Milk chocolate or milk chocolate?
Almost established as a national symbol, milk chocolate seems to live a sweet and immutable existence in the Swiss Alps. However, on closer inspection, it would seem that he too is responding to the sirens of the modern world. What about it, should we now use the plural and talk about milk chocolate? Overview of the latest trends and what deserves attention or, on the contrary, is just a selling point.
What is milk chocolate?
Legally , in Switzerland and in Europe, to be said to be milk chocolate, a chocolate must contain at least 20% cocoa and 20% milk powder. There is still a lot of room to add sugar, vegetable lecithins which are cheaper than cocoa butter, etc. This definition also means that there is no specific rule to define a so-called dark milk or ruby chocolate. Likewise, there is no need to limit yourself to cow's milk.
Historically and culturally, it is interesting to highlight the strong link between milk chocolate and Switzerland. Indeed, it was Daniel Peter , who in 1875 created the first milk chocolate recipe on the shores of Lake Geneva. This first variation uses… condensed milk. It was only around ten years later, through experimentation, that he developed chocolate with powdered milk. Success is there. Swiss chocolate is legendary for its melting texture and sweetness.
Even today, Swiss chocolate is strongly influenced by this very sweet conception of chocolate. So, even in black, it must be melting. A typicality which means that it is often rich in cocoa butter. Also note in 1879, the invention in Switzerland of conching which makes it possible to reinforce these characteristics linked to the texture.
1905 ad for Gala Peter stating (in French): "The world's first milk chocolate. D. Peter, Inventor Vevey (Switzerland). Any other brand is an imitation."
Read more about the history of chocolate in Switzerland: Chocolate Guide
It's not just the cow
If history seems set in stone, fortunately the creativity of chocolatiers has not disappeared. With the revival of artisanal chocolate in the 2000s, we also need to revisit and promote milk bestsellers. However, it was not until the 2010s that milk chocolate became a subject for experimentation worthy of the name. Drawing on its Swissness, the roofer Felchlin is launching an alpine milk chocolate produced in the UNESCO biosphere of Entlebuch in the heart of the Alps. An ode to the quality of ingredients and know-how, this chocolate does not bring much in terms of taste innovation.
More adventurous, others will try to give up cow's milk. Thus appear tablets made from donkey's milk, but also from sheep's or goat's milk. The shift has begun. Taste-wise, the impact is noticeable and the game becomes interesting. Often, bean-to-bar chocolatiers carry out the best experiments by adding value to cocoa using these new ingredients. These same chocolatiers are more willing to emphasize taste. For others, it is not uncommon to see sales arguments such as “more digestible milk, more nutritious, closer to breast milk”…
The race for originality is in full swing, with imagination as the only limit. So much the better. In this game, some do not hesitate to cross borders. Why limit yourself to milk when the range of milk products is wider. Passionate, Samuel Romagné tested yogurt chocolate during his bean-to-bar adventure at Canonica. A success as audacious as it is original. At Naive, it’s definitely kefir. The challenge often remains linked to finding different and usable milk products. On an industrial level, Villars, with its recent collection of milk chocolate from different Swiss cantons, has the means to structure its supply.
Vegan or even artificial milk chocolate
If other animal milks quickly won over traditional producers, it was across the Atlantic that the frenzy for so-called plant milks began. Driven by lactose intolerant consumers, the movement then spread thanks to veganism. The first attempts often proved to be of little taste. Once again, when bean-to-bar artisans appropriate these products, the process becomes interesting.
Almond, oat, coconut, and soy milks all have different taste profiles. Like any inclusion in chocolate, they can hold some nice surprises. In my opinion, the main challenge lies in the comparison with classic milk. If the consumer is looking for a substitute for their usual experience, they will be disappointed. On the other hand, by approaching these products as a new creation, the experience becomes really interesting. A novelty in the world is the milk Theobroma cacao bicolor, also known as mocambo, majambo, jaguar tree, Chilate, balamte or pataxte. It looks like a round cocoa with more ribs. It is green and yellow in color. It was consumed in pre-Columbian cultures and today has its place in the traditional cuisine of all the countries of the upper Amazon basin. Europeans seem to have neglected it and have not exported it like their neighbor, cocoa, but this is changing with a few chocolatiers who offer it and tame it, like Racine Carrée.
The fruit of Theobroma bicolor, commonly called coapataixte and pataxte, is native to Central America. It is used in some regions to prepare a drink known as "Chilate". Photo by Juan Gpe Ignacio
From an industrial point of view, faced with the environmental costs of mass milk production, engineers are developing milk produced in vitro . Due to standardization during pasteurization and mixing between different farms, it is very likely that the difference between natural and artificial milk is easy to perceive for the consumer. Therefore, reduced to powder to make milk chocolate, this substitute could very well prove to be a welcome alternative for mass production. It remains to be seen whether there will still be cocoa left for the chocolate industry...