Obsession: dark milk chocolate

Chocolat Bonnat Surabaya Milk Chocolate

So, last night at around 11:30 p.m., this happened:

Cocoa Runners Invoice

What stands out right away as you look at this invoice?

Ok, other than the expensive shipping. And that it’s priced in British Pounds (thanks a lot, Cocoa Runners). And, yes, it’s weird to order ten chocolate bars in the middle of the night. Ok ok, besides all that.

I was hoping you might notice that eight of the ten bars listed above are of the dark milk chocolate variety.

But, what IS this dark milk chocolate stuff she speaks of?

A little industry background here will help. The FDA mandates that any bar labeled “milk chocolate” must contain at least 10% cocoa mass (btw, guess how much cocoa mass is in a Hershey’s Bar: 11%). In contrast, anything labeled “dark chocolate” must contain at least 35% cocoa mass (“bittersweet” chocolate usually contains >50%), and no more than 12% milk solids.

So, what happens if a chocolate bar contains more than 50% cocoa solids (cocoa mass + cocoa butter) AND more than 12% milk solids? Well… that’s dark milk chocolate. It’s a hybrid chocolate style that straddles the line between dark and milk without truly belonging to either category.

I know, TOTAL CRAZINESS. Mind blown!

I realize I might be the only person on earth who thinks the concept behind dark milk chocolate is so fricking cool. I know most people don’t sit around geeking out about chocolate for multiple hours a day. But if you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you like chocolate a lot. So do yourself a favor and pick up a bar the next time you get a chance. And for vegans out there, coconut dark milk chocolate is a real thing, and it’s delicious.

So, what should I expect from a dark milk chocolate? 

It will not be as sweet as a typical milk chocolate, since some of its sugar has been replaced by cocoa solids. But it will be creamier and smoother than most dark chocolate of comparable cocoa percentage (and do try to find the highest percentage of cocoa solids you can when you hunt for a dark milk bar — 60% is about right, higher is better).

Think about coffee — also a naturally bitter and acidic substance made from roasted seeds. When you add cream to coffee, the dairy fat and milk solids in the cream cut a lot of the bitterness and acidity of the coffee, allowing other flavor notes to shine through. Similarly, milk powder acts as a flavor modulator in chocolate, bringing out some flavors and muting others.

I’m hopeful that the dark milk chocolate fad will eventually improve the range of quality chocolate products available to consumers and spur the development of a new market for intense, flavor-forward milk chocolate. While we’re waiting for that to happen, I’ll be happily nibbling my way through the massive stack of chocolate bars arriving on my doorstep any day now.

 

 

 

Review: chocolate delivery services

Cococlectic Bean-to-Bar Box

Cococlectic box with Cao Chocolates

I lived in New York City for 12 years… and in New York, everything you can imagine can be delivered to your doorstep at any time, day or night. Online delivery services were such a staple of my life (breakfast delivery, dry cleaning delivery, grocery delivery) that the absence of even decent restaurant delivery services here (Seamless, get your act together!) made my move to D.C. more traumatic than it should have been.

But recently I discovered the holy grail of online delivery services: craft chocolate delivery. Several new companies are now providing chocoholics everywhere with doorstep delivery of hard-to-find, small-batch bars from craft chocolate makers all over the world.

I immediately signed up for two: Cococlectic and Cocoa Runners. Here’s what my experience has been like so far.

Cococlectic is a San Francisco based company that markets itself as a “craft bean-to-bar club.” Members receive four different bars of dark chocolate from one chocolate maker each month, with prices starting at $35.99 for one shipment (which comes with a $20 gift certificate towards a monthly subscription plan).

  • Cococlectic is for pure dark chocolate lovers only! They currently don’t provide the option of receiving milk chocolate or chocolate bars with stuff in them (inclusions).

    Cao Single Origin Chocolates
    Cao Single Origin Chocolates
  • They’re marketing themselves as a way for curious chocolate connoisseurs to find out about new, little-known or hard-to-find American craft chocolate makers. They do the leg-work and vetting, providing customers with a curated selection of bars.
  • The cost is reasonable, and I like being able to buy a no-strings-attached gift box without committing to a monthly subscription.
  • My gift box came VERY fast (in just a couple of days) and included four bars of different single origin chocolates from one chocolate maker: Cao Chocolates, from Miami, Florida. Since I’d never heard of Cao, Cococlectic did deliver on its promise of introducing me to a new chocolate maker that I probably wouldn’t have found on my own.

Cocoa Runners is a UK based company that delivers globally. Cocoa Runners costs about the same as Cococlectic (~$30 a month, plus a ~$5 shipping fee if you live outside the UK).

  • Unlike Cococlectic, Cocoa Runners doesn’t seem to provide the option to buy a single box… it appears you have to sign up for a monthly subscription to receive your first shipment. However, their subscriptions are cancellable at any time, so it’s not much of a commitment.
  • Cocoa Runners is more customizable: you can choose to receive either a mix of dark and milk chocolate, or only dark chocolate (they carry dark milk chocolate, which I adore, so I was very tempted to check the “milk chocolate” box). And when you sign up, Cocoa Runners will even ask you about your preferences for inclusions — do you like chocolate with nibs? berries? bacon?
  • Unlike Cococlectic, Cocoa Runners appears to provide customers with bars from multiple chocolate makers in each shipment.
  • Shipment is a tad slower than Cococlectic. Cocoa Runners ships the third week of each month, so I haven’t received my first box yet. But I’ll let you know what’s in it when it arrives.