What is milk chocolate made from?

19 Mar 2020

Food + Drink

Milk chocolate is a delectable treat popular all over the world, but what are its basic ingredients, and how is it made?

Since its advent in 1879, milk chocolate has risen through the ranks to become the world’s favourite type of chocolate. Research from market intelligence agency Mintel shows that over half of all adults (51%) preferred milk chocolate, far more than dark (35%) and white (8%). In fact, Statista estimates that the milk chocolate market will be worth US$70.5 billion by 2022.

It’s easy to see why. Milk chocolate’s creamy, smooth texture and its mellow cocoa flavour make it a true crowd pleaser; not too sweet, not too bitter. But how does it get that way?

What is in milk chocolate?

The main ingredients in a standard milk chocolate product are ground cocoa nibs, cocoa butter, milk solids, sugar and an emulsifier. The cocoa gives the chocolate its colour and flavour, and the cocoa butter adds to the smooth texture as well as defining the melt of the chocolate; cocoa butter melts at just above room temperature. To sweeten the mixture, sugar is added to detract from the bitterness of pure cacao beans, which is further tempered by the creamy flavour of the milk solids. Most chocolates add an emulsifier like soy lecithin that ensures that the cocoa butter doesn’t separate from the sugar, cocoa and milk solids. 

However, you can’t just mix these five ingredients in a bowl and expect a smooth milk chocolate to be the result. The chocolate-making process is a crucial factor in creating a high-quality product.

How do you make it?

To bring out the best flavour in the chocolate, we put simple, high quality ingredients through a complex process.

After harvesting, the cacao beans are processed. This involves taking them out of the fruit and leaving them to ferment, where they develop their flavour. They are then cleaned and roasted. The roasting is a crucial step to developing the flavour; too much, and the beans will be bitter, but too little and they will retain an acidic aftertaste from the fermentation.

After this, the shells are removed, and the resulting cocoa nibs are either mixed with others to develop a particular flavour profile, or kept alone for a single-origin chocolate. Mills grind the cacao nibs into a thick paste, before a hydraulic press puts them under pressure to remove some of the cocoa butter.

Cocoa nibs are on average 53% cocoa butter, whereas chocolate only needs to have around 25% cocoa butter, which is why some of it is removed: without doing so, the chocolate will be too fatty and melt too easily.

To the resulting cocoa mixture, milk powder, sugar, and the chosen amount of cocoa butter is added to the mix along with the emulsifier. This has all the delicious flavour of the milk chocolate, but with a gritty texture.

To develop the smooth consistency that we all know and love, the mixture is conched. This scrapes and grinds the mixture for anything from a couple of hours to multiple days; the longer it is conched, the more velvety-smooth the chocolate will be. Finally, the chocolate is tempered – giving it a clean snap – and poured into moulds.

What can I do with milk chocolate?

Milk chocolate has a higher sugar and fat content than dark chocolate, which means it is sweeter – great for puddings – and it melts more easily. This means they’re the ideal chocolate for s’mores, or for melty chocolate chips in your cookies or muffins.

Call us purists, but our favourite way to enjoy our milk chocolate is simply by eating it! Try out our three different types of milk chocolate; with a variety of cocoa percentages including 40%, 50% and Supermilk 65% you can find your favourite. Incorporate them into any of your baking recipes or just curl up on the sofa with a good book and nibble on them!

The classic milk chocolate treat has been around for centuries, and here at Hotel Chocolat we’ve used our expertise to create high-quality milk chocolate that we think is some of the best around. Try our milk chocolate selection for yourself!