Serious Eats: Sweets

Taste Test: Milk Chocolate Bars

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Milk chocolate often gets dismissed as the immature younger sibling of dark chocolate, but we are not ashamed of loving it. When good, milk chocolate melts on the tongue like butter. Of the ten brands we tried in a blind tasting, see which were the most butter-melty, which had weird notes of beef jerky, and which belong only on s'mores. Our results, after the jump.

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The score sheet.

Best Overall

While Switzerland is probably a really nice country to visit, you could still be pretty satisfied just eating its Lindt bar ($2.69 for 3.5 ounces) from afar. Smooth and creamy, without tasting too rich, it's what you want in a milk chocolate bar. There's no weird notes or whiffs of anything off-tasting--it's just chocolate done right. lindtusa.com

Another favorite was the Deutschland chocolate bar, Ritter Sport ($2.50 for 3.5 ounces). The four-by-four pattern of little chocolate pegs is very satisfying. Each of the sixteen squares is smooth, sweet but not too sweet, and easy to break off and share. ritter-sport.com

Honorable Mention

There was something subtly almondy or cinnamony about the Ghirardelli ($2.29 for 3 ounces) that kind of worked. While the ingredients didn't list anything to match these suspicions, the smidge of mysterious flavor complemented the classic milk chocolate taste. ghirardelli.com

Most Butter-Like

According to confectionery literature, good chocolate should melt on the tongue like butter, and this one did--or, hypothetically, how we imagine throwing a stick of golden fat on our tongues would be like. Imported from Belgium, the Trader Joe's brand ($1.79 for three 1.75 ounce bars) is not only cheap but enjoyably smooth and melty. traderjoes.com

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During the tasting, each chocolate nubbin was served to tasters upside down to avoid obvious logo giveaways.

Best Organic

Paul Newman did so much for the food world, from egg-binging to soy crisp development. What a man. And of all the organic brands we tasted, Newman's Own Organics ($2.99 for 2.25 ounces) was by far the most edible. Luscious and moderately gooey, it was the right amount of sweet with a tiny hit of salt. newmansownorganics.com/food_chocolate

Most Like Stale Halloween Candy

From the first whiff, we could identify this one. Whether it was the memories of "Fun Size" Halloween candy or those powdery instant cocoa packets, this was clearly Nestle ($1.59 for 5 ounces). Though more fake chocolate-tasting than chocolate-tasting, we were mostly fine with that. Nostalgia is a powerful thing. nestle.com

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Most Like Dark Chocolate

Both Dagoba ($2.79 for 2 ounces) and Whole Foods 365 Brand ($2.49 for 3 ounces) pulled off the grainy bitterness that dark chocolate fans will appreciate. Are they ashamed of being milk chocolate? A little identity crisis here. dagobachocolate.com; wholefoodsmarket.com

Most All-Around Funky Tasting

Whoa, there. For being the most expensive bar we tried, Green & Black's ($3.99 for 3.5 ounces) was a huge disappointment. Was that beef jerky? Something in there was bizarrely tangy and threw off the whole experience. More power to the company for using fair trade, genetically-unmodified, organically-grown cocoa, but this chocolate just ain't good. greenandblacks.com

Most Belongs on a Graham Cracker

As long as there are campfires and microwaves, there will be Hershey's ($1.99 for 4.4 ounces). Though gritty and chalky in bar form, it transforms into a magical ooze when multiplied by intense heat, graham crackers, and marshmallows. hersheys.com

Bonus: Robyn's Choco Doodle

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There's only so much cocoa butter our cells can digest before we start doodling freaky scenes of talking chocolate bars chasing stick figures. Thank you Robyn for illustrating this sentiment.

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