Milk chocolate is our nation’s favourite block chocolate. We will typically eat more than twice as many milk bars as dark bars in our lifetime. (Read, 2018). In general, our preference for sweet diminishes as we reach adulthood; the sweet allure of our mother’s milk fades as we mature. Not so for chocolate, it would seem. Perhaps we are worried about the US research demonstrating a relationship between the enjoyment of bitter foods and psychopathic tendencies (Sagioglou & Greitemeyer, 2016) or maybe we just cannot resist the ability to return to the familiarity and comfort of our childhood.
As a child of the seventies, I feasted on Cadbury Flake and Diary Milk, I stole my brother’s milk chocolate Yorkie bars, drank sweet hot chocolate whenever I could find it and coveted a milk – not dark – Terry’s Chocolate Orange whenever a special occasion presented itself. But well before Kim Wilde and Jason Donovan were on our screens with a new ‘grown-up’ Cadbury dark milk chocolate, I had already found what I considered to be more grown-up swaps for my adolescent favourites. Although some of these include higher percentages of chocolate, they all continue to fulfil my emotional needs along with my desire to take on a more grown-up attitude to chocolate.
The crumbliest milk chocolate
A Cadbury Flake. My absolute favourite but sadly, as the delicate flakes melt in my mouth, my palate can no longer taste the creamy chocolate flavours I remembered in my youth. I have swapped the milk, sugar, 25% cocoa solids, vegetable fats, emulsifiers and flavourings for just three simple ingredients: 38% partially ground Criollo cocoa beans from Chuao in Venezuela, milk powder and whole crystals of unrefined organic cane sugar. The aroma gives that familiarity and promise of childhood indulgence. As the grains melt and mingle you experience central chocolate flavours with nuances of hazelnut, cream and sometimes even a hint of strawberry and then you are left with a satisfyingly lingering aftertaste.
This taste experience, I am sure, I will never grow out of.
The milk choc block
Having tasted so many superb craft chocolate milk bars, it was difficult to choose a swap for a straight Dairy Milk block. My choice is a raise trade bar, made in the same country as the beans were grown, in this case Peru. For me, a good milk replacement bar is one that delivers a balance of contentment and character, without being too sweet or too milky.
This Marana bar is made with ‘Blanco’ or white beans from the valleys of Alto Piura in Peru and their characteristic floral and citrus notes combine harmoniously with the comforting creamy chocolate flavours. The character comes from the ancestry and craftsmanship involved in the growing of the cocoa beans making up a very grown-up 50% of the bar.
The pleasure of chunky
I don’t know if my determination to enjoy a Yorkie bar (even it if meant theft!) was due to being told that it wasn’t for girls or just because of the immensely satisfying chunky mouthfeel. I have since found that the shape of the York Cocoa House classic 50% milk bar delivers that same guilty pleasure. This time the indulgent sweetness is carefully balanced with rich notes of coffee, cocoa and cream from the bold and straightforward taste of cocoa beans from Idukki, Kerala in India.
I can no longer see this bar on the York Cocoa House website, but they do have a 50% Dominican Republic milk bar which I would try instead. You need to buy the 70g bar for the full chunky Yorkie bar effect.
A hug in a mug
It was always a bit of a disappointment to find the red Bournville cocoa tin rather than the purple Cadbury one in mum’s cupboard but, sweetened with spoonfuls of white sugar, it served its purpose. Now, if I need a hot chocolate hit, I put a few pieces of dark bean-to-bar fine chocolate in a cup, add 2-3 cm of hot water and a sprinkling of organic cane sugar and whisk until frothy. But when I crave comfort, I turn to the deep earthy chocolate flavours of Lucocoa’s Haitian cocoa beans melted in hot milk and given a malty edge by the addition of lucuma and coconut sugar. Perfect for releasing that love hormone, oxytocin.
Dark and sweet
Where milk chocolate held warmth and familiarity, for me, as a child, dark chocolate represented something exotic and different. The Old Jamaica bar was the only exception to my obsession with milk chocolate. The added raisins punctuated the bitterness of the chocolate, making it bearable and, of course, it tasted of rum. Positively adult! Sadly, the relaunched Old Jamaica bars are a soulless replacement for the look and taste of the Caribbean and adulthood, no longer representing difference just more standardisation.
Pump Street Chocolate’s dark and mysterious 70% Jamaica bar, however, made with beans from grower Desmond Jadusingh from the Bachelor’s Hall Estate in Saint Thomas, is a very complex and grown-up alternative. There are notes of rum, sweet brown sugar and a touch of smoke in the aroma. The melt delivers the memories of those sweet juicy raisins, then warmer honey and caramel notes moving on to rum and a cigar astringency on the finish. A celebration of difference.
Finally, my beloved Chocolate Orange. What could replace the excitement and smell of a milk chocolate orange? I felt bereft when I realised the combination of orange and dairy no longer held any allure for me. Then I found the sharp, fresh, zesty taste of natural orange oil was far better suited to the rich tropical fruit notes of a dark but sweet Dominican Republic chocolate.
This bar has been crafted to perfection in small batches by Duffy Sheardown, a former Formula One engineer. But it’s not just the precision of the maker and the character of the beans that gives this bar its sense of occasion. Like with all the other swaps I have mentioned, there is no dark side to this chocolate. This bar gives the gift of Christmas as the beloved Chocolate Orange did, but not to the layers of middlemen in the confectionery industry, but instead to the Dominican Republic growers, Duffy the maker and me.
This was my real coming-of-age bar: a sensory and emotive experience involving passion, respect and responsibility.
Sources and further reading:
FMCG Gurus, 2020. FMCG Gurus: Chocolate Trends Within The UK 2020. [Online]
Available at: https://fmcggurus.com/blog/fmcg-gurus-chocolate-trends-within-the-uk-2020/
[Accessed 10 March 2021].
Giller, M., 2019. The Kitchn: The Best Milk Chocolate Treats for Grown ups. [Online]
Available at: https://www.thekitchn.com/the-best-milk-chocolate-treats-for-grown-ups-253819
[Accessed 10 March 2021].
Hawken, A., 2014. British Baker: Finished Goods: UKs Chocolate Consumption Habits Revealed. [Online] Available at: https://bakeryinfo.co.uk/finished-goods/uks-chocolate-consumption-habits-revealed/618758.article
[Accessed 10 March 2021].
Read, J., 2018. Voucher Codes: Press: Infographic: A Lifetime of Chocolate. [Online]
Available at: https://www.vouchercodes.co.uk/press/infographics/VoucherCodes-Lifetime-Chocolate [Accessed 7 April 2021].
Sagioglou, C. & Greitemeyer, T., 2016. Individual differences in bitter taste preferences are associated with antisocial personality traits. Appetite, 96 (ISSN 0195-6663), pp. 299-308.
The Grocer, 2019. The Grocer: Trend Reports: Portion control, sustainability and daily fixes: 10 charts explaining UK attitudes to confectionery. [Online]
Available at: https://www.thegrocer.co.uk/trend-reports/portion-control-sustainability-and-daily-fixes-10-charts-explaining-uk-attitudes-to-confectionery/595282.article
[Accessed 10 March 2021].