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White Chocolate versus White Baking Chips

By Cook's Illustrated Published July 2017

While developing the filling for our Fresh Fruit Tart, we found that fillings made with bars of white chocolate were too loose to slice neatly and couldn’t hold the fruit in place.

While developing the filling for our Fresh Fruit Tart, we found that fillings made with bars of white chocolate were too loose to slice neatly and couldn’t hold the fruit in place. Conversely, fillings made with so-called white baking chips set up nicely. We also used both chips and bars to make white chocolate bark. The bark made with bar white chocolate had a soft, truffle-like consistency, while the bark made with white chips had the proper firm snap.

The explanation for the difference can be found on the ingredient label. True white chocolate, almost always sold in bar form, contains cocoa butter. White baking chips contain no cocoa butter and thus can’t be labeled “chocolate,” but they do contain partially hydrogenated oil (usually palm kernel oil). Melting white chocolate changes the crystal structure of its cocoa butter, and unless you take steps to reestablish that particular structure, it sets up soft instead of firm. The refined fat added to white baking chips, as well as their lack of cocoa butter, make them much more forgiving; when melted, the chips recrystallize into a firm, snappy form—no extra work or ingredients required.

The takeaway? It might be tempting to swap in bars of white chocolate when a recipe (such as our tart) calls for white baking chips, but doing so will affect the results. It’s best to stick with the type called for in the recipe.

WHITE CHIPS = SNAPPY BARK

WHITE BARS = SOFT BARK