Swiss Innovations: Milk Chocolate and Refined Texture

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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In 1917, Alice Bradley’s Candy Cook Book devoted an entire chapter to “assorted Chocolates,” and noted that”more than one hundred different chocolates may be found in the price lists of some manufacturers.” The South American bean had come of age as a major ingredient in confectionery.

Two technical developments had helped expand chocolate’s appeal. In 1876, a Swiss confectioner named Daniel Peter used the new dried milk powder produced by his countryman Henri Nestlé to make the first solid milk chocolate. Not only do milk flavors blend well with chocolate, but the milk powder dilutes the strong chocolate flavor, and milk proteins reduce its astringency and make the taste milder. Today, most chocolate is now consumed in the form of milk chocolate. Then in 1878, a Swiss manufacturer named Rudolphe Lindt invented the conche, a machine which ground cacao beans, sugar, and milk powder slowly for hours and even days, and developed a much finer consistency than had been possible before. This is the consistency that we now take for granted in even the most ordinary chocolates.