When a chocolate-obsessed book was originally published in French with the more fitting title Encyclopédie du Chocolat, you can make a pretty solid bet that you'll soon be spending a lot of time between those 400+ pages of cocoa nib ice cream, hot chocolate mousse verrine, and fresh blueberry and raspberry-laced bittersweet chocolate bar recipes.
When that same chocolate book, Cooking With Chocolate: Essential Recipes and Techniques, edited by chocolatier Frédéric Bau, includes a Forward by Pierre Hermé, you know it's going to be Paris chocolate-shop worthy. (Bau worked with Hermé before founding the École du Grand Chocolat Valrhona in France, where he is still the executive pastry chef.)
It's the sort of cookbook that causes you to reconsider your favorite chocolate mousse recipe. And not because that bittersweet version on p. 186 is so revolutionary.
But because in this pastry chef's hands, that mousse turns into elegant square gems of chocolate, almost like chocolate mousse petit fours. That, and the book is a lot cheaper than a flight to France.
Here, a black forest cake becomes more of a dense chocolate torte than the traditional layer cake. A simple pound cake here morphs into a pistachio pound cake batter with cherries topped with a dark chocolate batter and an almond-anise streusel. Even the cupcakes (p. 262) somehow come across as a dinner party-worthy dessert. Here, they're topped with whipped white chocolate or a bittersweet chocolate ganache and crystallized flower garnishes.
As this is a chocolate primer, there are also chapters on how to make chocolate molds, starter recipes for pastry doughs, a primer on chocolate mousse with seven different variations (“Each mousse here has a different intensity and should be tasted and used differently,” advises Bau). Yeah, the work of a pedigreed pastry chef.
So it's not really surprising to find a chapter at the end of the book called “New Trends” (this is a culinary school cookbook, after all). In one recipe, ganache gets a soy milk base that Bau says is popular in Japanese chocolates, in another, jellied milk chocolate is topped with almond streusel and chestnut “vermicelli” (creamed chestnut piped into thin strands). All “trendy” enough, though we definitely weren't expecting to turn the page and find a few savory variations like cod with green tea béarnaise and smoked milk chocolate sauces (!) and a chocolate-lobster dish.
But whether you actually make that lobster jus “under a light cloud of bittersweet chocolate” isn't the point of a book like this (though yeah, we're oddly curious, too). Those experimental fine dining-type recipes are at the end of the book for a reason. By then, after you've cooked you way through this chocolate culinary school-worthy education, they serve more as inspirational fodder rather than late night snacking fare.
On that note, in lieu of popcorn tonight, we certainly wouldn't complain if you wanted to stop by with one of Bau's mini molten chocolate cakes served on a banana verrine with a scoop of chocolate granita. We'd be more than happy to provide the spoons.
More from Jenn Garbee @eathistory + eathistory.com.