For many years now, European pastry chefs have been creating with white chocolate, using it in cakes, tarts, wonderfully smooth mousses, and many other sweets. For chocolatiers, white chocolate is particularly enticing as a blank canvas for color and other decorative flourishes. Yet it took a while before white chocolate was part of the American pantry. Though it was available here as early as the mid-'40s, it wasn't until 1979 that the dining critic Gael Greene, describing "a pristine oval of mousse sitting in a pool of dark chocolate" for New York magazine, was able to declare, "White chocolate is the season's new whimsy." In the '80s, scores of cookbooks embraced the ingredient; The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook (Workman, 1985) offered recipes for white chocolate and hazelnut cheesecake, and white chocolate and Frangelico mousse. By the 1990s, white chocolate had entered the canon of American dessert flavors; at the iconic Palace Cafe in New Orleans, it enriched the custard base for bread pudding, an innovation on a classic that inspired scores of other local riffs, including my favorite, a panko-fried version topped with bruleed bananas and more white chocolate at Mat & Naddie's, also in New Orleans.