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Chocolate Obsession: Confections and Treats to Create and Savor Hardcover – September 1, 2005
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It's Chemistry 101 all over again. But never have science textbooks featured close-to-three-dimensional photographs (courtesy of pro Maren Caruso), such an elegant array of recipes (more than 60), and ideas and flavors that will bowl over every reader. Yet consider that the main author is Michael Recchiuti, a San Franciscan called the Picasso of chocolatiers, and that his cohort, Fran Gage, once owned a locally esteemed patisserie and now writes for national gourmet-type publications. That combination of expertise creates a beyond-the-novice collection of both recipes and information that chocoholic bakers will be hard-pressed to do without. Unusual flavors (for instance, key lime pears and lavender vanilla ganache) and two-page features (Michael shopping for produce at a Bay-area farm, for instance) culminate with cooking directions to produce a book that's so much more than a coffee-table object. Just adopt the chef's philosophy: Respect it and give it time. Barbara Jacobs
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About the Author
Michael Recchiuti started his chocolate business in San Francisco in 1997 after a successful career at some of the top restaurants in Philadelphia. His chocolates were soon recognized for their sophistication and originality, and they have been featured in the New York Times, Food & Wine, and many other publications. He lives in San Francisco.
Fran Gage owned the award-winning Fran Gage Patisserie Française in San Francisco for ten years. She now writes about food for the San Francisco Chronicle, Saveur, and Fine Cooking, among other publications, and has published several books, including Bread and Chocolate and A Sweet Quartet. Gage lives in San Francisco.
Maren Caruso is a San Francisco-based photographer who specializes in food photography. Her work has appeared in Wine and Spirits, Chocolatier, and Taste magazines, and in the STC books Grilling and Barbecuing and Great Grilled Cheese.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book centers around the very distinctive chocolate styles of Recchiuti Chocolates, which are distinguished by, among other things, the use of a lot of flavors one does not typically find paired with chocolate such as teas, tarragon, cardamom, and especially caramal.
The one thing which makes this book accessible to the experienced chocolate maker is the fact that it deals primarily with the very simplest forms of chocolate candy such as truffles, dipped and moulded chocolates, `snacks' such as s'mores, chocolate barks, chocolate drinks, and sauces. In all this, caramel is much more than just another ingredient for Recchiuti. It appears over and over in many different forms from caramelized nuts in the `snacks' to flavorings in ice cream.
There are things in this book for the novice who has aspirations to be a skillful chocolatier. While I'm sure I probably have them in at least one of my hundreds of cookbooks, I'm pleased to find recipes for both graham crackers and marshmallow, leading to the ability to create entirely homemade s'mores. There are a few other non-chocolate recipes such as Key Lime pears and candied citrus peel, but all of these are pressed into the service of chocolate in one way or another.
In the early sections in the `All About Chocolate' and in the section `Instructions for Tempering Chocolate' I think the authors falter a bit in their explanations of how this works and why. They cite Harold McGee's `On Food and Cooking' in their bibliography but from my reading of McGee on tempering, it seems these authors didn't consult McGee as carefully as they should when explaining these basics.
Another symptom that this is really a `graduate level' course in chocolate making is the fact that there are no diagrams illuminating the techniques. This is an expecially noisome omission, as chocolate making techniques typically don't appear in the standard cooking texts such as the works of Jacques Pepin. I even got the sense that some of their statements about chocolate composition were simply wrong, although this is largely irrelevant to why you want to read this book.
If you are already an accomplished chocolate candy maker (and not just a baker who happens to use chocolate in baked desserts), this book offers a wealth of new ideas and tastes. All others should seek out a more basic book or take a good course in chocolate working.
I would not call this a good beginner's cookbook, though the photography is gorgeous enough to qualify this as a coffee table book even for those who don't want to get in the kitchen. Some baking experience is helpful, as is a well-equipped kitchen (stand-mixer, immersion blender, heavy-bottomed pots for sauces etc). This is an outstanding book and I highly recommend it.
The best part of this book is that Recchiuti gives you the recipes of the real chocolates that he sells on his website and stores. Tea, Burnt Caramel, tarragon/grapefruit, cardamonom, malt with honeycomb, fleur de sel, rose caramel, kona, ginger, and so on - they are all there. Given that Recchiuti is known as one of the top chocolatiers in the country, this is really incredible. If you are a serious chocolate candy maker, this book is a must-have.
The difficulty level of this book is hard for chocolates, easy for other parts. Most of the chocolate recipes use invert sugar (not a common ingredient). Some of the spices are specialized (verbena, or rose water). Molding technique is obviously difficult. On the other hand, the other sections are at a much lower level of difficulty.
This book is not heavy on technique pictures or descriptions of techniques. You almost have to know the techniques before you do them.
If you are looking for chocolate techniques, "chocolate confections" by Greweling is a better book, as is "Making Artisan Chocolates" by Shotts.
To me, this is more of a ganache recipe book.
For me, the bottom line is that Recchiuti shares his recipes for his *entire line* of top end chocolates. He's giving away all his trade secrets in this book. You gotta have it for that reason.