Who was Daniel Peter and why should we be thankful for him?
Quite simply Daniel Peter was one of the main creators of today’s milk chocolate and that I think should explain why we should still be thanking him all these years later.
Born in the Swiss village of Moudon in 1836 and after a less than successful career as a candle maker discovered that the manufacture of chocolate was much a more profitable enterprise. A keen researcher and experimenter Daniel Peter studied the mechanics and chemistry of chocolate and within a few years had a close working relationship with his neighbor Henry Nestle. Nestle was then making baby food which involved adding an ingredient called ‘milky flour’. Daniel Peter looked at this process and wondered what would happen if he added milk to his chocolate creations. In fact, adding milk to chocolate was not as easy as it first appeared, and it soon became an obsession. In 1869 he worked on chocolate production full time and through lengthy trial an error eventually came upon the process of combing milk and chocolate in a form that was palatable, tasty and would keep well. He had obtained a stable product, composed of cocoa, sugar and milk that was unlike the milk-flour in baby food used by Nestle. Wheat flour, as used by Nestle, has little if any fatty body, while cocoa contains, depending upon its source and the degree of maturity of the harvested bean, from 45% to 55% of fatty matter.
The product was not, however, what we would consider milk chocolate as Peter himself said: “My first tests did not give or produce the milk chocolate as we know it today. Much work took place and after having found the proper mixture of cocoa and milk – a mixture I was told was impossible to obtain – my tests, I thought, were successful. I was happy, but a few weeks later, as I examined the contents, an odor of bad cheese or rancid butter came to my nose. I was desperate, but what was I do do? go back and try a different procedure? Being as it was, I did not lose courage, but I continued to work as long as circumstances allowed.”
Over the years that followed he continued experimenting with condensed milk and sugars until the product was perfect. Daniel Peter’s work cemented Switzerland as one of the world’s leading country’s in the manufacture of chocolate with Nestle being one of the world’s greatest food companies.
Daniel Peter, the inventor of milk chocolate for the entire world, died on November 4, 1919.