Today is National Milk Chocolate Day--not to be confused with Chocolate Milk Day. A holiday is a reason to celebrate. But, let's face it. Who needs a holiday to eat chocolate?
Milk chocolate contains cacao, cocoa butter, vanilla, milk solids and lecithin. It must contain at least 10% cacao (chocolate liquor), 3.7% milk fats, and 12% milk solids to be considered milk chocolate by the FDA. Like all chocolate, the quality varies from brand to brand. The better brands usually contain a higher percentage of cacao.
European milk chocolate usually contains condensed milk, but American and British milk chocolate contains a milk/sugar combination. Milk chocolate is heat sensitive because of its high sugar content, and should never be substituted for semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate in recipes.
Dark Milk Chocolate Bars. I know this may seem weird, but several companies make milk chocolate bars that contain a higher amount of cacao and are considered Dark Milk Chocolate Bars. Bars with 40% or more cacao are known as 'dark' milk chocolate. They look darker and taste more chocolaty, but they are still milky. I think you have to eat one to understand. These are usually the ones I like best.
Valrhona has Jivara, Scharffen Berger has one, Plantations has one (38%) and Michel Cluizel's Mangaro Lait is 45%. There are also several single origin dark milk chocolate bars from Cluizel and Bonnat--and others. My favorite, though, is Amano. They won the Best Milk Chocolate Bar at the San Francisco Chocolate Salon.
I confess I'm not a big fan of milk chocolate, so I'm partial to the Dark Milk Chocolate Bars, but every once in awhile I just love a Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar. I guess I'll have to try a few more milk chocolate bars before National Milk Chocolate Day rolls around again.