Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Never Enough Chocolate

Is there anything sadder than an empty box of chocolates? I'm not sure there is. If your mom is as big a fan of chocolate as my mom is, consider pairing a box of chocolates with something chocolatey that will last a whole lot longer. Like a book about chocolate. Recently there has been a windfall of chocolate books; here is a recap and some suggestions for mom (or any other chocolate lover).

Mort Rosenblum's Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light is an interesting book. It is packed with little gossipy tidbits and stories about the history of chocolate and chocolate business itself. It has been criticized by some as not being a serious piece of journalism, with sloppy attention to detail and conspicuously missing footnotes. But it is a fun read nonetheless and just won the IACP literary food writing award.

Chocolate The Sweet History is another stab at looking at the chocolate business. The book begins with a history of chocolate, a detailed timeline, a discussion of how chocolate is produced and then profiles of mostly American chocolate companies past and present. Finally there is some information on cooking with chocolate and a handful of recipes including Earl Grey Infused Chocolate Pudding and Cocoa Shortbread. My sister-in-law, another chocolate fiend and successful entrepreneur loved this book.

Chocolate Holidays is a very accessible cookbook by chocolate expert Alice Medrich. Here you'll find recipes that feature chocolate as the main event and sometimes as just an accent. As with all of Medrich's books, the instructions are meticulous and the recipes are creative. Try a Black-and-White Apricot Pecan Cake, chocolate Easter Baskets made from pretzels or Chocolate Blini with Berry Caviar. If mom makes every holiday special, this is a good choice.

The mother of all chocolate books last year had to be ChocolateChocolate by Lisa Yockelson who describes herself as "born into a chocolate-loving family". With over 200 recipes this is a book for not just a chocolate lover but a dedicated baker. You'll find lots of photos of cookies, cakes and brownies and tips on not just how to bake with chocolate, but primers on ingredients such as premium butters and a baker's list of chocolate brands. A hefty coffee-table book, if mom is a serious baker, this could be a good choice. It also just won an IACP award in the baking and sweets category.

While many award-winning chocolate books were released in 2005, two outstanding ones from 2004 deserve mention. Alice Medrich's Bittersweet won the IACP "book of the year". This terrific book takes into account the higher percentage chocolates that have come on the market. While not as weighty as ChocolateChocolate it's got a much wider variety of decadent recipes, truffles, mousses, cakes--the recipes that made her Cocolat stores legendary.

The other book and another personal favorite of mine, is David Lebovitz's The Great Book of Chocolate. A professional pastry chef, Lebovitz shares his exploration of chocolate makers, chocolate shops and some of his favorite recipes. It's a friendly approachable book that strikes just the balance of solid information and recipes.

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