Hmmmm….Milk Chocolate With No Sugar

November 12, 2007

If you want chocolate without sugar, you really have two choices: go for the gusto with a 100% cacao bar, or deal with the slightly funny taste of a maltitol sweetened bar. (Not to mention the side effects of maltitol and other sugar alcohols…) There appears to be a third answer to this problem, which is to use milk to soften the edge on the cacao without using sugar. I recently got a MarieBelle chocolate bar which has this unusual composition. The bar (which appears to be made by the National Chocolate Company of Colombia) contains cacao, cocoa butter, and various milk solids (skim and whole), vanilla, and some emulsifiers. No added sugar! (Other than what’s lurking in the milk.)

The bar has a very deep brownie-ish taste, and a harder overall mouthfeel than typical milk chocolate. The milk has the familiar effect of flattening the fruitier aromatic notes in the cacao, but there’s a much more pronounced chocolate finish than in a sweetened milk chocolate. Overall, it’s quite delicious, and a great way to get a chocolate fix without added sugar. It’s also an interesting bar to add to your internal taste library, as you can isolate what the milk is doing to the texture and flavor of the chocolate, without sugar effects complicating the picture.

This is going on my list of formulations to experiment with….

The Quest for Milk Chocolate

June 20, 2007

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…

So what about milk chocolate?

April 25, 2007

Chocolate and coffee have a lot in common. They have similar rich/bitter flavor profiles, are based on ground, roasted beans, and there’s no end of debate between the people that want it straight up and those that want milk, cream, or sugar added. Milk and sugar lovers in the coffee world can order a latte at any high-end coffee house with their head held high. In the chocolate world, though, milk chocolate sort of gets second-class treatment.

The origin of that treatment may stem from the fact that milk chocolate is an inherently modern, industrial product. Readers of this blog (or any chocolate text) will recall the first law of chocolate: water is the enemy. You add water to chocolate, and you get a seized, grainy, concrete mess. What is milk full of? Water! It wasn’t until 1875 when Daniel Peter, a Swiss candlemaker and inventor found a way to dry milk to a powder and add it chocolate. This addition does two things to dark chocolate made with the three basic ingredients (cacao mass, cocoa butter, and sugar): it adds milky flavors (and possibly caramel flavors if the milk sugars have been heated) and the milk fat breaks up the crystallization of the cocoa butter, making the chocolate softer. The result is the gentle melt and mild flavor that most people associate with chocolate.

Commercial milk chocolate can be as little as 10% cacao mass, so the chocolate flavors can get lost in a maze of sugar and milk. Sometimes this is enjoyable, as with Cadbury milk chocolate, which is loaded with caramel flavors from heated milk sugars. What about if you want a milk chocolate that also has the more powerful cacao notes that higher end dark chocolate has? Some of the artisan manufacturers now sell high-cacao content, single origin milk bars that are quite good, and a real departure from mass market milk. These range from the 35% E. Guittard Orinoco bar to the Valrhona’s Jivara Lait to the much darker, higher cacao bars like the mighty Bonnat Java, with 65% single origin cacao content.

Bonnat Java wrapperI’ve just finished some Bonnat Java, and it’s an extraordinary milk chocolate. There’s not a lot of milk flavor, but it has a great, intense chocolate taste with the yielding melt of a milk chocolate. It’s less bitter than a 65% dark bar would be, but preserves the stronger aromatic notes usually found in a good dark chocolate. For milk chocolate eaters, it’s a great introduction to artisan chocolate.