Chocolate is a complex thing—its history, properties, lore, chemistry and uses fill volumes and volumes of books. I'm always looking to expand my knowledge, and thought I'd share some of my favorite chocolate-related tomes this week. Since my space here is limited, this is by no means a comprehensive or scientifically compiled list. Please jump in and add your favorites! I'm always looking for new reading material.
An In-Depth History
The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe: Exhaustively researched yet readable and entertaining. This book's authors are both anthropologists, so you get a lot of understanding of the significance of chocolate in Mayan and Aztec culture, followed by a thorough history of the evolution of chocolate. I picked up this book on a whim and was surprised by how absorbing it is (it helps if you're really into chocolate, of course). Bonus: it's full of interesting little informational tidbits and anecdotes that might come in handy at your next cocktail party.
Brief and Comprehensive
The Great Book of Chocolate by David Lebovitz: The former pastry chef at Chez Panisse has a serious thing for chocolate, and it comes through in this slim but thorough and highly entertaining volume. With information on how chocolate is made, terminology, buying, storage, notable American and European chocolatiers, and some recipes thrown in for good measure, this book has a little bit of everything. Lebovitz's humor and obvious love for the subject matter really make it shine.
Desserts and Pastry
Chocolate Desserts By Pierre Hermé by Pierre Hermé and Dorie Greenspan: Pierre Hermé is widely considered to be one of the best pastry chefs in the world. Teaming up with cookbook magician Dorie Greenspan results in sheer alchemy. The recipes in this book are superbly written; clear and thorough, with well-defined steps and tips along the way and gorgeous photos. Written for those who have a little baking experience and are looking to expand their horizons, most of the recipes here are geared towards intermediate pastry nerds - with a few curveballs thrown in to challenge you. And everything is, of course, delicious.
Advanced Technique and Theory
Chocolates and Confections: Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan Confectioner by Peter P. Greweling and the Culinary Institute of America: This is a serious chocolate book for serious chocolate people. Written for professionals working with small batches, this is heavy on the science. The recipes and formulas are insanely precise and assume a fair amount of interest in the chemistry and molecular structures of things. But if you have the interest, this book will be one of the most fascinating you can find on the subject. Note: Greweling has also written a home-kitchen book called Chocolates and Confections at Home with the Culinary Institute of America, which I haven't read, but based on Greweling's expertise and talent for translating recipes, I can confidently recommend it sight unseen.
A Closer Look
On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee: Okay, so this isn't a dedicated chocolate book. But McGee's brief chapter on chocolate does a beautiful job of condensing the history of chocolate before launching into the structure of the substance itself and offering tutorials and tips (as well as great little morsels of information). Any food geek worth their salt should own a copy of this book; McGee will give you a new respect for the ingredients we take for granted every day.
About the author: Liz Gutman co-owns the Brooklyn-based candy business Liddabit Sweets, which means she spends a lot of time around chocolate (and a lot of time eating it). She moved to New York in 2001 to go to, wait for it, acting school. But when the acting life wasn't for her, she wound up in the French Culinary Institute's pastry program while working at Roni-Sue's Chocolates in Manhattan's Lower East Side. She befriended Jen King, aka the other half of Liddabit, at FCI and founded Liddabit in May of 2009.
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