When I started researching what’s new in chocolate for this blog miniseries, I was astounded at just how many craft chocolate bars containing alternative milks and sweeteners are around now. And the types of milk and sweetener used are going to make a big difference to the taste of a craft chocolate bar whose only other ingredient is cocoa beans.
If you’re lactose/cows’ milk intolerant; avoiding over-processed sugars in your diet; or just fancy trying something quirky and new; then you might want to look out for some of the craft chocolate bars containing alternative milks and sweeteners that I talk about here.
NB: As always when referring to companies, I make it crystal clear if any views are theirs and not my own.
Craft Chocolate Bars Containing Alternative Milks And Sweeteners
The three basic ingredients in chocolate are cocoa beans, milk and sugar. Other ingredients may be used, but these three are all you need. And of course you don’t even need milk if you’re making dark chocolate.
But I’ve been fascinated to discover so many new craft chocolate bars containing alternative milks and sweeteners as substitutes for traditional cows’ milk and cane sugar. So this is a roundup of just a few of the more unusual ones I’ve come across.
By the way, manufacturers make nutritional and health claims for some of these milks and sweeteners. I’ve reproduced some of these here, but I’m making clear that they’re what the companies say on their websites. Whether or not they’re accurate, the companies have given no independent sources for their information, and I’ve only had time to fact-check some of them before posting. It’s no disrespect to the companies, but I never quote nutrition and health claims as fact unless and until I’ve been able to verify them from an independent source.
Artisan du Chocolat is one company that’s been doing lot of experimentation with craft chocolate bars containing alternative milk and sweeteners.
In 2015 – to mark the Chinese year of the goat – Artisan du Chocolat introduced a goats’ milk chocolate bar. It’s made with dried full cream goats’ milk.
And as Artisan du Chocolat say on their website, goats’ milk has smaller, more easily digestible, fat molecules than cows’ milk.
They also say it contains less lactose sugar, more calcium, more vitamin B6, more vitamin A and more than twice the potassium of regular cows’ milk. But as at March 2018, I haven’t yet fact-checked all these detailed nutritional composition statements with an independent source. However, according to a scientific paper by Lille University Faculty of Medicine in 2013, goats’ milk has no clear nutritional advantage over cows’ milk.
Lille University also suggest that goats’ milk is not less allergenic than cows’, as Artisan du Chocolat’s website states tends to be the case. But it does seem there’s been some scientific debate about this, as earlier science papers, like this one from 2004, do suggest that goats’ milk is indeed less allergenic. Unfortunately Artisan du Chocolate haven’t stated the source of their information to enable me to compare it, but I’ll ask them and update this once I have.
I’m very fond of savoury goat products like cheese. To date, I’ve never got on personally with goats’ milk as an ingredient in sweet dishes though. But I consider Artisan du Chocolat to be a great chocolatier, and I’m generally a fan of their products. I used to live near their shop in Chelsea and often made a purchase there. So I’m very intrigued to try this bar to see how it tastes, and whether it has a ‘goatey’ flavour. Next time I’m near one of their shops in London I’ll pick one up and report back here on what it’s like
Having said that I want to try the 40% goats’ milk bar, it’s also true that I don’t usually tend to eat much milk chocolate. Or chocolate that’s as low as 40% cocoa, for that matter. That’s partly as I have a personal preference for the heavier chocolate flavour that comes with more cocoa and no milk. And it’s also partly because I’m often trying to eat low-carb. So a lot of the time I’m trying to avoid and reduce cane sugar and milk sugars (lactose).
But for that same low-carb reason, I do tend to use a lot of unsweetened almond milk. I’m not lactose intolerant, but having no lactose milk sugar means almond milk is very low-carb. So I was intrigued to see that Artisan du Chocolat are also selling a 40% bar including almond milk, instead of cows’ milk. (What it actually contains is ‘partially defatted instant almonds’).
Artisan du Chocolat did indeed create their almond milk bar as they wanted to offer a milk bar that doesn’t contain lactose. Apparently they conducted many trials with soya and rice milks, before settling for almond milk, because it leaves subtle almond flavour notes on its finish. Again, I’ll pick up a bar next time I’m near one of their shops and report back here on what it tastes like.
Many companies are now including different types of novel natural and ‘healthier’ sweeteners in their chocolate. Of course, this is against a backdrop of people increasingly trying to reduce processed foods, and sugar overall, in their diets.
Take Artisan du Chocolat’s 61% Panela Dark bar, for instance. It’s sweetened with panela – a Colombian raw sugar made naturally from dried (evaporated) sugar cane juice. Artisan du Chocolate say that, unlike sugar, panela apparently retains its natural flavour, vitamins and minerals. I’ll take a subsequent look at those nutrition claims about panela. But for now, this is another bar I’m intrigued to try next time I’m near one of their shops.
Raw chocolate makers Forever Cacao are another company that’s been experimenting with craft chocolate bars containing alternative milk and sweeteners. For instance, they’re selling a 65% Lucuma and Vanilla bar.
Forever Cacao describe this as ‘the closest thing to milk chocolate without the milk’, although lucuma is actually a natural sugar substitute. It’s a subtropical fruit native to the Peruvian Andes which Forever Cacao say is often called ‘Inca’s Gold’ because the Incas relied on lucuma as a natural sugar source.
According to Forever Cacao’s website, lucuma contains vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B5 and beta carotene. They also say it contains iron, potassium, calcium and phosphorous and is low GI. (As at March 2018, I haven’t fact-checked all of these detailed nutritional composition statements with an independent source. I’ll update this once I’ve done so).
Forever Cacao say that lucuma gives the bar a rich, creamy, caramel flavour. It’s another one I’m going to be seeking out to try in the near future and I’ll update this post when I do.
Forever Cacao Lucuma & Vanilla 65% raw chocolate bar. Photo credit: Forever Cacao
In their other experimentations with raw craft chocolate bars containing alternative milks and sweeteners, Forever Cacao include coconut palm sugar in place of cane sugar in all their bars.
And another raw bar maker, the IQ company, sweeten theirs with coconut blossom sugar.
IQ say on their website that coconut sugar is high in potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron, and a source of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and C. They say it’s also ‘very rich in other minerals and enzymes which aid in the slow absorption into the bloodstream’ and that it’s low GI. (As at March 2018, I haven’t yet fact-checked all of these nutrition composition statements with an independent source).
I’ve got a MASSIVE thing about good dark chocolate and mint. So my favourite of IQ’s bars is their very lovely 72% Plush Peppermint, including real peppermint oil, as it should do. I’ve always got one of these bars in the house in case of emergencies!
Yacón is a Peruvian tuber which looks like a sweet potato and apparently tastes a bit similar to pear. Raaka say the bar has ‘an intense cacao flavor with a hint of tang’. Sadly I won’t be able to try this – although I’m dying to! – as Raaka don’t ship to the UK. If you’ve tried it, please do let us know in the comments what you thought of it!
Conner, owner of Mayhawk Chocolate, told me that one of the biggest influencers of difference in how chocolate tastes is which sweetener is used.
He makes his own maple sugar in-house from Grade A maple syrup from sustainable Canadian forests. The syrup, he says, contains B vitamins and antioxidants, which Conner believes makes its high cost well worth it. He says it also has medium-carb content compared to processed cane sugar. (As at March 2018, I haven’t had time to fact-check all of these nutritional statements with an independent source. I’ll update this once I’ve done so).
Mayhawk’s 73% Dark Maple Bar, made with single-estate Trinidadian cocoa beans, is one of their bars sweetened with maple – instead of cane – sugar. I’ve had a bar myself and it really is amazing. When appreciated properly by letting one square of the chocolate melt in the mouth slowly, it’s got beautiful notes of maple and treacle coming through, after the initial chocolate taste subsides. And as with all Mayhawk’s bars, it’s exquisitely hand-packaged.
I’ve noticed malt being used increasingly as a sweetening ingredient in craft chocolate bars. I haven’t yet come across a bar where it’s been used as a sweetener on its own. But it adds to the sweetness in chocolate overall, so in principle, less sugar needs to be used.
Mayhawk told me that their 60% Vanilla and Dark Malt bar uses the least sugar of almost any of their other bars. Less sugar is necessary because of the sweetness of the malt, combined with vanilla. I’ve yet to look into the health implications of dark malt, but will update this when I have done so.
I love malted milk flavours. I was reminded of that very recently when I stayed at Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers on New Years Eve and to my delight found a flask of homemade malted milk in a hamper on my bed when I returned from dinner!
So malted milk has been firmly in my mind since then, and that led me to ordering online a bar of Mayhawk’s Vanilla and Dark Malt. And when it arrived I found it to be seriously addictive! Unusually for me I couldn’t stop myself eating the whole bar in one afternoon while I was tapping away at my computer. It has the most gorgeous, silky subtly sweet malt flavours, like a nostalgic mug of Ovaltine from my childhood. And it also happens to be made with one of my favourite fruity cocoa beans – Criollo from Madagascar.
Malt combined with longer roasting
And here’s another example of a bar made with malt which I haven’t yet tried. The Land company are an award-winning bean-to-bar company in Bethnal Green, London. Demarquette Fine Chocolates mentioned them as a company they rated when I attended their Chocolate Curiosities workshop at Abergavenny Food Festival last year.
Land’s 65% Malt Dark bar contains malt barley grain from the nearby Pressure Drop Brewery to add sweetness alongside organic cane sugar.
And here’s a thing also about this bar for anyone who’s read my article about raw chocolate and the desire to achieve interesting flavours by using unroasted cocoa beans. For in this particular bar Land practically do the opposite to achieve new flavours. They use Honduran cocoa beans that they have intentionally roasted for slightly longer than usual.
Land say that this gives more intense flavour, while simultaneously creating a dark chocolate bar that tastes milder than many others. Apparently longer roasting gives the chocolate underlying coffee aromas which Land say perfectly balances the sweetness of the malt barley. So it’s yet another one of these craft chocolate bars containing alternative milks and sweeteners that sounds gorgeous, and that’s on my list to order and try sometime soon and report back here!