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In the world of pastry, white chocolate gets a bad name. It's notoriously difficult to work with, and on its own, it doesn't pack all that much flavor. But Southern Living writer Sierra Guardiola calls white chocolate "the dark horse of the chocolate world." She makes her case: "The sugar, milk, and cocoa butter combination offers just the right sweet and creamy flavor without the dark cocoa found in regular chocolates."

As a professional baker, I certainly agree that white chocolate has its moments. White chocolate chips are essential in baking blondies—one of my personal favorite desserts. White chocolate pairs particularly well with red velvet, adding a nice contrast to the chocolate undertones in our Red Velvet-White Chocolate Chunk Cookies. I won't call myself a white chocolate lover, but I will admit that—when handled properly—white chocolate has the potential to be great.

One of the primary complaints that pastry chefs have about white chocolate is that it's overly sweet, bordering on cloyingly sweet. But it doesn't have to be that way. Last year, I learned about caramelized white chocolate, and I've never turned back.

Caramelizing white chocolate essentially means toasting white chocolate in the oven. Toasting white chocolate may seem like a wacky idea, but hear me out. White chocolate contains more sugars than dark chocolate, and the technique of caramelizing sugar is by no means revolutionary (see: caramel sauce). Caramelizing sugar deepens the flavor of any baked good—so toasting white chocolate isn't that crazy after all. This technique draws out the warm, nutty notes of white chocolate, transforming it into something truly special.

First thing's first: Ditch the grocery store bag of white chocolate chips. These chips have a heat-resistant coating which prevents them from melting properly. Seek out high-quality white chocolate from a brand like Valrhona (Ivoire 35% white chocolate is the best white chocolate I've ever had). High-quality white chocolate has a higher cocoa butter quantity than standard white chocolate, which aids in the caramelization.

Once you've got your high-quality white chocolate, it's time to get to work. There's one important thing to remember throughout the process of caramelizing your white chocolate: Never allow the chocolate to come into contact with water. If this occurs, the chocolate will seize, causing it to turn grainy and ruin the caramelization process.

How To Caramelize White Chocolate: Step by Step

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. If your chocolate comes in a block, chop it into small pieces. Spread the white chocolate out evenly on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake the white chocolate for 5 minutes, allowing it to melt. Use a spatula to smooth it out.
  4. Bake for an additional 40 to 50 minutes, using a spatula to stir and spread the chocolate at 10-minute intervals. At each interval, the white chocolate will become smoother and darker in color, turning from white to beige to caramel. Once the chocolate is completely smooth and deep golden-brown in color, remove from the oven.

Note: Do not overbake or the chocolate may become grainy. Left at room temperature, the caramelized white chocolate will harden.

How to Use Caramelized White Chocolate

Use caramelized white chocolate in any recipe that calls for white chocolate. Our White Chocolate Poinsettia Cake makes white chocolate the star of the show. While the chocolate is still melted, you can make a caramelized white chocolate buttercream or this White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting. Once the chocolate hardens, you can break it into chunks to mix into cookie dough (White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies are calling my name). Pair any of these sweets with a caramelized take on our White Chocolate Martini. Find all of our favorite white chocolate recipes here.