and argue in court that this modification authorizes the proclamation of a new sort of chocolate.
This isn’t entirely unusual; white chocolate didn’t even have a recognized legal classification in the United States until 2002. Shortly later, in 2004, the French manufacturer Valrhona Chocolate released the first form of blonde chocolate. To be honest, it was discovered by chance. Yet, in the years afterwards, that mistake has resulted in the sale of hundreds of kilograms of blonde chocolate to pastry cooks all over the globe. Much of this is documented in history.
Nevertheless, in a sense, the whole scenario foreshadows what can happen with ruby chocolate as it matures and the enthusiasm fades. That is, assuming Callebaut continues to release ruby varieties, as Valrhona has done with blond chocolate. Callebaut opted to create a separate creation, WholeFruit Chocolate, two years after introducing ruby, while Valrhona followed up with another blonde chocolate formulation.
But it’s difficult to determine if a return is on the horizon in a world where you can produce a toasted white chocolate that’s just as wonderful (and lower in sugar!) in your own oven. That is, if you have the patience and knowledge (caramelized chocolate recipe below).
How Is Blonde Chocolate Made? (Timeline)
According to legend, blonde chocolate was produced by accident. According to several accounts based on long-lost press releases, LEcole Valrhona pastry master Frdric Bau was performing a demonstration and mistakenly left the heat on overnight while melting white chocolate in a bain-marie. As he returned to the kitchen, he was met with a brown dish of white chocolate that was both edible and wonderful.
That was the mid-2000s, and it would be about a decade before Valrhona started mass-producing its mass-market version on a massive scale. Throughout the intervening years, the recipe became a standard lesson at LEcole Valrhona courses and found its way into various pastry kitchens (including some Ive worked in). Back in 2009, David Lebovitz posted a caramelized white chocolate recipe on his website, which he presumably learnt during a workshop at LEcole Valrhona!
In 2012, Valrhona introduces what would become one of their best-selling products: the Dulcey 32%. Dulcey is one of only two varieties of Blond chocolate created by the firm (which is a certified B Company), with their second version due in 2017: Orelys 35%. By the following year, the mass market had witnessed the introduction of a wave of low-quality copycat.
Some of them don’t even utilize cacao derivatives (*cough* Hersheys *cough*), so they can’t legally be called chocolate. There was a blonde chocolate Starbucks drink, multiple allusions to golden chocolate, and a plethora of creative methods to allude to chocolate without unlawfully naming their goods chocolate. Hershey’s Gold is an example.
Where Can I Get Blonde Chocolate?
After all of this, I’m sure I’ve aroused your curiosity in how blonde chocolate tastes. I could tell you that blonde chocolate tastes like caramel, fine shortbread, and baked sugar, but there’s no substitute for really experiencing it. Fortunately, blonde chocolate is still alive and well on the (virtual) shelves of chocolate stores throughout the globe, despite the fact that it has left the lips of mainstream media.
Many handmade chocolate manufacturers, like the first chocolate store I visited in Guatemala, have their own versions. Although I haven’t gone to a traditional grocery shop in a long time, I’ve been informed that you can get blonde chocolate online as well as at your local convenience store or market. Nevertheless, there is a catch to that choice, and it comes down to quality.
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When you scale up operations like this in order to save money, you end up giving customers a subpar experience, frequently without their awareness. All you need are three ingredients to produce the finest blonde chocolate: cocoa butter, milk, and sugar. To save money, most producers increase the sugar proportion, add artificial flavors, and employ a few stabilizers.
Take, for example, the Dove Salted Caramel Blonde Chocolate Bar; Hershey’s, Whittakers, and Nestl all offer varieties of blonde chocolate. Dove Blonde Chocolate White chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, skim milk, milkfat, soy lecithin, pgpr, natural and artificial flavors, salt, tocopherols to preserve freshness), milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, skim milk, chocolate, lactose, milkfat, soy lecithin, artificial flavor), sugar, sea salt, natural flavors.
It is the vending machine cookie of blonde chocolates, ladies and gentlemen, when you should be attempting the figurative gooey-chocolate-chip-cookie-from-that-fancy-bakery-on-the-corner version. The Hershey’s version is considerably worse since it contains no cacao at all; it’s just vegetable oil with white sugar. Ew.
Here are some links to places where you may purchase genuine blonde chocolate online, but as usual, I recommend looking for a local handmade chocolate business that may create it near you, such as Fruition Chocolate in New York or Dormouse Chocolate in Dorchester, UK.
- On Amazon
- On Bar & Cocoa
- Direct from Valrhona
Recipe for Blonde Chocolate
If reading about all of the ingredients in most commercial types makes you want to create your own blonde chocolate, you’re in luck. Since the chocolate first gained popularity at a French culinary school, there is a formula and procedure for manufacturing blonde chocolate. Home bakers and professional chefs alike may follow along, but start with a high quality artisan white chocolate.
If you use anything else, you may as well give up and go for a Dove bar or a Hershey’s Gold. If you live in the United States, I suggest visiting Bar & Cocoa, but if you live elsewhere, check out this guide to discover an artisan chocolate retail store in your country. After you’ve obtained some good white chocolate, the next most critical item is patience.
Blonde Chocolate Recipe: Ingredients
To create caramelized white chocolate at home, all you need is an oven, a silicone baking mat and baking tray, and a spatula to stir the chocolate. And some delicious white chocolate! Here’s the rundown:
- Metal baking sheet
- Large silicone mat (like the silpat I use at home)
- Silicone spatula
- Metal bowl
- 8oz./227g of high quality white chocolate (at least 30% cocoa butter by volume, with no other oils added)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
Blonde Chocolate Recipe: Procedure
- Preheat the oven to 250°F/120°C.
- Chop up your pieces of white chocolate until they look splintered, even if you’re using white chocolate chips. You want the surface area of the chocolate slivers to be as small as possible, so that each one is evenly exposed to the heat.
- Cover your baking sheet with the (cleaned) silicone mat, and scrape on your chopped chocolate, covering the surface evenly, with a single layer.
- Put the tray in the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes.
- When the timer goes off, take out the chocolate and use your spatula to move around the melted chocolate, ensuring that it browns evenly. Return it to the oven for another 10 minutes, repeating this process one more time (30 minutes total), and then every 5 minutes afterwards until the chocolate is smooth and deep brown. It should be roughly the color of peanut butter, according to my boss in Guatemala (where I learned this technique many years ago).
- Make sure you don’t get any water on the chocolate at any time, as that can cause chocolate to seize up and become unworkable, not to mention stop caramelizing. If you ever pull out the tray and see oil separating from the chocolate, never fear; that’s cocoa butter separating from the solids in the chocolate, and it will recombine with a few pulses from a food processor or a couple minutes with a hand mixer (AFTER caramelization is done). Once the chocolate is sufficiently browned, pull it out of the oven and let it cool. If it’s separated, let it cool for 2 minutes before scraping it into a bowl to recombine at a high speed.
Notes on the Blonde Chocolate Recipe
If you want to manufacture one of Valrhona’s blonde chocolate tastes, keep in mind that each one has a distinct caramelization that goes beyond the milk crumb: whey and molasses. Due of these distinct formulations, even if you use Valrhona couverture, your chocolate will never taste the same. That is why they can safeguard them as one-of-a-kind masterpieces.
Cook the chocolate for a further 5-7 minutes at 108°C. To be honest, I sometimes simply put a full bar of white chocolate in the toaster oven on low for a few minutes and hope for the best. It’s not the most sophisticated method, but it typically works. Thus, if you prefer a more shortbread-like taste, like in the Dulcey 32%, add the optional salt listed in the recipes above. If you prefer a deeper caramel taste, like the Orelys 35%, reduce the temperature to 225F.
On one occasion, though, I popped a whole bar into the toaster oven and promptly forgot about it. The resultant blonde chocolate had darkened and had an extraordinarily bread-like taste and powerful crunch. It hardly melted at all. Even if you overcook your handmade blonde chocolate, you may uncover a whole new taste pallet. Good luck with your baking!
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