Milk chocolate is not the enemy. It's gotten a bad rap because, well, most of the milk chocolate out there has been pretty crummy quality. If you start with bad-tasting cocoa beans and cheap sweeteners, then throw in some preservatives and other yucky-tasting ingredients, the result isn't going to be great. The same could be said for dark chocolate. (And I absolutely recommend saying this to the next person who tells you they only eat 85 percent dark chocolate.)
I have a theory, though: Everyone secretly loves good milk chocolate (even the aforementioned dark chocolate snobs). Because of this, craft chocolate makers have started to create high-quality milk chocolates, so that everyone can enjoy it out in the open. Brands like Fruition, Askinosie, and Castronovo use just a few top-notch ingredients (ethically sourced, fine flavor cocoa beans and organic sugar) to make what I like to call the best milk chocolate for grown-ups
So I'm on a mission to make milk chocolate great again. Whether that's in my book, Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: America's Craft Chocolate Revolution, or here, I'm encouraging you to take another look at the light stuff.
1. It's Modern Love
Forget ruby chocolate in all of its weird pinkness. Milk chocolate is the new cool kid in the scheme of things, and it will definitely get you to the church on time. It was only invented about 150 years ago, when Henri Nestlé figured out how to make powdered milk and another Swiss chocolate manufacturer mixed it up with dark chocolate to create the first milk chocolate in the world. Dessert has never been the same since.
Get a recipe: Milk Chocolate Bundt Cake
2. It Has Flawless Mouthfeel
Bow down to the luxurious way milk chocolate melts in your mouth. The fancy word for that sensation is "mouthfeel," but all language will fade as the cocoa butter coats your lips and tongue and you give in to the creamy craving that only milk chocolate can satisfy.
3. It Has Caramel Character
While I love single-origin dark chocolates, milk chocolate has a certain je ne sais quoi. Actually, I know exactly what that sais quoi is: decadent caramel flavor notes, as well as buttery, toffee, malty deliciousness. To emphasize those flavors, craft chocolate makers have started creating brown butter milk chocolate using, yes, brown butter. Oh, my.
4. It Makes Superior Truffles
One word: truffles. Okay, a couple more: chocolate-covered caramels, ganache, praliné, and pretty much everything else you'd find in a French chocolatier's shop. Sure, you can make a water-based ganache and vegan caramel, but the classic recipes include milk and cream, and the wide world of confections would not be one millionth as delicious if dairy weren't involved. Milk chocolate to the rescue!
5. It's Made with Quality Ingredients
A new generation of chocolate makers is focusing on high-quality ingredients. First and foremost that means the best cocoa beans in the world: They're called "fine flavor" versus "bulk" and are changing the way we think about chocolate flavor. For example, did you know some cocoa beans are fruity, others smokey, still others nutty? They have terroir, like wine.
It also means chocolate makers source impeccable milk and cream for their milk chocolate. Most milk powder is low-quality junk that comes from the same few places, so you can taste a huge difference when someone is using superior dairy. For example, Fruition Chocolate, which is based in upstate New York, partners with local Ronnybrook Farms for its brown butter milk bar, and Patric Chocolate uses Humboldt Creamery in all of its milk chocolate bars.
So are you with me when it comes to milk chocolate? What's your favorite bar?