This is Highly Recommend, a column dedicated to what people in the food industry are eating, drinking, and buying right now. Here, Christine Clark explains how she became a white chocolate fan after trying this cocoa-nib-studded bar.
You might be a white chocolate hater. “White chocolate is too sweet, too rich.” I understand. In fact, some of my best friends are white chocolate haters. I respect your community! If you want to go the rest of your life despising an entire category of chocolate, that’s your call. But if you’re open to it, there’s a white chocolate bar that just might change your mind: Askinosie’s White Chocolate Nibble Bar, made with the thoughtfulness of your favorite natural wine, but with a flavor and texture that feels like the grown-up version of a Hershey’s Cookies ’N’ Creme bar.
Most of my career has been in education and training for cheese shops and other corners of the specialty food world, which means that I’ve spent much of the past decade championing small-batch products made responsibly, whether that’s cheese, chocolate, tea, or olive oil. I find a lot of joy in that. I also find a lot of joy in the occasional Reese’s bar or bag of Doritos. Blame it on having grown up in American suburbia in the 1990s. I’m a sucker for nostalgic snacks and candies, and ever since I picked up this bar on a whim at my local chocolate shop, it’s been one of my favorites.
Though often maligned as “not chocolate,” white chocolate is made primarily with cocoa butter, which is fat from the cocoa bean. Fat, as they say, is flavor, and this fat is all the more flavorful because Askinosie sources beans from a single farm in Davao, Philippines, and presses them in-house. Doing so results in a much more nuanced product that’s a rarity in the industry; because this process is expensive and time-consuming, most small producers purchase standardized cocoa butter from a large manufacturer. Rather than the kind of latex-y flavor that I get in a lot of white chocolate, Askinosie’s bar tastes like milk chocolate and a cozy mug of steamed, frothed milk had a baby.
Cow’s milk or milk powder is almost always added to white chocolate to add creaminess and help smooth out that latex-y flavor of the standardized cocoa butter. Askinosie uses goat’s milk powder, which, as a professional cheese nerd, I think is a brilliant move. Goat’s milk has a lighter, more sunshiny flavor that offsets the sweetness and richness of the white chocolate. But it doesn’t taste goaty—just a little fresher than your average white chocolate.
Unlike a lot of other white chocolate, there is no vanilla added to this bar. I have no qualms with vanilla. Vanilla is delicious. If vanilla makes something taste better, add it. But it’s a testament to the quality of Askinosie’s cocoa butter that this bar has plenty of flavor without it. Cocoa nibs, which come from the same batch of cacao beans as the cocoa butter, are also sprinkled in. Those punchy, bitter little nibs add crunch, balance, and a tiny bit of tannin to cut the fat even further. They also just happen to mimic the crunch and flavor of one of the aforementioned Cookies ’N’ Creme bar.
I like to keep this bar around to offer to people, especially if they mention hating white chocolate. It’s like going your whole life thinking you don’t like cheese when you’ve only had American cheese slices. There’s something magical about tasting something you thought you wouldn’t like and finding that you actually quite enjoy it when it’s done well.