The Quest for Milk Chocolate

As heretical as this notion is to some choco-philes, in addition to working on building a really good dark chocolate, I’m preparing to work on some batches of milk chocolate. It’s significantly more complex, since the process moves from basically two ingredients for dark chocolate (chocolate liquor, which is roasted, ground cacao nibs; and sugar), to at least four for milk (cacao mass, sugar, some form of dried milk, and cocoa butter to control texture.) Controlling texture is much harder, and the materials are harder to source. Cacao beans will last a long, long time in dried form, so are easy to store. Milk products are much less stable, and harder to come by.

To complicate matters, there are at least five different milk foundations that can be used to make milk chocolate. Since milk is mostly water, you need to get that water out before mixing it into chocolate. You also have to control for the amount of milk fat. In general, more milk fat yields a softer chocolate. The methods for getting milk and chocolate compatible are:

  • Milk crumb, which is made by heating condensed milk, adding sugar and some chocolate liquor, then heating the whole mass in a vacuum oven. This partially cooks the milk, resulting in the classic Cadbury caramel notes.
  • Spray dried whole milk. This is what the majority of milk chocolate is made from. If you take milk, and atomize it into a low presure, dry container, it loses moisture and becomes a powder.
  • Roller dried whole milk. You can also dry milk via making it a film on a hot roller. The pressure and cooking here will yield a certain amount of cheesiness in the chocolate. This is a less efficient process, so not used much anymore.
  • Dried skim milk plus anhydrous milk fat (AMF). By removing the milk fat from the milk, and separately removing the moisture, you can get more control over the milk fat content in the chocolate.
  • Cream powder. Yes, you can also spray dry cream! This yields a powder that can be around 75% milkfat, and yields an amazingly silky milk chocolate. In my opinion, this is the Cadillac of milk chocolates. Dried skim milk can also be added.

The sugar, chocolate liquor, and milk product all need to go through the refining and conching process, as they all need to get coated in thin layers of cocoa butter and have their particle size reduced so that the chocolate is smooth.

I’m aiming to mess with making a high-cacao content cream powder milk chocolate. The next step is finding cream powder in sub-semi truckload quantities. I seem to have found one source and am pursuing options with some local dairy suppliers. More milk chocolate progress updates coming later…

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