Most kids (and many adults) have tried to make chocolate milk by dumping Hershey's dry cocoa and sugar into milk, only to be stymied by intractable clumps. Nesquik and other chocolate-milk powders exist for this express purpose, to make the cocoa dissolve in the milk. How do they do it?
"Easy," says author and nutritionist Marion Nestle. "It’s powdered very fine." In addition, Nestle adds, Nesquik contains soy lecithin, an emulsifier that helps the cocoa liquefy more easily. "But mostly it's particle size."
My problem as a chocolate-milk fan? Nesquik tastes God-awful. It's about as chocolaty as a brown crayon. "I'm sure they could use a darker chocolate and engineer it to [dissolve in milk]," says Nestle. "There must not be a market for it. Note that sugar is ingredient number one. This is mostly sugar with a little chocolate added."
Melanie Auxer, director of food science and technology for Auntie Anne's Pretzels, pins Nesquik's dissolving qualities on soy lecithin, not particle size. This made me wonder: Could I go get some of the soy lecithin granules sold in health food stores, powder them and the other ingredients finely, and make my own, better-tasting Nesquik?
Many, many batches of greasy, clumpy milk later, the definitive answer is "no." Whatever it is we get in health food stores, it's not the same soy lecithin that Nestlé (the company, not the nutritionist) uses to make Nesquik. It wouldn't dissolve with the cocoa any way I tried it: straight from the package, whirred in the food processor, crushed in a mortar and pestle.
The answer turned out to be in the method, not the ingredients. To make a cup of chocolate milk, mix 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder with 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar. Add in 1 tablespoon of milk and stir hard until the cocoa, sugar, and milk form a slurry. Add 8 ounces of milk, stir again, and drink. Skim milk works best for this recipe.
Or, if you have children or others who want chocolate milk without having to basically make a roux in the glass, try this: Mix 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons nonfat milk. Add the mixture to 8 ounces cold water and stir. Chocotastic! You can make this mix in bulk by mixing a cup each of nonfat milk and cocoa powder with 3/4 cup sugar. Store in a jar or lidded container; add 5 tablespoons of mix for each cup of water and stir.