As a female and well, as a human, I never met a chocolate I didn't like but I am also clueless about chocolate. My biggest chocolate moment was when my mother visited me when I lived in NYC and wanted me to drive her to Hershey Pa to see where her Hershey Kisses came from. We did, we took the tour and the whole shabang but I still never let it sink in that creating all different forms of cocoa I have popped in my mouth over the years are a lot of hard work and effort and I took them for granted, then I got this book.
It was a first for me. I love home cooking and love cookbooks, not just to make new recipes but to read and to learn as much as I can about food. But I have never delved into any forms of chocolate. I am not gonna lie, I can't walk by a good chocolate shop without dropping a fair amount of money and would probably kick anyone in the shin if they tried to take my last salted caramel but I've never really given it a lot of thought on how to make my own or any form of creating squat with chocolate. I came across this book after the holidays with a sale with a popular cookbook book club and they had a $10 sale if you bought so many books. Like I could pass up that deal. I will take to my grave how much $ I spent but it landed me more cookbooks than I need for the entire of 2012. Not that that is gonna make any difference as I just ordered a new cookbook on macarons, but this is by far my favorite. I have tried several "recipes" I cringe to even call them recipes because they are truly magnificent creations that just make me happy and have allowed me to give some very ingenious gifts in the past couple of months.
To just list my favorite recipes isn't enough on this. I wanted to point out that Mr Curley has really given some excellent instructions on the methods that are needed to do everything from the first chapter 'An Approach to Chocolate' in which he gives you the origins of chocolate to how you get from a bean to the all time favorite chocolate bar. He also goes into such things on learning how to taste chocolate. I had no idea there could be up to 400 aromas in one piece of chocolate. For me, learning how to judge chocolate sounds a whole lot better than the clarity of a diamond. Let's face it, most of us run across a good chocolate bar and enjoy them more often than admiring all our diamonds. And last time I checked, I couldn't couldn't use the excuse that diamonds are good for my health, therefore it WAS Ok to have another. I am sure I will get some eyerolls on that one, but its just my opinion. You will learn about how to store your chocolate, a ton of information on how to temper it correctly & how to make a delectable ganache. Plus you will amass all kinds of fantastic tips ranging from flavor combinations to how to make chocolate hoops & various decoration. He has something listed for just about every technique & recipe, which has taught me a lot.
This is a gorgeous hardcover book of 224 pages that will blow your mind and seriously if you don't read most of it with a piece of chocolate or a truffle in your hand while doing so then you just aren't getting the point. In all seriousness, this is truly a beautiful book. The pictures are divine. I am a lover of good pictures in cookbooks. And this book does not disappoint. It is one pictorial foodgasm right after another. This is on of the few cookbooks on the market that truly has a at least one picture for almost all the recipes. Because the dingdongs (pun intended) that publised this book have not listed the chapters in the description, I will take it upon myself to list them for you:
An Approach to Chocolate
Bars & Bites
Cakes & Biscuits
Ice Cream, Sauces & Drinks
He also has some good information towards the back of the book:
Ingredients & Equipment
Directory & Acknowledgments
I have ordered a few things already from a couple companies in his list for equipment. So far, they seem to be mainly based in the UK or Europe but I haven't checked to see if there are any in the US or other countries but I have had good success with the few items I ordered just recently from the two places I used.
Just to give you a quick list of a couple of my favorite recipes:
Sea Salt Caramel ...My personal all time favorite way to eat chocolate (I never in my life expected to be making my own couture chocolates with embossed decorations on the top. Made me feel like I did when I ate at the patisserie in the Bellagio when I was in Vegas for the holidays)
Chocolate & Pistachio Cake ... For the first time my cake actually looked like the cake in the picture. And it tasted like heaven. The author list each recipe in sections. For this particular recipe it had an apricot confit, chocolate cake & the pistachio cake. He lists each item in grams & cups/tsp, etc so if you don't use a kitchen scale, shame on you but you can still get by. He also will tell you what kind of equipment you will need for each endeavor so you shouldn't ever be in a pickle when trying to make sure everything comes together as it should.
White Chocolate Martini ... Better than any I've had in any restaurants I've had, which isn't a great thing as I REALLY enjoyed them and enjoyed making them more than once.
I've enjoyed making the truffles and working with chocolate moulding. I think this is such an art and I respect pastry chefs more than I ever have. I now truly see the requirement to spend so much on a good treat. They are worth it, especially now that I am beginning to see how much detail and how many steps are required to create some of these amazing sweet delicacies. I am looking forward to delving into the chapter of items for Patisseries. The items in that chapter are look amazing and so detailed I am excited to jump into that but know that it is going to be a journey that will excite me but at the same time I will probably gain a few more gray hairs. In my big family we have a spring holiday approaching and I plan to make my first Entremet. I am sure my family will not even realize the depth of hardwork that will go into it but for me it will be a challenge and a reward to even know I could attempt it.
In closing on what is my longest review on anything, I want to say that if you love chocolate and you are a pastry chef, this is an awesome tool for you to enjoy and you will probably understand all the terms that I have had to research and you will know so many of the techniques that I am just learning. At thesame time this is a great book for the home cook, like me because the author does such a great job to break things down so we don't feel like complete idiots. For to the guy/gal who owns her own bakery or even you own patisserie I would imagine you would find some great new creations for your display and enjoy the smiles your customers will give you when they bite into the chocolate lollipop they got for their kid or for the Blackcurrant Teacakes you made for someone's birthday bash.
The only thing I am disappointed in is the simple fact that a publishing company would take the time to back such a wonderful author and a lovely book but can't take more than 5 minutes to write a review to entice a customer into purchasing it. I live in the midwest and since Borders put their head in the sand and screwed themselves out of a thriving business I have to drive 30 minutes to the nearest bookstore (and I am not a fan of the chain) so I do most of my book shopping online and it really ticks me off when a book like this that is basically bought when you are able to flip through the pages & see the list of recipes and read some of the techniques and see the size, etc. But they can't take the time to market this properly. Let's face it, had it not been for that ridiculous sale I ran across in Dec I wouldn't have even ran across this book. But now that I have I am so glad I was in one of those "late night let's drop another book in the online cart and see if I can give my postal carrier a hernia for Christmas" moods then I wouldn't have had this chance to start learning a really fun new craft and know that lately I have been able to mark the first thing off my daily to-do list because it is always 'eat more chocolate' I really wish the publishing company would take the time to post pictures of this book. If I get time this week I will take some quick pics and post them because seeing is truly believing.
Good luck and remember, There is much more to life than chocolate, but just not right now.