Making milk chocolate at home is a tedious process, but the rewards are sweet, literally. Milk chocolate is only 45 per cent pure cocoa. The rest is a combination of cocoa butter, sugar, milk and lecithin. Perhaps the best part of making milk chocolate at home is being able to give away the treat as gifts during special occasions to family and friends. Once you get the hang of it, you may never buy chocolate from a store again.
Choose and purchase the cocoa beans. There are several types of cocoa beans to choose from: criollo (best for creating fine chocolate), forasteros (slightly more bitter than the criollo), trinitario (combination of the criollo and forasteros) and nacional (used least often for making chocolate). Purchase 1/2 to 1 cup of cocoa beans from a chocolate supplier.
Lay the beans on a flat cookie sheet. Set the oven to 163 degrees C.
Roast the beans for about 10 to 35 minutes. Slowly reduce the heat to 148 degrees C as the beans roast. You will know that the beans are sufficiently roasted when you start to hear a "cracking" sound. This sound occurs when water vapour is released from the beans.
Remove the husk from the cocoa beans by cracking the cocoa beans in half. You can use a hammer or nutcracker to crack the beans. This process is called "winnowing" and can be quite time-consuming.
Grind the cocoa beans. You can actually use a regular juice mixer for this step, but don't use a coffee or grain grinder because when ground, the cocoa beans actually release liqueur.
Grind the sugar into a fine powder to reduce the conching time by about three hours.
Add the powdered milk, cocoa butter, lecithin and sugar to the cocoa powder. For this step, you will need a special machine that refines the chocolate by "folding" and agitating it. This process is typically called "conching," and usually lasts at least 12 hours and at most a few days. The longer the chocolate is conched, the finer the texture will be in the end.
Mold or dip the chocolate. You can dip fruits like strawberries in the finished chocolate while it's still melted. You can also use plastic moulds to give your chocolate a shape. For example, you can use a small mould in the shape of a heart, pour the melted chocolate inside and allow to cool.
Do a trial run using only a few cocoa beans before you take on this project fully. A trial run will help you determine if all the machines are working properly, or if there are any adjustments you need to make. It will also keep you from ruining your entire batch of cocoa beans if you make a mistake the first time.
Don't use pre-powdered sugar. This will cause your chocolate to have a gummy texture. Buy regular sugar and grind it yourself instead as described in step 4.