Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Great Debate: Dark vs. Milk

(Milk Chocolate: "Where's the party?" Dark Chocolate: "I can't believe they let them in.")
As you may recall, Jody made the following comment during the Great Candy Giveaway:

"I would like to see you address the fact that people who like dark chocolate feel that they are better than those who like milk chocolate. I would like you to tell them that it is a matter of taste. And that they're probably lying about preferring dark chocolate so that they look more sophisticated."

Very interesting point, Jody. I will admit, in the past I’ve been known to be a dark chocolate snob. Yes, I actually do enjoy dark chocolate, but I also like milk. And of course, it all depends on the brand. In some cases I prefer the milk over the dark.

But you’re right in saying that some people feel that dark chocolate makes them look more sophisticated. This can be evidenced by the recent increase in chocolates that list their cocoa percentages.

First though, an explanation on the differences between milk and dark. Dark chocolate is made from sugar, cocoa butter and chocolate liquor (which has nothing to do with liquor at all; it’s simply liquefied cacao beans). Milk chocolate contains the same ingredients, plus milk.

Nowadays you can find bars of dark chocolate that list the cocoa content in percentages, usually anywhere from 50% to 85%. So if, for example, if you have a bar of 70% chocolate, that means that the remaining 30% is sugar. In other words, the lower the cocoa percentage, the higher the sugar content. High=bitter, Low=sweet.

Personally, I find anything over 70% usually inedible, which I suppose makes me part of the bourgeoisie in the serious chocolate circles. And really, if you meet someone who’s talking in-depth about their preferred percentage of cocoa content, run the other way.

However, it’s not all bunk. There is something to be said about the complexity and deliciousness of dark chocolate without sounding like James Lipton. Unfortunately I’m going to use another snobby product for comparison—wine.

My first real interest in wine started on my honeymoon in Venice. (I know, I know, stop with the pretentiousness already.) But the fact of the matter is, I’m terrified of foreign languages, so we often ate at a cafeteria-style restaurant so I wouldn’t have to ask for the check (“Il conto, por favor”). As I pushed my tray along the metal counter, I fell in love with the machine that, instead of dispensing soda, poured out wine. It looked so beautiful, that red wine splashing into a glass carafe. The thing was, I didn’t really like the taste so much. But after drinking it for lunch and dinner for a week, it started to grow on me.
Once we got back home to the States, I started off on the Great Path to Wine Appreciation. Yep, I was drinking white zinfandel. Any wine snob will pish-posh white zinfandel, but hey, it’s a great place to start if you’ve never been a wine drinker. It’s syrupy-sweet, the pecan praline of the wine world. Soon, the white zin began to taste too sweet, so then it was onto whites like Chardonnay and Riesling. Then came the desire for something with a little more oomph. It was onto reds—first Beaujolais, then Pinot Noir, then onto the serious stuff—Merlot, Cabernet and (red) Zinfandel. It was a natural progression.
Chocolate can be the same way.
I will state for the record here and now that some days, there is nothing that fits the bill more than a simple Special Dark bar.
Other times, you might be wanting something slightly more upscale, like Lindt (which, in my opinion, makes the best mass-market out the “upscale” chocolate at a reasonable price). And then from there, you move on up to more boutique, sophisticated chocolates. It all depends on your mood. Like I’ve said before, I much prefer a good piece of milk chocolate almond bark to a tiny square of gold-dusted chili-lime-cardamom dark truffles. I think there’s a fine line between “sophisticated” chocolate and just plain dumb chocolate. There’s no need to “enhance” perfectly good milk or dark chocolate with all sorts of crazy spices and elements. Keep It Simple, Stupid.

So there you have it, Jody. Yes, some dark chocolate lovers are faking it. But there are others of us out there who like chocolate in almost any form it takes. But don’t let the dark lovers intimidate you, because the fact of the matter is, they’d probably respect you (and envy your honesty) for preferring milk.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I LOVE THE PICTURE!!!!!!!!!!!!!