Friday, August 31, 2007

White lies

Back in 1988 I read a book called Chocolate: The Consuming Passion, by Sandra Boynton. It was a great book about one of the things I truly love – chocolate. At the time I used to enjoy the occasional Nestle Milky Bar, so when I read her page on white chocolate, I was a little miffed. She had drawn a square in the middle of the page with a black dotted line around it and said “for the great flavour of white chocolate, cut out and chew!”.
Years later after having produced flop after flop of one white chocolate sort or another, I have finally come to the realisation that white chocolate is nothing more than a tragic pretender to the chocolate throne, and should be renamed out of defference to the greatest sweet treat ever known to man.

The latest white chocolate insult to my baking efforts comes in the form of a white chocolate mudcake. Jennifer Graham has a recipe in her Crabapple Cupcake Bakery book, and since I trust Jennifer implicitly, I decided to give it a go. But I wanted a big cake – not cupcakes – so I mixed up the batter and poured it into a 10 inch round cake tin. Two hours later, I pulled the cake out of the oven, allowed it to cool in the tin then tipped it onto a wire rack and proceed to watch the middle of the cake sink into a buttery white chocolate hole.

No problem! Or so I thought. My plan was the fill the hole with white chocolate ganache, the recipe for which also came from Jennifer Graham. First let it be known that I have NEVER successfully produced a chocolate ganache – white, milk or dark – so I decided to follow the recipe to the letter for a change. It was important, because the cake I was baking was intended for my brother in-law’s birthday the following day. I carefully boiled the pure cream, poured it over the chunks of white chocolate, then carefully pushed the chocolate around to help it melt. Well it never melted totally. That was problem number one. My ganache was filled with white chocolate chunks that could not be smoothed no matter what. Then the oil in the chocolate separated from the rest of the mixture – that was problem number two. Despite this, I poured the ganache onto my white chocolate mud cake and stood back to watch over forty dollars of ingredients turned into what can only be described as a pile of sugary white chunder.

I walked away in disgust and began thinking about how to salvage the situation. I thought back to my wedding cake, which was very nearly ruined by a similar debacle, and I remembered how I’d scraped the unsuccessful icing off it and put it in the bin, thereby saving the day. I decided the same evasive action was required here. So I took my spatula and began to scrape. Thankfully, the exterior of the white chocolate mudcake was crisp enough not to be damaged by this, so wasn’t totally out of luck.

I ended up covering the cake with white butter cream and decorating it with loads of mauve flowers, green leaves and silver balls, and lo and behold, I had something good enough to give as a gift. But sadly, when we cut the cake, we found a substantial part of it wasn’t cooked. If I’d been given that cake, I’d have put it in the bin as soon as the baker left the premises.

Unsuccessful ganache. Unsuccessful mudcake. These aren’t the only casualties of the white chocolate deception. There’s also the white chocolate mousse, which never solidified or held any shape. I’ve even melted white chocolate and dipped fresh strawberries in it, only to watch it slouch off the side and pool on the plate.

White chocolate is an abomination. It’s good for eating and that’s about it. It behaves monstrously in cooking – you add it to a recipe thinking you’ll get the same result as bonafide chocolate, and you end up with a creamy, white (if you’re lucky), blobbing mess, which tastes suspiciously like a great big can of condensed milk.

White chocolate? I say no. I won’t be fooled again. And you shouldn't be either.
Diva Note: I did actually cook eight cupcakes out of leftover Jennifer Graham white chocolate mudcake mix. And they WERE a success. And oddly, the white chocolate ganache scraped off the big cake partially set into a spreadable topping for those little cupcakes. Considering this is what Jennifer intended both recipes for, I can’t really blame her for any of my failures – they were all of my own creation!