Book Review: Adventures with Chocolate

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett

Whether ganache feels boringly familiar or frighteningly challenging, Adventures with Chocolate has a recipe for you. Though the book (from Kyle Books, 2011), looks—and is—geared toward experienced cooks eager to experiment, Paul Young has provided a surprising number of simple recipes.

Simple to execute, anyway—these recipes bring complex, bold flavors to the table, with ways to work with chocolate that may be new even for experienced home bakers.

Young, who worked under chef Marco Pierre White before opening three chocolate shops in London, starts with some intimidating chocolate snobbery. Nothing like a Hershey bar here, or even a bit of Ghirardelli; the book opens with lessons on single-source chocolates, called for throughout the recipes—for example, those from certain countries in Africa, South America, or the Caribbean. No need to be intimidated, though: Young includes a handy chart on flavor pairings for chocolate from each country, and explains the “snobbery” well. He also offers information on how to taste chocolate, and a long lesson on making a truffle, from ganache to the tempered shell. For the ganache, he shows how to make it with cream or other liquids, such as water, fruit juice, tea, or coffee—a little-used technique for many home cooks who equate ganache with cream.

Not quite up to tempering on a regular basis? No worries—there’s plenty here to keep you cooking. Young uses his sure taste to combine chocolate with spirits, herbs, flowers, bacon, Stilton (including a sandwich of bacon, stilton, and chocolate), even … vinegar?

Yes, and that chocolate vinegar really shines. Three ingredients, two minutes, add a little olive oil, and you’re off to an exquisite salad (for testing, it went over a simple salad of red-leaf lettuce, apples, and dried cranberries). Young recommends using the vinegar for salads, pasta, fish, meats, and ice cream; a slightly different version makes a vinegar ganache. The only complaint less adventuresome cooks may have is with the lack of more concrete suggestions and recipes to use the vinegar.

Other simple recipes include two chocolate spreads, one sweet, one savory. The sweet ganache calls for just six ingredients (although American cooks will wish the book explained muscovado sugar, which turns up repeatedly in ingredient lists). Made with cream, water, and a touch of nut oil, this light, silky-smooth spread answered a Nutella craving with ease. The savory option, which blends cream cheese, sugar, Worcestershire, chocolate, and olive oil, may seem more bizarre, but follow Young’s advice and spread this on a sandwich of Stilton and pear slices, or cream cheese and smoked chicken.

Finish that meal off on the spicy-sweet side of chocolate, with gingerbread ganache rolled into simple truffles; for a test, these were rolled just in a mixture of confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder, though the recipe calls for a tempered-chocolate coating. Rich with ground ginger and bits of crystallized ginger, even this less-fancy test felt rich enough (Young calls for sprinkling the tempered truffles with a mix of ground ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon; testers liked these spices added in small amounts to the ganache itself).

Once you start, it may be hard to stop. Even a first skim through the book will likely lead to many pages marked for further testing: a rich hot chocolate made with cocoa powder, dark chocolate, and water; chocolate syrups (five ingredients), deeply flavored with liqueur, spices, or herbs; dark chocolate sorbet (four ingredients); chocolate water biscuits to serve with cheese (five ingredients, plus two optional ones for variations); ganache made with honey and tahini and rolled in toasted sesame seeds; rosemary poached pears with Stilton ganache and walnuts; tea truffles (three ingredients, using the tea on hand in your pantry); chocolate pancakes with chocolate maple syrup (serve the maple syrup just once, and the book will feel worth its cost); salt and pepper ganache for dipping fruit (four ingredients); lemon-thyme chocolate caramel (six ingredients); an “ultimate” chocolate martini; sweet chocolate pesto (yes, for pasta); chocolate and chili gnocchi; chocolate sauces for white meat, red meat, and seafood; and vodka infused with cacao nibs (yep, two ingredients).

Finish off the evening (and possibly yourself) with “mulled wine hot chocolate,” made with cocoa powder, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, dark chocolate, clementines, rosemary, and red wine—and head to bed dreaming of the chocolate adventures left to test.

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