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White chocolate gets little attention to its darker, richer counterparts. As some purists would say, white chocolate isn’t true chocolate because it’s derived from cocoa butter than solids. Yet all the same, it’s still part of the cocoa bean.

As a kid living in Toronto, it was a treat when my cousins and I were handed $20 and allowed to walk to Maxim’s cafe after dinner for dessert. We’d always order a slice of cake each and a fancy beverage. From the cake display I would always choose a milk chocolate mousse, orange chocolate cake or the white chocolate cake because I loved how it was frosted and smothered with a blanket of white chocolate curls. I would wash it down with iced chocolate with whipped cream (oh the joys of a child’s metabolism… DANG IT).

Anyhow my Sunday afternoon (a hazy golden day) was spent listening to Stan Getz and white chocolate. This creamy subject resurfaced when a colleague of Belgian descent (who doesn’t like chocolate ironically) requested a white chocolate-base dessert about a month ago. I have no expertise in cooking with it, but after doing some research I ended up making this:

WHITE CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE W. WHITE CHOCOLATE BRANDY SAUCE


Find the recipe here

I made a six inch along with one four inch and heart shaped one to divide between other friends. I made some slight alterations to the recipe according to the reviews and recommendations which you will see in the following:

TIP FOR PURCHASING WHITE CHOCOLATE
I highly dislike the taste of cheap white chocolate which is like eating melted candle wax, so when baking, please only buy the good stuff. Make sure cocoa butter is the first ingredient listed on the bar of chocolate to ensure that you aren’t getting some vegetable oil substitute. White chocolate should not be white: it should be ivory in colour.  I used a random brand (Isis) I found from City Super. Yes, I trust it a little more because it’s chocolate from Belgium so if anyone complains about the taste, I can just blame it on the product origin. =P

TIP FOR MAKING THE CRUST:
In Hong Kong we only have digestive biscuits, but in the States I used graham crackers. To crush the biscuits, use a pestle: hold a stack of cookies firmly in the other hand and work your way from the side and inward. You can see the biscuits look as if they are fused as one. This is A LOT more effective  and thorough than using a plastic bag and banging randomly trying to crush as much as possible. I used to use the back of a Chinese soup spoon, but I’ve realized why Julia Child said a mortar and pestle is so important. Life is a lot easier with this simple instrument. Melt slightly less than a quarter cup of butter, pour it in to the base containing the crushed biscuits and press it into a flat disk to cover the entire surface area.

TIP FOR THE WHITE CHOCOLATE BRANDY SAUCE
Um I made this cake on a whim so I wasn’t really prepared with all my ingredients hence why this took me about 4-5 hours in total. I hate the smell and taste of alcohol but absolutely adore it when it comes to baking. The brandy sauce requires a lot of grated white chocolate (2 cups) so to cut cost, I halved the recipe because I know Chinese people aren’t big fans of alcohol-based desserts and sauces. I must say though, the brandy sauce MAKES this cake by enhancing the white chocolate flavor subtly with a little alcohol. I purchased that small bottle of brandy from Twinsco, a special baking supply shop in Yau Ma Tei. I reused a Japanese pudding cup to store the sauce in. Quite pretty with the touch of green!

I’m impatient so I often let my cakes cool outside after they’ve adjusted to room temperature. This one is sitting perched on my balcony railing and the empty space you see is actually the sea. That cake better not fall, it’s a long way down.

TIP: PRESENTATION COUNTS
So the cake itself isn’t the prettiest thing. I’m not a fan of dousing the whole cake with brandy sauce (I like to leave it up to each individual’s preference), and after failing at making whipped cream (accidentally heated up the cream first for a second and realized it wouldn’t whip up at all),  I went searching for other last minute alternatives. I didn’t want to put fruit on top either because the yellow of the surface would look rather odd with the ivory yellow (pure aesthetics talking). I decided to do it like I did with my previous chocolate cheesecake recipe: grate white chocolate on the top. Use the side of the knife and slowly push against the surface until it starts ‘peeling’. I also found this darling cake wrap with a lace print at my local $10 dollar shop and I like how it echoes the color of the grated chocolate on top! Doesn’t it look pretty pro as if I bought it from a bakery?

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I took it to the office and my colleagues LOVED it. I said it was a successful first try at white chocolate and one of them said it was “VERY successful” As one of them put it, the cake is “above Starbucks and below Mandarin Oriental hotel”. I guess my next goal is to beat Mandarin Oriental. Another tip, as many people have said in the reviews, double the white chocolate if you like a stronger taste otherwise it is quite subtle (I guess that’s where the brandy sauce comes into play). My critics liked it that the white chocolate took a backseat to the taste of the cream cheese so I guess it depends on your palate. Do use a bain marie for both melting the white chocolate and baking the cake. Overall, it’s a safe cake to make particularly because of the flawless surface (no cracks!!!) and the texture of the cake is neither too hard nor pudding-soft. I had to adjust the cooking time depending on the size of the cake. The miniature ones were done in about 50 minutes, the large one took about 1hr 15 minutes because of its height. =)

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