In some circles, white chocolate has a reputation of being something other than chocolate. In defense of white chocolate’s chocolate nature, I present exhibit A – Askinosie’s Davao White Chocolate with Pistachios, a must-try for any chocolate enthusiast.
In the United States, white chocolate must be at least 20% cocoa butter. But that’s all. As a result, the first ingredient in most white chocolate isn’t chocolate, but sugar. In Askinosie Chocolate’s white chocolate, cocoa butter is the first ingredient. “We have a 34% cocoa butter content, which is one of the highest and is what makes the white chocolate actually ‘chocolate,’” says Lawren Askinosie, the company’s Director of Sales. The cocoa butters used in other white chocolate are also deodorized, a process that removes the natural flavor and aromas from the butter. Askinosie skips this step to preserve the full, rich flavor of the butter.
Askinosie’s Davao chocolate is the first Philippine chocolate the Untied States has seen in a long time. “We wanted to go to the Philippines because it was historic on the cocoa bean trail from the 1600′s, but they had not exported in 30 years so we took that as a challenge,” explains Lawren.
To make chocolate, raw cacao is fermented, dried, roasted and the cacao nibs are separated from their hulls. These nibs are then ground into cocoa liquor, which is composed of approximately 50% cocoa solids and 50% cocoa butter. Cocoa liquor, mixed with sugar, is the primary ingredient in dark chocolate.
If you want to make a white chocolate, however, you need to do something radically different – press the cocoa butter out of the liquor. “We were the first small batch chocolate makers in North America to make a white chocolate from scratch,” explains Lawren. “We press our own cocoa butter and that is the main ingredient in the bar.”
Pressing cocoa butter is long and difficult task. “Our white chocolate bars are some of our most labor intensive products because when pressing the cocoa butter, it can take several days to press enough for just one batch,” said Lawren. After pressing out the cocoa butter, Askinosie is left with press cake that is ground into cocoa powder.
The cocoa butter is put in an 85-year old German melanguer, combined with organic cane juice and goat’s milk powder, and mixed for several days. “We use goat’s milk as opposed to a cow’s milk,” says Lawren. “We did this primarily for flavor. We really thought it fit better with our white chocolate than cow’s milk, but also because of sensitivities to dairy.” After the chocolate has reached the right consistency, its poured into molds and salted pistachios, grown on a single farm in Santa Barbara, California, are sprinkled on top.
The bar snaps softly, unlike the crisp snap of a dark chocolate. Askinosie’s non-deodorized cocoa butter combined with the goat’s milk gives this chocolate a buttery and rich flavor, with a tanginess from the goat milk that keeps it from being too heavy. The bits of pistachio strewn on top extenuate the earth, nutty, wheat-y flavor, and have a beautiful color contrast with the white chocolate. Sunrise meets sunset.