82 COOK­BOOK CRITIC

The com­pre­hen­sive En­cy­clo­pe­dia of Choco­late: Es­sen­tial Recipes and Tech­niques pays homage to the tem­per­a­men­tal and com­plex char­ac­ter of choco­late. By Priyanka Elhence

Epicure - - CONTENTS -

En­cy­clo­pe­dia of Choco­late: Es­sen­tial Recipes and Tech­niques

At a glance

Thick slabs of dark Val­rhona lus­ciously driz­zled over with choco­late sauce make an ar­rest­ing front cover. With a fore­word from Pierre Hermé, and the con­tent edited by Frédéric Bau, (founder, ex­ec­u­tive chef and creative di­rec­tor at École du Grand Cho­co­lat Val­rhona), En­cy­clo­pe­dia of Choco­late: Es­sen­tial Recipes and Tech­niques is one com­pre­hen­sive tome of knowledge. Bau es­tab­lished the leg­endary culi­nary school ded­i­cated to choco­late in New Yowk in 1989, and it has since grown to en­com­pass four elite in­sti­tu­tions, each de­voted to help­ing self-taught choco­late con­nois­seurs mas­ter the art of choco­late mak­ing.

De­spite the elite cre­den­tials, Bau shares eas­ily com­pre­hen­si­ble tech­niques for home bak­ers. Like­wise, Pierre Hermé praises the must-have vol­ume, say­ing, “Bau has an as­tound­ing way of tam­ing and un­der­stand­ing choco­late, his favourite in­gre­di­ent. When he makes his pas­tries, he goes right to the heart of the mat­ter – the taste – and this book al­lows you to be­gin mak­ing desserts, from the sim­plest to the most so­phis­ti­cated, that are nor­mally the re­serves of pro­fes­sion­als.”

Ba­sic tech­niques cover the first part of the tome, with visual guides to key in­gre­di­ents, tips on how to choose and store choco­late and de­tailed ex­pla­na­tions on dec­o­ra­tions, glazes, and debunking choco­late myths.

The sec­ond sec­tion of­fers over 100 Val­rhona recipes of dif­fer­ing com­plex­i­ties and pas­try se­crets that are contributed and tested by Bau and eight of his col­leagues, com­plete with chef’s notes and spe­cific tech­niques. The recipes are or­gan­ised into dif­fer­ent chap­ters: The Great Clas­sics, Tarts and Tartlets, Shared De­lights, Teatime Treats, Spe­cial Oc­ca­sions, Iced Desserts, Candies and Con­fec­tions, or New Trends. The lat­ter cov­ers in­no­va­tive savoury dishes with choco­late. Ex­pect ev­ery­thing from éclairs, souf­flés and Sacher Torte, to Mont Blanc Re­vis­ited, Soy Milk Nama Choco, and Cod Fil­let with Green Tea Béar­naise, Smoked Choco­late Sauce.

The road test

I’ve spent many en­joy­able evenings try­ing out favourite recipes like the Molten Choco­late Cakes, and more en­tic­ing and chal­leng­ing recipes such as Choco­late Granita; Cof­fee, Choco­late, and Vanilla Creams with Bre­ton Shortbread; Co­coa Ja­conde Sponge; and even the el­e­gant Opéra cake.

The recipes from the New Trends chap­ter are re­ally in­ter­est­ing due to the var­ied bit­ter, spicy and smoked flavours. The whim­si­cal sound­ing Lob­ster Jus un­der a Light Cloud of Bit­ter­sweet Choco­late calls for a light-asair dol­lop of whipped choco­late mousse atop a lob­ster re­duc­tion and sweet lob­ster meat. The strik­ing con­trast between the hot lob­ster com­po­nents and the cold choco­late cream is un­ex­pected, and sur­pris­ingly the spiced heat from the Es­plette pep­per ties the dif­fer­ent flavours to­gether with each bite. While the recipe is not com­pli­cated, you do need to en­sure the lob­ster jus is ad­e­quately re­duced so that the depth of flavours is not lost, and that the lob­ster isn’t over­cooked ei­ther.

With a recipe name like Filet Mignon, East Meets West, I ex­pected beef ac­com­pa­nied by some ren­di­tion of a choco­late sauce. To my amazement, I found a choco­late-lemon­grass sauce driz­zled over pork medal­lions, ac­com­pa­nied by lemon­grasss­cented rice and an arugula salad. The pork calls for overnight rest­ing in a herby lemon­grass-cilantro-choco­late-ginger mari­nade, to­gether with soy sauce, le­mon juice and white wine.

It’s not a typ­i­cal recipe you’d find in a choco­late-ori­ented recipe book. The left­over mari­nade is added to the sauce to im­part stronger hints of lemon­grass and choco­late in the fi­nal dish. The un­com­mon pair­ing works well to­gether, with the bit­ter­sweet choco­late sauce com­ple­ment­ing the spicy ginger and the tangy lemon­grass notes, ideal for mop­ping up with the rice.

I took on the clas­sic Warm Choco­late Tart be­cause I couldn’t re­sist its ac­com­pa­ny­ing image. The two-pronged recipe fea­tures an al­mond short­crust pas­try tart shell sim­ply filled with 70 per­cent bit­ter­sweet choco­late ganache, and lightly dusted with co­coa pow­der. It is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to get this recipe wrong.

VER­DICT

No mat­ter which recipe you try, Bau is able to seam­lessly marry flavour with tech­nique. And un­like some cook­books where one tends to flip the pages di­rectly to the recipes, En­cy­clo­pe­dia of Choco­late: Es­sen­tial Recipes and Tech­niques of­fers easy-to-read, in­ter­est­ing chap­ters on the­ory and tech­niques, so you’re likely to spend as much time read­ing about choco­late as you are test­ing the in­dul­gent cre­ations.

En­cy­clo­pe­dia of Choco­late: Es­sen­tial Recipes and Tech­niques re­tails for S$46.20 on ama­zon.com.

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