If someone asked me for which type of chocolate a mainstream brand with a pretension of “specialty” could not compete with a truly fine one, I would undoubtedly reply, ‘dark milk.’
From a strictly technical point of view, the lactose (a type of sugar different from the sucrose obtained from cane or beet) in the dry milk ingredient chosen can influence the taste of chocolate by promoting virtually infinite-in-possibility Maillard reactions. Adding to the equation, the type of dairy ingredient and how it was processed by the supplier, the type of sweetener and how it is incorporated in the chocolate by the maker—besides the inherent flavor precursors of cacao—creativity and innovation are plenty to explore in dark milk chocolate and mold a style.
Among the few brands that considerably impressed me with dark milk chocolate, I include the latest tasted Heinde & Verre.
Ewald Rietberg and Jan-Willem Jekel blend national nonchocolate ingredients (Dutch beet sugar and milk ingredients) with specialty cacaos to put a “signature” on their creations, experimenting with processing techniques that can highlight the individuality of each product. In particular, roasting, blending, and aging never follow the same path, depending on different cacao origins and product types.
This silky Balmy Brazil Milk Chocolate 62% is made from single-origin Brazilian Pará cacao, roasted in different batches through different methods, then recombined in the chocolate, and not aged before tempering. The tasting reveals an initial delicate flavor of wildflower honey sprinkled with herbal hints, which then warmly expand to a coffee cherry thread.