CHOCOLATE! Is there anything in this world that can possibly compare? Well… okay… there is red wine and cheese, of course… and I’m sure that I’ll blog about them in the future, but for now — it’s chocolate! My last two posts have been about cookbooks and recipes, so it seems logical to conclude with the greatest of all dessert ingredients. It can be combined with so many different things — from fruit to cheese, from cake to cream — and, of course, it’s brilliant on its own.
In Australia, I guess, when you say chocolate many people immediately think Cadbury (even though the company originated in the UK). It’s not the greatest chocolate in the world, but I do rather like Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate. It has quite a unique taste (maybe it’s that glass and a half of full cream milk the advertisements keep telling us about), and it can be quite good to cook with. Which brings me to Joanna Farrow’s book, Simply Cadbury’s Chocolate — one hundred dessert recipes, each and every one containing some type of Cadbury chocolate. This book also includes an introduction, with a very brief history of chocolate (less than one page, so it leaves out a hell of a lot), a history of Cadbury chocolate and some general instructions on how to cook with chocolate. It’s a pretty good basic chocolate cookbook. It’s been a while since I’ve used it, but looking through it now, I’ve found a recipe that I haven’t tried but would like to. “Millionaire’s Shortbread” is a biscuit topped with rich caramel and two different types of chocolate. I think I’ll try it this weekend.
Much as I like Cadbury, there is better chocolate out there. I’m thinking Lindt, Haigh’s and Koko Black, amongst others —or one of my favourites, Michel Cluizel. The darker the chocolate, the more pure the experience, in my humble opinion. While I enjoy most levels of chocolate from milk to 99% dark (white chocolate is an aberration, which can have a small place in cooking but should never be eaten on its own), my ideal approach is as follows: 70% dark chocolate when consumed with the accompaniment of milk; 85% with coffee; and 99% with single malt scotch whisky.
Just as there is more to chocolate than Cadbury’s, there is more to cooking with chocolate than Farrow’s book. And so we come to The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Chocolate by Christine McFadden and Christine France. While this book doesn’t really fulfil its title’s claim, it is a damn fine dessert cookbook… my favourite, in fact. It has over 200 recipes, including one of the best chocolate fudge recipes I’ve ever come across, and the rather brilliant “Malt Whisky Truffles”. It also devotes 23 pages to the history of chocolate, 6 pages to “Cultivation and Processing”, 6 to “Taste, Quality and Presentation”, 12 to a section on different chocolate from around the world, and a final 8 pages on “Physiology and Psychology”. Great reading!
Let me finish up with my thoughts on hot chocolate. I find most hot chocolate mixes a little too sweet. I prefer to make mine with plain cocoa, to which I add a little sugar, thus making a hot drink with a touch of bitterness. Of course, once upon a time, the ancient civilizations of Central America drank an unsweetened drink made from cacao beans called chocolatl. Where am I going with this? Well, I felt that I should link this whole self-indulgeant chocolate post to some good quality literature — in this case, Sand Fussell’s novel, Jaguar Warrior, which is set in Aztec times and in which the main characters make the aforementioned chocolatl. [Sandy Fussell has previously visited Literary Clutter to talk about Jaguar Warrior.]
Anyone out there have a favourite chocolate related book? Leave a comment and tell us about it.
And tune in next time for some random stuff.
Catch ya later, George
PS. Send me chocolate… if you can’t send me chocolate, the least you can do is follow me on Twitter. 🙂