In the world of professional cooks, we've all got our pet ingredients or flavor combinations. One chef I interned for introduced me to the wonder of black cardamom by way of his favorite combination of the spice with chocolate and coffee. I've known other chefs that were really into things as varied as nduja, finger limes, fresh bergamot, snails, haricot verts and grapefruit. I've got my own span of tastes that tends to skew towards the fruity, the tart, the bitterness of tea, or the just plain flowery. But one ingredient stands out as something frequently maligned by my coworkers, and I always feel like I'm standing up for it: white chocolate.
I feel like white chocolate doesn't get a fair shake. I hear people whine that it's not "real" chocolate. Cocoa percentages aside, it shouldn't be considered a flat out invalid ingredient. I'm not a huge fan of chocolate in general, though I can't not have a chocolate dessert on my menu. White chocolate almost never gets included on my actual chocolate desserts, but instead is utilized as an accent for other strong tart or bitter flavors.
I have used white chocolate in several ways, in both its natural and caramelized states. I know a lot of people who just don't care for fruit with dark or milk chocolate, and though I do enjoy a few fruits with chocolate I think the smooth milky sweetness of white chocolate goes so much better with fruit in general, particularly acidic things and summery stone fruits and berries.
Something I've wanted to make for a while is white chocolate cake. It's significantly trickier than a plain old chocolate cake, which relies on cocoa powder to create a truly chocolatey but light product. Since cocoa powder does not come in "white," melted white chocolate has to be incorporated, but many recipes for just that tend to be too heavy and greasy, and just not strong on white chocolate flavor. So what to do?
My favorite brownie recipe is one I picked up at my first kitchen job, incorporating melted dark chocolate for a truly fudgy flavor. Once I accidentally added an extra egg and ended up with a still-chocolatey, but cakey pan of brownies. I fed the pan to the staff while I got another batch in the oven. I never forgot my mistake, and good thing, because a cakey batch of white chocolate brownies is exactly what I was looking for.
Even those who claim to hate white chocolate will like these. The cakes are more dense than, say, a fluffy cupcake, but significantly lighter than most brownies. The white chocolate flavor comes through and the edges become slightly toasted, and the cakes are not too sweet or greasy. I balanced out the rich sweetness with a gastrique made with Cabernet vinegar and blackberries, but if you can't find Cabernet vinegar, feel free to use red wine or raspberry vinegar.
About the Author: Anna Markow is a pastry chef obsessed with doing things that no one else does and giving unusual ingredients their time to shine. You can follow her sometimes-pastry-related thoughts on Twitter @VerySmallAnna.