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Feb 13, 2008 08:36 AM

Milk vs. dark chocolate - think carefully before you choose

From Feb. 13 NYT article,, interesting discussion of milk vs. dark chocolate. For years, I hid my preference for milk chocolate so as not to seem too "bourgeois". Which do you prefer?

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  1. Not sure why one would have to make a 'final' decision. I've always found the snobbery that comes with high-content cacao chocolates (say, anything over 75%) to be quite laughable. While I really enjoy dark chocolate for its rich flavor, I will generally not go over 70%. I always liked and still like milk chocolate, but I grew up on some pretty decent quality -- Lindt, Milka, Côte D'or...

    But, whatever you do -- don't even bother offering me Hershey's! That stuff is vile.

    13 Replies
    1. re: linguafood

      But everyone is different -- I grew up with Hershey's and find most European milk chocolates too milky-sweet (milk, after all, has sugar (aka lactose) in it). Reading these boards, I've seen people describe Hershey's as having a "sour milk" quality, which to me makes it less cloying.

      What I'm really getting into, though, is high-cocoa solids milk chocolates (50% or more). They combine the smoothness of milk chocolate with more of the complexity and depth of flavor of dark chocolate.

      I totally agree about super high cocoa solids chocolate. IMHO, anything more than 75 percent is a sign of either snobbery or such a dull palate that you have to be hit over the head to taste anything.

      If you're buying chocolate as a gift and aren't sure, think about the person's coffee or tea habits. If they don't like coffee or tea and/or put milk in it, then they probably don't like really bitter flavors and would prefer less intense (although still good quality) chocolate.

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Agree. It's a cultural/upbringing thing. My man loves Hershey's -- to me it tastes like good European-style chocolate gone old. I'm not sure European producers use more milk, but they don't use the more acidic milk used in American least that's what I gathered from the NYT article.

        As for the coffee.... I like my coffee w/cream *gasp* (though I could do without sugar, if hard-pressed) -- but I very much enjoy bitter flavors in other incarnations.

        1. re: linguafood

          Oddly, I go through stages. For several years, I'll prefer milk, then I'll start finding it too sweet and prefer dark for several years.

          Right now, I like milk, but prefer a darker milk. One of the high end chocolate companies whose name I can't think of makes a milk chocolate in a yellow wrapper that I really like.

          Except for chocolate with mint, which always requires dark chocolate, regardless of my current general preference. Same with caramel and milk chocolate.

          1. re: marcia2

            Scharffen-Berger, maybe? I think their milk chocolate comes in a yellow wrapper.

        2. re: Ruth Lafler

          Wow. I'm in the minority here. I hope you don't think I'm horribly snobby or dull, but I really honestly do like really dark chocolate. I go back and forth between 70 percent-ish ones and the Lindt 85% one. The latter, I eat a small piece as my daily caffeine fix, b/c it's that strong (and I don't do coffee), but I have to be in the mood for it. Also, the darker it is, the more I like to leave it in my mouth and just let it melt, rather than eat it. It's more of a texture-enjoyment thing. I also don't like all 85 percents equally. For one thing, I find the Scharffenberger ones unpleasant.

          I like really dark chocolate (over 70 percent), but I think it has less to do w/ dullness and snobbery and more to do w/ my general preference for things with less sugar in general.

          When I bake, for example, I typically cut the sugar by 1/2 or sometimes even 1/4.

          But I read that article in the NYT, too, and I'm now curious about trying the higher cocoa content milk chocolate.

          1. re: anzu

            I agree that it could be a preference for less sweet things. I'm generally not a fan of too sweet items myself. Actually for a long time I grew up thinking that I preferred milk chocolate -- probably because my first chocolate experiences were Hershey's, Twix, Nestle's Crunch -- what most children grow up with. I knew the "sophisticated" palate appreciated dark, but I was still sticking to my milk.

            Then I went to NYC's first chocolate show and ate a bunch of dark chocolate. I didn't think anything of it. A few days later, I tried a piece of milk chocolate. I thought it tasted like wax and had no flavor. That was when I realized I preferred dark.

            1. re: anzu

              I prefer to snack on Ghirardelli 60-70% bittersweet baking chocolate. My favorites are the E Guittard 65 or 72% bars. I have been taking sugar out of items that I bake at home , and I have noticed that some people are preferring less sweet cakes and pastries.

              Valrhona and Callebaut are the standard in many bakeries, but I have never developed a taste for them.

              I have taken more than 1/2 of the white sugar out of my current brownies recipe, and added 2Tb of dutched cocoa to it. My mom and my daughter like milk chocolate, but even they don't like American mass-market chocolates.

              I tried the Lindt 91% and it was just a bit to powerful for my preference, but I want to try Ghirardelli's new 100% bitter chocolate bar, just for kicks and giggles.

              1. re: Kelli2006

                Whoa -- there's actually a Lindt 91%? I haven't seen that. I can handle the 85%, really like the 70%, but absolutely dig the 63% aka Madagascar. It's got such a wonderful afterglow of vanilla that lingers on your tongue....

                1. re: linguafood

                  Lindt actually has a 99% cocoa bar. I wonder if it is even sweet at all.


                  1. re: Humbucker

                    i like the suggestion on the label that you train your way up to the 99%......that's my kind of training, lol.

                    1. re: Humbucker

                      DH brought it back one year from the chocolate show. It wasn't Lindt, but another brand. It was almost like unsweetened chocolate but not as bitter. However, it was difficult to eat that stuff straight. I ended up using it as unsweetened chocolate in cooking.

              2. re: Ruth Lafler

                So I've been looking around for this high-cocoa solids milk chocolate. Does the 52 percent Endangered Species Milk Chocolate w/ Peanut Brittle count as a high-cocoa solids milk chocolate?

                I do admit it's quite good, but I can't taste the difference between this and say a lower percentage (35% for example) chocolate. Is it supposed to taste or have a mouthfeel more like dark chocolate?

            2. Sampled a good compromise solution (believe it was Green & Black organic) which was half milk or called something similar. It was nice...marketed as a hybrid of milk and dark, so a little less sweet than straight milk chocolate.

              1. According to this article, there is some evidence that dark chocolate is medically beneficial.

                1. I was unable to use your link and I would like more information as to what the article was discussing. I realize it is about light vs. dark, but was their take on it? TIA

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: justagthing

                    Not sure if you mean my link. It worked in my browser.
                    Anyway, the story said
                    Daily Dark Chocolate Good for the Heart, Loaded With Flavonoids
                    The research team divided 21 healthy adults into two groups. One group got a Dove Dark Chocolate bar every day for two weeks. Like other dark chocolate bars with high-cocoa content, this one is loaded with something called epicatechin. Epicatechin is a particularly active member of a group of compounds called plant flavoniods. Flavoniods keep cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels, reduce the risk of blood clots, and slow down the immune responses that lead to clogged arteries.

                    The second group also got dark chocolate bars. But their treats had the flavoniods taken out.
                    All subjects underwent high-tech evaluation of how well the blood vessels dilate and relax -- an indictor of healthy blood vessel function. Blood vessel stiffness indicates diseased vessels and possible atherosclerosis. Those who got the full-flavonoid chocolate did significantly better.

                    1. re: DonShirer

                      Thanks for the summary, but JoanN but a new link below and it worked just fine.

                  2. To the difference in chocolate tastes, I do find a difference between American chocolate, and chocolate from Europe or Latin America. I always wondered why that was. They are all good in some way(me being a chocolate lover) but they all taste a little different. especially the milk chocolate. I think maybe European and Latin American chocolates use farm fresh milk? Or maybe American candy makers use milk with milk solids, or condensation? Or maybe it's the spices and other additives? For the most part though until recently a few years back most American milk chocolate had a similar generic taste(even higher end chocolates; I hear candymakers want to label chocolate flavored candy, as in less cocao more cocoa butter, as chocolate, but that's a side note.). I enjoy all of course, but this always left me wondering as I explored the chocolate world. As for milk or dark, my answer is both for different occasions. I crave both in bar form, but I really do like milk chocolate with nuts, caramel, and candy coated, etc., while I prefer dark for truffles, and fruit fillings, as well as some nougats, although I do like dark chocolate with almonds as well(and for years I only had quality candy coated dark chocolate that was from Europe or Latin America).