(posted by Faustus, M.D.)
The explanation for the difference between European and American chocolate is best set forth in Joel Glenn Brenner’s The Emperors of Chocolate. It’s been several years since I read it, and my copy is hundreds of miles away at the moment, but my recollection is that Mr. Hershey went over to Europe and worked in chocolate factories essentially as a corporate spy, learning their secrets so he could steal them. When he came back to America, he started developing his own methods based on but not exactly the same as the methods he stole. The process he came up with in the end was one in which the milk spoiled ever so slightly. This became the standard taste of American chocolate, and is the reason people from across the pond find our version of the food of the gods so repulsive. Having grown up on it myself, I don’t have a problem with it, but, like any sane person, I prefer the taste of European and English chocolate.
Interestingly, the one chocolate made in America using the European methods (and so tasting much better) is Cadbury’s Mini Eggs. Cadbury is of course an English company, but the eggs sold in America are manufactured, if I’m not mistaken, by Hershey. The only time we get them is around Easter. Strangely, though, I’ve had extraordinary trouble finding them in the last few years; I don’t know if this is because they’re just not common in New York or whether the whole country is turning away from them, in which case I know we are in bad shape.
The other interesting thing is that European and English experts, while generally disdaining the taste of American chocolate, tend to agree that it works very well in combination with almonds–the sourness of the chocolate, they say, somehow accentuates the bitterness of the almonds in an interesting way.