By Hannah Kaminsky, author of My Sweet Vegan & Bittersweet ~ If there were one thing that I could almost guarantee you will find in your local grocery store, no matter where in the world you reside, it would be a vegan alternative to milk. From soy to oat to hemp, the varieties are endless, and availability is at an all-time high. What you might have more difficulty finding, however, is vegan <i>milk chocolate</i>. No, I’m not talking about the chocolate milk you drink, I mean the real stuff, found in bars, chips, and chunks, sweeter and lighter than the jet-black dark chocolate that should be a staple of any well-stocked pantry. Why the deep roots of chocolate addiction and prevalence of milk-alternatives have yet to meet, I can’t quite understand. Luckily, there are beginning to be a few stray companies brave enough to bridge that gap, such as Terra Nostra with their Ricemilk chocolate bars.
Each glossy bar weighs 100 grams (3.5 ounces) and has 12 rectangles for “portion control,” if you care to exercise restraint.
The plain Ricemilk bar seemed like a good jumping-off point, so that’s where I began. Tearing back the silver foil, a curious milky aroma wafted out and teased my taste buds. Upon first bite, I was struck by how reminiscent of Hannukah gelt it was- Of all things! Since the gelt of my childhood was always milk chocolate, I suppose they hit the nail on the head with this one. Luckily, it doesn’t have overwhelming “dairy” notes like Hershey’s nor is it watered down due to a lesser cocoa content, so there’s no loss of flavor here. Each bite yields a nice snap, and the chocolate melts smoothly into a sweet, creamy puddle over the tongue. This is something that kids would go nuts for, as it’s far less intense than dark chocolate. Personally, one rectangle is really enough to satisfy a craving, but the sweetness becomes a bit cloying beyond that.
What I was most curious about was the Dark Truffle Center bar- Truffles are one thing and chocolate bars are another, so how successfully could they be combined? Well, I was about to find out. Due to the soft interior, this bar had no snap to speak of, but instead surrendered easily to the most gentle bites. Immediately the deep, dark chocolate of the center came through and took hold of my palate, the slightly bitter, caramelized notes shining through. Tempered by the sweet ricemilk chocolate, the combination worked very well. I imagine that the truffle center would have simply been too intense on its own. Ultimately, the only thing I can fault this bar with is the format, as I would have honestly preferred a traditional truffle shape to maximize the amount of that complex and sophisticated filling.
Sporting the same “milky” chocolate as the original bar but now sprinkled liberally with roasted nuts, the Almond bar certainly was a beauty. They weren’t shy with the almonds, and every rectangle was studded with about equal amounts of this crunchy counterpoint. Sadly, while it add a delightful extra dimension of texture, I didn’t get any almond flavor from it. They were plenty fresh and crisp, but not exactly distinctive as far as the taste went. I would still make the case to try this bar out though, because I loved that the nuts took the sweetness down a notch, making it much easier to snack on than the plain bar.
If you’ve been missing milk chocolate, look no further. Although it’s been a while since I’ve had the real thing myself, I would venture to say that these bars are near perfect replacements that will please your inner child. Chocolate snobs beware; these are more of a simple candy at heart. However, kids are sure to love them, and it’s nice to have more options out there on the market. If only I had saved enough to bake with, I’m sure they would work beautifully in cakes and pastries as well!