There is some confusion as to when milk was first used in the manufacture of a solid milk chocolate. It is though that in 1672 Sir Hans Sloane, founder of the British Museum and physician to Queen Anne and George II, had the brainwave of adding milk to drinking chocolate. the confusion deepens as in 1672 he was only 12 years old!

It seems that while Sir Hans was traveling in Jamaica, he recognised the therapeutic qualities of chocolate. He saw malnourished, sickly babies revive after being given a mixture of cocoa, spices and water. It was after this experience that he is thought to have introduced milk with cocoa, recognizing that milk had complimentary nutritional qualities. Sir Hans was a young man of great vision, but his recipe was regarded as pure;y medicinal and milk in chocolate only became commercially available some 200 years later! It was not until 1820, when the Cadbury brothers eventually came to own the recipe, that they used it to create their highly profitable drinking chocolate market.

In 1847, in an attempt to combat the flood of chocolate that was entering the UK from the Continent (mainly from Switzerland and France), Fry and Son started to make tablets of roasted and ground beans, mixed with sugar. These were sold as eating chocolate. By 1849 Cadbury was also selling “French” eating chocolate and as this new market expanded so the original enthusiasm for drinking chocolate diminished.

In 1876 the Swiss Daniel Peter working in conjunction with Nestlé, whose creamery was next door to his factory, formulated the first commercial milk chocolate recipe. As only a minuscule amount of moisture can be used “condensed” milk. Other manufacturers were quick to follow his lead in making this milder flavoured chocolate which now dominates the chocolate market today.

Three years later in 1879 Lindt created the last major manufacturing technique to producing modern chocolate. He discovered that a much smoother textured product could be made if chocolate was repeatedly rolled from side to side, in a stone vessel . This process is called conching, and can continue for as long as five days.

WHAT SORT OF MILK IS USED TODAY?

Fresh milk contains approximately 88% water, so it is not practical for use in it’s raw form. Water being the great enemy of chocolate! Most manufacturers today use milk crumb, which is produced by dissolving refined sugar in milk and then evaporating the water to produce condensed milk. Chocolate liquor is mixed with the sweetened condensed milk and the whole mixture is dried. The freshness and quality of the “original” milk is very important for the keeping qualities of the finished bar.

HOW MILK CHOCOLATE IS MADE

The crushed cocoa beans are weighed and blended according to each manufacturer’s recipe – these recipes are all kept top secret! Each cocoa variety has distinctive qualities and tastes and blending determines the chocolate’s flavour. Once blended, the coarse beans are ground into a fine paste. During this process, some of the cocoa butter melts due to the heat and friction generated in the grinding. One part of the resulting cocoa paste undergoes a further pressing to extract the cocoa butter.

The remaining chocolate paste / crumb is mixed with cocoa butter and sometimes extra chocolate liquor, sugar and flavouring i.e vanilla and the mixture is ground through a series of steel rollers. This is known as refining and grinds the cocoa particles so smooth that they can hardly be felt on the tongue, this mixture tastes pleasant but lacks the fine flavour of good chocolate.

Then the liquid is placed in conching machines. These are huge shell (conch in Latin) shaped machines, which slowly roll and turn the mixture for anything up to 5 days. Extra cocoa butter and lecithin can be added to give further smoothness. This process is designed to improve the flavour and texture of the final product and to remove any bitter / astringent residues in the chocolate.

TEMPERING follows. The temperature of the liquid chocolate is raised then lowered and then raised again before being poured into the moulds. The tempering process is the all important influence on the final texture, appearance and shelf–life of the product.

The use of different types of SUGAR, as well as different varieties of cocoa beans, helps to create the individual flavours in milk chocolate.

FACTS

British labelling regulation state that milk chocolate has to contain:

    • 23% cocoa solids and 14% milk solids

or

  • 20% cocoa solids and 20% milk solids

Both can contain up to 5% vegetable fat without having to declare it on the label!

Milk chocolate is also permitted to contain up to 55% sucrose.

“Chocolate is an article so disguised in the manufacture that it is impossible to tell its purity or value. The only safeguard is to buy that which bears the name of a reputable maker"– Chambers, Manual of Diet 1902