Alice Medrich has had a profound affect on almost everyone of her customers. Being American, it came as a bit of a shock when she first tasted real chocolate, for in her own words, she had grown up in a country where "take-out food was pizza, coffee had the taste of dishwater and cheese was orange." What a stroke of luck for her, and those customers that I mentioned, that her gap year took her to Europe and on to discover chocolate as it should be. This discovery has lead to her delaying her Masters and opening up Cocolat, her first tentative steps into the commercial world of chocolate. [Notes to parents: sending your child on a gap year costs a lot, but it just might be the making of them. Note to ourselves: Don't send daughters on gap year, unless to find husbands.]
As Alice's career took off, she developed many elaborate dishes. These dishes, though exquisite are very tricky for the home cook to make, as they lack the specialist equipment of the pastry chef. While maintaining her passion, she felt that she needed to change tack and develop more simple dishes that would suit the home kitchen. This is the inspiration for Bittersweet, a cookery book that will allow anyone to create her dishes at home.
Being a book about chocolate, I am blessed not to have to review a four seasons cookery book. So, instead of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, the book is divided into eight chapters. They are Before you start, Growing up with chocolate: Ice-cream and Brownies, Queen of Sheba: Chocolate Tortes, Cocolat: Truffles, Mousses and More, Less is more: Soufflés and other confections, Glitz and glamour: Grand cakes, fillings and glazes, Home Baking: Cakes pies and cookies and The sweet and the savoury: Playing with nibs and dining on chocolate. These titles alone are mouthwatering temptations, but the treats inside will be irresistible, so be warned.
If you are new to the world of chocolate, then the first chapter, Before you start, will introduce you the equipment used and the ingredients used in the recipes. As well, there is a short introduction to chocolate. Here you learn about the production of chocolate and about the difference variates, as in Cocoa Nibs, roasted hulled and broken cocoa beans. Unsweetened Chocolate, aka Chocolate Liquor. Cocoa Powder, made by removing around three quarters of the cocoa butter. Bittersweet and Semisweet Chocolates, which is made from 35% to 70% unsweetened chocolate. Additionally, we learn about Sweet Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, White Chocolate, Chocolate Chips, Morsels and Chunks, Pastilles, Buttons, Pistoles, Callets and Ribbons. The only chocolate Alice doesn't recommend is Premelted Chocolate, with the advice "Don't Even think about it."
There is only one last thing to do in this book is to look at the recipes. After all, this is a cookery book with over eighty recipes devoted to all things chocolate. The recipes I have selected are Bittersweet Chocolate ice Cream, Black-bottomed Pecan Praline Bars, Grappa, Current and Pine Nut Torte, Melting Chocolate Meringues, Chocolate Génoise, Tiger Cake and Alice's Chocolate Sauce. As I hope I have shown in the small selection of recipes, this is a superb cookery book for both the beginner and the experienced cook. Alice Medrich is synonymous with Chocolate in the USA, and won the IACP Cookbook of the Year for this book.