For treats, the choice is chocolate



Chocolate Obsession

By Michael Recchiuti and Fran Gage

Stewart Tabori & Chang / 2005 / $35

Master chocolatier Michael Recchiuti shows amateurs how to achieve artistry in this beautifully photographed book with 60 recipes for all kinds of chocolate treats.

The first chapter describes how chocolate is made, discusses tools and equipment needed to do the job and how to choose chocolate ingredients. Other chapters include dipped and molded chocolates; snacks; barks; drinks, sauces and ice cream, concluding with how to hold a chocolate-tasting party.

This is not a book for the faint of heart. The chapter on making chocolate candies begins with detailed instructions for how to temper chocolate: "First make sure you are working on a cool day in a cool space [65 to 70 F] free of drafts and heat." The recipes contain the same scary preciseness, calling for ingredients such as tempered 41 percent milk chocolate, butter with 82 percent butter fat, Tahitian vanilla beans, etc. Even a simple brownie specifies that the vanilla extract should be Madagascar Bourbon.

No wonder the title is Chocolate Obsession.

Chocolate Holidays

By Alice Medrich

Artisan / 2005 / $21.95

Award-winning cookbook author Alice Medrich offers 50 tempting chocolate recipes to help you celebrate throughout the year. The recipes are organized by season, although what time of year isn't good for chocolate poundcake or brownies?

While this collection isn't as extensive as the other new chocolate books, the recipes she includes are imaginative without being overly complicated. The honey-walnut tart makes up beautifully and would be a welcome addition to any fall or winter dessert table. The chocolate blini she suggests for an indulgent New Year's treat look appealing, although it may not be practical to stand over the skillet frying little pancakes while your guests are socializing in the living room. For a more homey dessert, try the gingerbread with milk chocolate chunks, which gets its zing from minced ginger rather than ginger powder.

Medrich includes instructions for working with chocolate, including how to temper chocolate for a smooth finish, but that's a step most of her recipes don't need.

Chocolate Sensations

By the editors of Reader's Digest

Reader's Digest / 2005 / $30

While Chocolate Obsession approaches the art of chocolate with scary precision, this book is for Everyman. The inside flap lists ingredient substitutions. Don't have vanilla extract? Use vanilla essence.

The 200 recipes include cakes, cookies, brownies, candies, pies, breads, souffles and holiday desserts. Because the emphasis is on easy preparation, each recipe starts with an estimated preparation time.

Chocolate Chocolate

By Lisa Yockelson

John Wiley & Sons Inc. / 2005 / $45

This book begins with a 13-page list of chocolate ingredients and goes on with instructions of how to establish levels of chocolate intensity. This is an inkling that food writer Lisa Yockelson is serious about chocolate. She offers 200 recipes along with reminiscences of her experience making the dishes. The chapters are organized by types of chocolate treats and include 11 kinds of brownies and 10 chocolate cookies.

Gingerbread With Milk Chocolate Chunks

Serves 8 to 10

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar

1/4 cup light unsulfured molasses

1/4 cup honey

1 egg

1/2 cup very finely minced peeled ginger

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped into small pieces or milk chocolate chips

whipped cream or creme fraiche (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line with parchment a 9-inch round or square pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, molasses and honey. Whisk in the egg and ginger. In a saucepan, heat the butter and 1/2 cup water until the butter is melted. Whisk hot mixture into the honey mixture. Add the flour mixture and stir until smooth. Stir in the chocolate. Scrape the batter into the pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, except (possibly) for the melted chocolate, 25 to 30 minutes for a square cake, a little longer for the round. Cool the cake on a rack, invert the cake, remove the pan and peel off the paper liner. Serve right side up warm or at room temperature, plain or with a dab of whipped cream or creme fraiche.

Per serving (based on 10 servings without whipped cream): 271 calories; 4 grams protein; 11 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 40 grams carbohydrate; 1 gram fiber; 42 milligrams cholesterol; 207 milligrams sodium

From "Chocolate Holidays"

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