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  • How is white chocolate made?

    by Joanna Brennan September 01, 2023 5 min read

    How is white chocolate made?

    Written by Joanna Brennan from Pump Street Chocolate

    We are one of just a handful of businesses making white chocolate from start to finish in the UK, and even fewer do so with traceable cocoa beans. In this post, I’m explaining the step-by-step process behind how our white chocolate is made.

    It begins with sourcing excellent cocoa beans

    Making quality white chocolate begins with sourcing excellent cocoa beans

    The cocoa beans we use for white chocolate are sourced from the Hacienda Limon Farm in Ecuador, a 110-hectare farm that has been awarded Heirloom Cacao Preservation status for growing the exceptional Arriba Nacional variety of cocoa. The Guayas Basin, where the farm is located, is one of the most fertile areas along Ecuador's Pacific coast, with rich volcanic soils and a climate that is ideal for growing cocoa. We love the cocoa we source from Hacienda Limon for its smooth, low-acidity profile and rounded, nutty flavour.

    Learn more about the origins we work with to make our single-origin chocolate.

    cocoa beans on a roasting tray and conch machine churning at Pump Street Factory as white chocolate is made

     

    These cocoa beans then travel from farm to factory

    After the cocoa beans have been harvested, fermented and dried at origin in Ecuador, they begin their journey from farm to our craft chocolate factory which is located in the village of Orford in Suffolk, UK. 

     The initial steps we take at the factory for making white chocolate are much the same as when we make our dark and milk chocolate:

    1. Sorting:The cocoa beans are carefully sorted by hand. 
    2. Roasting: The selected cocoa beans are then roasted to develop the flavour of the nibs inside.
    3. Breaking: Once roasted, the cocoa beans are cracked open to reveal their inner nibs.
    4. Winnowing:The cracked beans undergo winnowing - the name for a process that separates the cocoa nibs from the outer husks.
    @pumpstreetchocolate ROAST, BREAK & WINNOWWe have different cocoa bean roasting times and temperatures to bring out the best qualities of the different origins. Beans are then broken into nibs and husks and the crisp shells are winnowed away. We are then left with the tender nibs that make our chocolate bars. #chocolate#cocoa#chocolatetok#chocolatefactory ♬ This Is How We Do It - Montell Jordan
     

    We are now left with cocoa nibs. These are then added to a conch which is a machine equipped with two milling stones that grind the cocoa nibs for a few hours into a rich textured paste. 

    For dark or milk chocolate, the cocoa nibs are usually finely ground in the conch until they reach a silky smooth consistency. When making white chocolate we only need a rougher consistency that is suitable for the next stage in the process - pressing. 

    ‘Pressing’ is an important step when making white chocolate 

    Up until now the process for making white chocolate has been largely the same as it would be for making milk or dark chocolate. However, what happens now sets the process of making white chocolate apart, giving it its unique characteristic.

    The ground nibs are added into a porous bag, which is then loaded into a hydraulic press that is heated to 55°C (131°F). The press squeezes the bag, which then acts like a sieve, separating the cocoa nib mixture into its two essential components: cocoa butter and cocoa solids. 

     

     

    The cocoa butter comes out as a rich golden liquid and is collected beneath the press. The remaining cocoa solids are left in the bag as a large ‘cake’, which we then mill to turn into cocoa powder. 

    This pressing step is vital in the creation of white chocolate, as it ensures that only the pure cocoa butter, without cocoa solids, is used to produce the white chocolate.

    The cocoa butter mixture is added back into the conch for grinding 

    Now we’ve obtained the cocoa butter. This is our essential ingredient for making white chocolate as unlike dark or milk chocolate, white chocolate contains no cocoa solids. It is made with only cocoa butter, milk powder and cane sugar.

    To achieve the buttery smooth texture of this white chocolate, we add the cocoa butter back into a conch for grinding, along with sugar. Once the mixture has been grinding for ten minutes or so, we slowly add in whole milk powder. It is a fine balancing act to make sure the mixture gets neither too hot nor too cold during the process. For precise control, we may apply extra heat with a heat gun if needed. 

    The full conching process takes time to ensure a smooth texture, eventually taking three to four days.

    The white chocolate is then tempered, ready to be turned into delicious bars or pastilles

    Finally, once the white chocolate mixture is perfectly ground it can be tempered. 

    Tempering is a precision technique that prepares the chocolate for molding into its final forms, whether it be craft chocolate bars or baking pastilles.

    During tempering, the white chocolate undergoes carefully controlled cooling and heating cycles. The specific cooling and heating points of tempering mean the chocolate will set with a stable, perfectly snappable texture, as well as having a smooth melt when finally being eaten. It’s a precise process, and even has to be adjusted according to weather and humidity, but one worth getting right to ensure bars are perfectly set. 

    Tasting notes of our single-origin white chocolate

    The resulting chocolate bars are creamy and pale white, with a subtle shine thanks to our tempering method. The quality of our house-pressed cocoa butter shines, with a rich custard-like body, toffee sweetness and notes of cold buttermilk.

    Our white chocolate is available to buy and enjoy in various forms. We produce;

    Quick Recap: The 7 steps in how white chocolate is made 

    1. Making white chocolate starts with selecting excellent cocoa beans for high-quality cocoa butter (a key ingredient for white chocolate).
    2. Cocoa beans are harvested, fermented, and dried in the origin country before travelling to a chocolate factory where they are sorted, roasted, cracked open and winnowed (to separate the cocoa nibs from their outer husk).
    3. The cocoa nibs are then ground in a conch machine for a few hours to create a textured paste.
    4. Next comes the pivotal step in making white chocolate - pressing the ground cocoa nibs in a hydraulic press to separate cocoa butter (a rich golden liquid) from the cocoa solids that then become cocoa powder.
    5. The cocoa butter, sugar, and whole milk powder are combined and put back in the conch to be ground, resulting in a smooth, velvety texture.
    6. The white chocolate then undergoes tempering - a precise cooling and heating process - for a stable, snappable texture and a smooth melt.
    7. After tempering, the white chocolate is ready to be molded into its final form. 

      Tools of the Trade: Making white chocolate

      Although we are craft chocolate makers, this doesn’t mean we craft all our chocolate by hand. There are a few essential tools and pieces of machinery we use in our factory when making white chocolate:

      • Cocoa Bean Roaster
      • Cocoa Bean Cracker and Winnower
      • Conching Machine
      • Hydraulic Press
      • Tempering Machine 

      If you’re curious about the meaning behind craft chocolate, you might be interested in reading our post What is Craft Chocolate?

      Recipes from the people who use our white chocolate

      Our chocolate takes the form of pastilles for chefs and bakers, as well as 70g bars to enjoy at home. Keep an eye out over the coming weeks on our journal for recipes using our white chocolate from people such as Darren Bloom at Pythouse Kitchen Garden and Seamus Sam at Muse Restaurant.