How To Melt and Temper White Chocolate

Baking with chocolate is a wonderful way to spoil your loved ones as well as yourself. We have tested and published our favourite recipes on the Cococo Chocolatiers website but a question we hear often is “how do I melt and temper white chocolate?”. Since it can be a tricky task (because of cocoa butter), we wanted to share our own experience and tips with you.
What is white chocolate?
White chocolate was invented by the Nestlé company in Switzerland in the mid 1930s as a way to find a use for market gluts of milk powder and cocoa butter. White chocolate is made of sugar, milk powder, cocoa butter, and often vanilla and lecithin. What it doesn’t contain is cocoa solids (also known as cocoa liquor or cocoa mass) or cocoa powder which is why it is not brown like other chocolate. But is white chocolate actually chocolate? The short answer is: Yes. According to rulings in 2004 by the FDA and the CFIA, white chocolate can legally be called chocolate if contains not less than 20% cocoa butter and contains no other vegetable fat, like palm oil or coconut oil.
Why is white chocolate amazing?

Cocoa butter conveys cocoa flavour and aroma. Because cocoa butter is the only fat in couverture white chocolate, the creamy, sweet, and mild flavour profile of white chocolate is a wonderful blank canvas on which you can play creatively with flavours and textures. Some delicious additions to white chocolate are: nuts; dried fruits and citrus; spices like turmeric and curry; herbs like dill and rosemary. 

Cocoa butter is an incredible fat because it is the only vegetable fat that is solid at room temperature but liquid at body temperature. Its melting point is just below human body temperature which is the reason why real chocolate literally melts in your mouth (and your oven). 

High quality white chocolate tends to be slightly yellow or cream in colour because cocoa butter is naturally yellow. And remember, the only fat in white chocolate should be cocoa butter, nothing else.

Why is white chocolate challenging?
You may have had success melting and tempering dark chocolate and milk chocolate before, but white chocolate is different. White chocolate has a lot more fat than other kinds of chocolate so it has a lower burning point (about 44°C). This makes it easy to overheat, and once you burn white chocolate it’s nearly impossible to save.
How to melt and temper white chocolate

We’re going to explore the two best ways to successfully melt and temper white chocolate. In both instances, it’s important to begin by chopping the chocolate into small, even pieces. If you’re using white chocolate drops you can skip this step, but for larger bars or wafers, cut them into small pieces, about 1 - 1.5 cm. Some people prefer using a grater instead of cutting with a sharp knife. This will work as well, as the size is still small and remains even for the entire batch. 

The Double Boiler Method

NOTE: If you don’t have a double-boiler, many have had success creating a similar set up with a saucepan and snug-fitting metal bowl.

  • First, chop your white chocolate and set aside. Fill the bottom half of the double-boiler with about 2.5 cm of water. It will take a few minutes at medium-high heat to simmer. Since the chocolate has such a low burning point, you want to ensure there is space between the bottom of the top half of the double-boiler, and the surface of the water simmering below. The water should not be touching the bowl or the top of the double-boiler.
  • Reduce the heat to low and add the small pieces of white chocolate to the bowl or upper boiler. The chocolate should be stirred continuously. Be careful not to get any water drops or vapour in your chocolate otherwise it will not temper.
  • Don’t ever add any liquid to the chocolate as it melts. It’s also important not to cover the chocolate, as the lid will cause condensation to build up and drip into the batch.
  • Remove the chocolate from the heat just before it’s completely melted (a few lumps should remain). The chocolate will continue melting after being removed from the heat, as long as you continue stirring; pulling it early prevents exceeding its maximum temperature. Again, be careful not to get water drops or condensation into your chocolate.
  • If you have a good thermometer, your white chocolate should read 

The Microwave Method

NOTE: If you choose this method, you must be very watchful and careful to heat in short increments and stir often in order not to burn the chocolate.

  • Once the chocolate is chopped, add it to a microwave safe bowl.
  • Do not cover the bowl, as it can collect condensation, diluting and damaging the mixture.
  • Reduce the power or temperature of your microwave to about half. This helps you keep control of the batch, ensuring it doesn’t get too hot, too fast. (You’ll know it’s been overheated if it comes out grainy and lumpy.
  • Warm the chocolate for 30 seconds at a time, removing and stirring the bowl in between. Chocolate can retain its shape, even when cooked, which is why it’s important to stir so frequently to distribute the temperature throughout the chocolate.
One last tip
If you didn’t remove the chocolate from the heat on time, the best way save it is to emulsify it by adding a bit of butter, cocoa butter, or other shortening. Add just a little at a time and stir completely; don’t exceed more than 1 tbsp of butter per 170g of chocolate. Warm cream can also be used, just ensure that the butter or cream are warm, not hot or cold. Cold liquid only worsens the problem.
Emulsified chocolate should only be used for recipes, sauces, batters, or frosting. The additional ingredients make it difficult to use for coating candy or cookies.
Looking for ways to show off your new found skill? Try your hand at these Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites. The white chocolate is a perfect pairing for pumpkin treats.