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The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes Hardcover – October 1, 2000

ISBN-13: 002-8195081437 ISBN-10: 1580081436

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Editorial Reviews Review

The first time Maricel Presilla tasted cocoa from her grandmother's farm in eastern Cuba, she expected the papaya-looking fruit to be full of Hershey kisses. Instead she saw lumpy, tan-colored seeds in a sticky, sweet-tart ivory pulp that reminded her of lychees, and it didn't even smell like chocolate. In The New Taste of Chocolate, Presilla follows the life of a cocoa pod from a sapling through harvest, fermentation, roasting, and production to arrive at what we all recognize as chocolate. Formally trained in cultural anthropology, Presilla relates the history of chocolate from even before the Aztecs. With attention to detail, she gives an overview of cocoa plantations and their farming practices and the different strains of true cocoa, Theobroma cacao. About two dozen unusual, interesting recipes follow, each by a different chef or pastry chef. Wayne Brachman's Pecan-Guaranda Chocolate Tart with Mango and Papaya reminds us of cocoa's tropical roots, while Pierre Hermé's Chocolate Croquettes with Coconut, Pistachio, and Pearl Tapioca Sauce are pure elegance. You'll never look at chocolate the same way again. --Leora Y. Bloom

From Publishers Weekly

Presilla, a marketing consultant for a Latin American chocolate producer, explains the history, science and production of what many consider the world's most delectable snack. Guiding readers into the Latin American tropics for an extended look at Theobroma cacao, the "source of every chocolate bar and truffle ever made," Presilla also offers a primer on cacao farming, historical tidbits (e.g., Europeans used to flavor chocolate with aromatics like rosewater and ambergris) and a lesson on chocolate appreciation for would-be connoisseurs. Chocolate fiends in search of instant gratification should flip to the last chapter, a sampling of recipes that includes noted pastry chef Laurent Tourondel's heavenly Two-Toned Candied Cacao Beans Dipped in Chocolate and a recipe dating from the Italian Renaissance for Chocolate Jasmine Ice Cream. However, while some of the writing is wonderfully evocative (cacao pods are compared to "parrots and macaws perched on trees"), much of it is verbose ("The stars of the Marper experiment were several lines of IMCs from the Iquitos Maranon River Area, and the Peruvian Scavinas, Nanay, and Parinari selections"). And while industry professionals may lap up the sections with such titles as "Imperial College Selections 1 to 100," most lay people will find such morsels unappetizing. That's a pity, since on the whole Presilla's is a useful reference work that will appeal to anyone with an interest in artisanal foods and their production. Color photos not seen by PW. (May)Forecast: Chocolate has so many passionate enthusiasts that this book could attract attention, especially if it gets enough advertising. Unfortunately, since the book's primary potential is as an impulse buy or a gift item, it has not been blessed with a catchy title or cover.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press (October 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580081436
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580081436
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 8.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,787,017 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Diana Faillace Von Behren TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
While the recounting of the history of chocolate along with a complete step-by-step perusal of the journey from bean to bar may offer compelling enough reason to purchase this book, I think the chapters on tasting the different qualities of that sinful commodity even more coersive. Anyone who likes to use chocolate in their culinary creations, may find the variety of finer qualities of couverture daunting. Which to use when whipping up a delicate mousse or a flourless liquid center cake? What spices compliment and which deterioriate? Never fear--the author diligently answers all such queries by recounting a tasting procedure which explains color, flavor characterizations, desirable and undesirable aromas and texture to well-educate your palate while insuring your choice of a specific chocolate to fit your expectations.
In addition, some twenty recipes are included to showcase the wide ranging possibilities of this food of the gods. From truffles to sachertorte, you cannot want for a more delicious palette of ideas to enhance your taste buds.
The layout of the book is unsurpassed; the photos are as luscious as the subject, making it the perfect gift
Recommended to all those who enjoy discovering new things about things you already love.
Also recommended to compliment this book is the novel "The Discovery of Chocolate", which traces the history of chocolate from discovering its Aztec roots to the production of Hershey's chocolate bars as seen through the eyes of a miraculously slow-aging Spaniard of the 15th century. Delicious descriptions of sumptious chocolate creations abound. Have a homemade hot chocolate ready to sip and savor while you read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Carter Miller on March 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As a cacao researcher I find this New Taste... a well-thought and provocative introduction into the natural history of cacao for the casual eater, epicurean, and even beginning researchers. The various sections and references are topical as well as thoughtfully presented. Ms. Presilla really brings you in to the mystique as well as some lighter aspects of the science behind cacao and chocolate. Many people don't realize what good chocolate really is like! Ms. Presilla even helps you to develop the skills involved in tasting and evaluating chocolates similarly as you would with fine wines. And if you can't romance that special someone after wowing them with Fran Bigelow's Deep Chocolate Torte that is simple to make and out of this world- page 136(heavy cream, eggs, 1 lb of dark chocolate), you're not really trying!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Good on August 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
_The New Taste of Chocolate_ has the beautiful pictures of a coffee table book, but it has a lot of academic substance and a lot of value to the reader.

The main chapters are:

- Growing Up with Cacao

- A Natural and Cultural History of Chocolate

- From Cacao to Chocolate

- Identifying Cacao

- Tasting Chocolate

- Recipes

There is also a glossary, and a list of companies to order fine chocolate from.

For a beginner like myself, who loved chocolate but hadn't progressed much beyond Hershey's with Almonds when I read the book, _The New Taste of Chocolate_ was very educational. It explained the path from cacao bean to chocolate bar, and it also explained the difference between dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate. It explained how cocoa powder comes from chocolate, why chocolate is so difficult to make candy with if you don't know what you're doing, and why fancier recipes will sometimes specify chocolate manufacturer and cacao percentage.

It was also quite interesting to read about the guidelines for tasting chocolate. The discussion about criollo, forastero, and trinitario cacao plants was very fascinating from a scientific standpoint. I later found that what is true for cacao trees is true for many other types of plants (including wheat): the plants that make the tastiest & highest quality edible parts are also the least productive and most delicate, so growers & breeders have to choose whether to grow something that will almost certainly produce a less-desired but still profitable crop, or to grow something that has an uncertain yield but is highly profitable should the plant actually produce anything.

The recipes were also interesting.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By jerry i h on April 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The first chapter is a view of chocolate from both a historical and botanical perspective. The next chapter traces the complete life cycle of chocolate, from seedling, to mature tree, fruit, harvest, drying, fermentation, shipment, factory processing, and transformation into chocolate bars. The third chapter concentrates on the diversity of different cacao tree varieties, from criollo, to forasteros, to trinitarios. The last chapter is a collection of recipes that were developed for specified brands of chocolate.
The main strength of this book is that it teaches the chocolate lover that it really does matter about the cacao beans, just as it matters with coffee beans or wine grapes. Where was it grown? What variety is it? How was the fermentation and drying handled? Was it shipped properly? What types of beans were blended? What does the final product taste like? Is it high quality or just another mass-produced blend?
The flavor of chocolate varies all over the place, and one must know about the cacao beans it was produced from. This book makes a strong case for the opinion that if the consumer does not demand better quality chocolate, the great producers of the world will not give it to them. I learned that the expensive "boutique" brands of chocolate (E Guittard and Scharffenberger to name only 2 local such companies) really are worth the extra money. If nothing else, this book should raise the awareness of the chocoholic of the quality of the chocolate. The good news is that the chocolate companies really are capable of producing superior quality chocolate if the consumer demands it.
On the whole, this book is a mixed lot. It will inspire you to try all of the new, expensive "boutique" brands of chocolates.
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