If this is the first you’re hearing of blonde chocolate, my apologies, but you’re a bit late to the party. Blonde chocolate, also commonly called toasted white chocolate or caramelized chocolate, is a relatively recent addition to the chocolate spectrum. It’s basically a cooked white chocolate which takes advantage of the Maillard reaction to lend a caramel-like flavor to the final chocolate. Fun fact— you can also caramelize milk chocolate!
I actually first tried caramelized white chocolate and caramelized milk chocolate in the same afternoon, back when I was living in Guatemala in 2015. In the years since, the confection has failed to gain as much traction as the famed ruby chocolate, launched by Callebaut in 2017. This is despite the fact that blonde chocolate is legally considered chocolate (unlike ruby).
Valrhona Chocolate, the inventors of Blond® chocolate, actually made a gallant effort to promote it as the 4th type of chocolate many years before ruby. There were public launch parties around the world! Yet blonde chocolates remain the domain of pastry chefs & fancy tasting menus, while ruby has seemed to take over the 4th spot— in the public’s eye, at least.
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What Is Blonde Chocolate?
Quite simply, blonde chocolate is a type of white chocolate which has been caramelized. This is achieved either by cooking the finished chocolate or using “caramelized” milk powder in the initial recipe (more accurately described as milk crumb). But just like ruby, blond chocolate manipulates existing chocolate ingredients to develop a new flavor profile. In this case, they change the flavor of the milk, arguing in the court of public opinion that this change warrants the declaration of a new type of chocolate.
This isn’t completely unprecedented, either; white chocolate didn’t even have a standard legal definition in the US until 2002. It was shortly after that that the first type of blonde chocolate was created by the French company Valrhona Chocolate, in 2004. Truth be told, its discovery was an accident. In the years since, however, that accident has translated into thousands of kilos of blonde chocolate being sold to pastry kitchens around the world. Much of this is a matter of historical record.
But in a way, the full story gives us some clues as to what may happen with ruby chocolate as it evolves and the hype continues to die down. That is, if Callebaut chooses to continue releasing variations of ruby, as Valrhona has with blond chocolate. Two years after launching ruby, Callebaut chose to release a different invention, WholeFruit Chocolate, while Valrhona came out with another blonde chocolate recipe following their initial launch.
So it’s hard to say whether a comeback is eminent in a world where you can make a toasted white chocolate just as good (& lower in sugar!) in your oven at home. That is, if you have the patience and know-how to do so (caramelized chocolate recipe below).
How Was Blonde Chocolate Created? (Timeline)
Legend has it that blonde chocolate was created by accident. According to many articles based off of long-lost press releases, L’Ecole Valrhona pastry chef Frédéric Bau was doing a demonstration, melting white chocolate in a bain-marie, and accidentally left the heat on overnight. Upon returning to the kitchen, he was greeted by a brown bowl of white chocolate, miraculously both edible and delicious.
It was the mid-2000’s, and at that point it would be nearly a decade before Valrhona began manufacturing their mass-market version of the stuff on a large scale. During the many years in between, the recipe became a staple lesson in L’Ecole Valrhona classes, and it made its way into several pastry kitchens (including some I’ve worked in). David Lebovitz even put up a caramelized white chocolate recipe on his site back in 2009, which he unsurprisingly learned from a class at L’Ecole Valrhona!
Fast forward to 2012, and Valrhona launches what would become one of their top-selling products: the Dulcey® 32%. As of publication, Dulcey is one of just two types of Blond® chocolate developed by the company (which is a certified B Corporation), with their second iteration coming in 2017: Orelys® 35%. By the next year, the mass market had seen the launches of a slew of low quality imitators
Some of those don’t even use any cacao derivatives (*cough* Hershey’s *cough*), meaning that they legally can’t be called chocolate. There was a blonde chocolate Starbucks drink, several references to golden chocolate, and an overwhelming number of obscure ways to reference chocolate, without illegally calling their products chocolate. See: Hershey’s Gold.
Blonde Chocolate: Where To Buy It
After all this reading, surely I’ve piqued your interest as to how blonde chocolate tastes. I could tell you that blonde chocolate tastes like caramel, fine shortbread, and cooked sugar, but there’s just no replacement for tasting something for yourself. Luckily, even though it’s left the mouths of mainstream media, blonde chocolate is alive and well on the (virtual) shelves of chocolate shops around the world.
Many craft chocolate makers even have their own iterations, like at that first chocolate shop I visited in Guatemala. While I haven’t actually surveyed the chocolate aisles of a regular grocery store in quite awhile, I’ve been told that you can buy blonde chocolate online as well as in your nearest convenience store or market. There is a caveat for that option, however, which comes down to quality.
When you’re scaling up processes like this and looking to cut costs, that results in an inferior experience for consumers, often without their knowledge. To make the purest blonde chocolate possible, all you need are three ingredients: cocoa butter, milk, and sugar. Yet to cut costs, most manufacturers up the sugar percentage, add in artificial flavors, and use a few stabilizers while they’re at it.
Just look at the Dove Salted Caramel Blonde Chocolate Bar as an example; Hershey’s, Whittaker’s, and Nestlé also have versions of blonde chocolate, among others. Blonde Chocolate Dove Ingredients: white chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, skim milk, milkfat, soy lecithin, pgpr, natural and artificial flavors, salt, tocopherols to maintain freshness), milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, skim milk, chocolate, lactose, milkfat, soy lecithin, artificial flavor), sugar, sea salt, natural flavors.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is the vending machine cookie of blonde chocolates, when you should really be trying the metaphorical gooey-chocolate-chip-cookie-from-that-fancy-bakery-on-the-corner version. The Hershey’s version is even worse, as it doesn’t contain a single cacao product at all; it’s basically vegetable oil with white sugar. Ew.
Below are some links for where to buy real blonde chocolate online, though as always, I encourage you to look for a local craft chocolate shop that may produce it near you.
Blonde Chocolate Recipe
If reading about all the additives in most of the commercial varieties makes you want to make blonde chocolate at home instead, then you’re in luck. Since the chocolate itself began catching on at a French pastry school, there is indeed a recipe & a method for making blonde chocolate. At home bakers and professional chefs alike will be able to follow along, but remember to start with a high quality craft white chocolate.
If you use anything else, you might as well just throw in the towel and reach for a Dove bar or Hershey’s “Gold.” If you’re located in the US, I recommend checking out Bar & Cocoa, but if you’re international, check out this guide to find a craft chocolate retail shop in your country. Once you’ve gotten your hands on some nice white chocolate, the next most important ingredient is patience.
Blonde Chocolate Recipe: Materials
All you need to make caramelized white chocolate at home is an oven, a silicone baking mat & baking tray, and a spatula for stirring the chocolate itself. Plus some great white chocolate! Here’s the list:
- 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: Method
- 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.
Blonde Chocolate Recipe: Notes
If you’re trying to recreate one of Valrhona’s blonde chocolate flavors, remember that each of them has a particular element which makes it uniquely caramelized beyond the milk crumb: whey and molasses. Because of these unique recipes, even if you use Valrhona couverture, your chocolate will never taste exactly like theirs. That’s why they’re able to protect them as “unique creations.”
So if you want a more shortbread-like flavor as in the Dulcey® 32%, I recommend adding the optional salt noted in the recipes above. But if you want a more deep caramel flavor, as in the Orelys® 35%, knock down the temperature to 225°F/108°C, and cook the chocolate for 5-7 minutes longer. Honestly, sometimes I just stick a whole bar of white chocolate in the toaster oven on a low temp for several minutes and hope for the best. It’s not the most technical, but it usually works.
However on one occasion I stuck a full bar into the toaster oven and nearly forgot about it. The resulting blonde chocolate had turned brunette, and it had an unusually bread-like flavor & intense crisp. It did not melt in the least. So even if you do overcook your homemade blonde chocolate, well, you just might discover a whole new flavor palette. Happy baking!
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