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Milk chocolate bars are often dismissed as candy for kids, but we found some that even the pickiest chocolate connoisseur could appreciate.
Published July 9, 2019. Appears in Cook's Country TV Season 13: Never Enough Chocolate
What You Need To Know
For years, artisanal dark chocolate bars have hogged all the glory, prominently displaying bean origins and high cacao percentages on their fancy wrappers. But who’s to say milk chocolate bars can’t be artisanal, too? In 2018, the Specialty Food Association noted that more manufacturers than ever are making “dark milk” chocolates—products that feature higher cacao percentages but still have enough milk for a smooth, creamy texture and nuanced flavor. These products are meant to appeal to those looking for something more robust than classic milk chocolate, but not quite as bitter as some dark chocolates. When we last tasted milk chocolate, we named Dove Silky Smooth Milk Chocolate as our winner. But with so many new products pushing the boundaries of milk chocolate, it was time to take another look.
While the majority of milk chocolate is consumed in the form of holiday candy and chocolate coatings, we went in search of milk chocolate bars that could be savored both by the piece and chopped up or melted as a cooking ingredient. We gathered 10 nationally available products, priced from about $0.40 to about $1.20 per ounce, and sampled them plain and in milk chocolate pots de crème.
What’s the Difference Between Dark Chocolate and Milk Chocolate?
The chocolate making process begins with fermenting, roasting, and grinding cacao nibs into a chocolate liquor that contains near-equal parts of cocoa solids and cocoa butter. The liquor is then blended with additional cocoa butter and mixed with sugar to make dark chocolate, or processed with both milk and sugar to make milk chocolate. At this stage, some manufacturers also add emulsifiers such as lecithin or flavoring agents such as vanilla beans. The higher the proportion of sugar or milk there is in a given chocolate, the less room there is for chocolate liquor or cocoa butter, so milk chocolate tends to have a lower cacao percentage than dark chocolate. (The cacao percentage is the proportion of the finished chocolate made from the cacao bean and includes chocolate liquor and any added cocoa butter). While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t police the term “dark chocolate,” it does mandate that bittersweet or semisweet chocolates (terms often used interchangeably to refer to dark chocolates) must contain at least 35 percent cacao. (Some dark chocolate bars contain more than 85 percent cacao.) By contrast, the FDA requires a minimum of only 10 percent cacao in milk chocolate. The amount of milk also distinguishes dark and milk chocolates. The FDA mandates that milk chocolate must contain at least 12 percent total milk solids, while semisweet and bittersweet ...
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