Today is National Milk Chocolate Day (not to be confused with National Chocolate Milk Day which is September)
There are lots of flavors of chocolate but milk chocolate is the favorite chocolate for millions of people. Today should be spent consuming and savoring generous amounts of your favorite milk chocolate treats.
Milk chocolate is chocolate with milk powder or condensed milk added. The U.S. Government requires a 10% concentration of chocolate liquor. EU regulations specify a minimum of 25% cocoa solids. In the 1870s, Swiss confectioner Daniel Peter invented the process of solidifying milk chocolate using condensed milk, which was invented by Henri Nestlé in the 1800s.
Hershey process milk chocolate, invented by Milton S. Hershey, founder of The Hershey Company, is able to be produced more economically, by being less sensitive to freshness of the milk. Although the process is still a trade secret, experts speculate that the milk is partially lipolyzed, producing butyric acid, which stabilizes the milk from further fermentation. This compound gives the product a particular sour, "tangy" taste, to which the American public has become accustomed, to the point that other manufacturers now simply add butyric acid to their milk chocolates.
Two landmark chocolate events occurred in 1879 in Switzerland: Rodolphe Lindt invented the conching machine, enabling the production of the smooth, velvety chocolate we know today. And Daniel Peter, a chocolate manufacturer, made the first milk chocolate, by substituting powdered milk for the whole milk or cream that had been used previously, with unsuccessful results. Powdered milk had been invented by his neighbor, Swiss chemist Henri Nestlé. So while the Spanish were responsible for bringing cacao to Europe from the New World and Englishman Joseph Fry created the first chocolate bar, the Swiss have full ownership of smooth, silky milk chocolate.
With a taste more of sugar and milk than cacao, milk chocolate was first made for children. The typical milk chocolate on the market today consists of no more than 33% cacao (cocoa solids), but many companies drop that percentage even lower, sometimes to the teens, since sugar is cheaper than cocoa. Another reason for cheap milk chocolate is that a high ratio of milk and sugar mask any irregularities and bad tastes that poor cacao beans often possess. Thus, manufacturers can buy the cheapest, lowest-grade beans (which are still more expensive than sugar and milk solids) and hide their off-flavor with blankets of milky sweetness. That means that the remaining portion of the bar is comprised of milk solids and sugar, and that's why inexpensive chocolate bars taste like no more than sugar: They are! By law, the FDA enables manufacturers to use as little as 10% cacao (also known as cocoa solids or cocoa liquor), no less than 3.39% milk fat, and no less than 12% of total milk solids. The remaining ingredient is sugar, so an inexpensive chocolate bar can be about 75% sugar. (The formula, or "recipe," is up to the manufacturer, as long as the percentages do not drop below the FDA's minimal requirements.)
Today, no one need eat bad milk chocolate. The greatest chocolate producers in the world make milk chocolate bars that are as good as it gets. Using the best cacao beans, the most meticulous processing techniques and the finest recipes, they create eye-opening milk chocolate. This chocolate is so good that those chocolate lovers who ran from cloying, characterless milk chocolate long ago will return to the fold.
In honor of National Milk Chocolate Day, pamper yourself with some chocolate from Hershey, Cadbury, Nestle, Dove, Godiva, or one of the many different manufacturers of the delicious treat. Happy National Milk Chocolate Day!