Many of us have accidentally burnt white chocolate in the microwave. I know I have on more than one occasion miscalculating how long it takes to melt it, which is much less than dark or milk chocolate. Of course one could melt it over a hot water bath, but sometimes that is way to slow.
Point is, the burnt little clusters that form inside the piping hot chocolate, were delicious to me. Tasted just like caramel, but better, since it was really a Maillard reaction (caramelizing of sugar in the presence of a protein, milk solids in this case). I wanted to find a way to replicate this flavor with more chocolate than just a few burnt clusters here and there. Working with Bryan Graham, a.k.a. “Chocolate Thunder” (our chocolate guy, or chocolatier at the cafe, if you want to get fancy), he decided to put the chocolate directly in a pot over a medium-high heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon to caramelize all of the sugar and solids in the chocolate. It turned a light brown. Once it cooled down a little, he tempered it and it was outstanding, with a snap I had never felt from white chocolate. Problem was, it was slightly grainy. To fix this, Bryan has a melangeur at home, which basically works like a motorized mortar and pestle, smoothing pretty much anything out. He uses it to make his own chocolate from scratch, so for this all he had to do was put the melted chocolate in it and grind it till it was smooth as regular chocolate. It worked our perfectly, resulting in a very smooth product, with the same snap it had before.
With a chocolate like this, you don’t need anything else (ganache for example).
Another person on our staff, Justen Nickell, made a caramelized white chocolate mousse that was out of this world. So this method has many uses.
Sadly, I discovered we were not the first to come up with this technique. I found out a few days later that Valrhona had produced a similar item but with a completely different method, which involved a very low temperature oven and a very long time in it, which produces the smooth chocolate, caramelized, minus the grit. Either way this is a wonderful product.