While 2011 was a busy year for publishing on chocolate (see last year’s summary list here), 2012 ushered in a dizzying array of chocolate-related books from multiple genres. Below, you’ll find my picks for several of the best, as well as some from my to-read list.
If there are other recently published books that you don’t see listed here, I would love to hear your recommendations.
Note: It is the case with many of the chocolate cookbooks listed below that they will teach you surprisingly little about cacao and chocolate (and some of it will even be wrong). By all means, get chocolate-centric cookbooks for the recipes and inspiration, then couple them with a text that focuses on source ingredients cacao and chocolate like Presilla’s The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes for a more meaningful introduction to the topic.
Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America
2012 brought us another masterpiece from award-winning chef and scholar Maricel Presilla — Gran Cocina Latina. This cookbook, with more than 500 carefully researched recipes from Latin America, spans the genres of culinary history and ethnography. An entire section of the book is devoted to cacao and chocolate. It is of interest to chefs, home cooks, food travelers, and scholars.
The Elements of Dessert
A must read for hardcore pastry and cooking science geeks, this beautiful cookbook from celebrated pastry chef Francisco Migoya has over 200 recipes for exquisite, elaborate modern desserts.
Chocolates and Confections: Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan Confectioner
This text is a standard for pastry chefs, bakers, and chocolatiers, now in its second edition. It has been significantly expanded and revised to include new recipes, formulas, and business advising sections.
This book has been everywhere this year — prominently displayed in bookstores, on several “best of” lists, and occasionally even selling out on Amazon. The praise is well-deserved, as the recipes, mixed with fun anecdotes from Keller, are instructive and scrumptious. The photography and design make the book worthy of coffee table fame, if you can tolerate the looking without cooking.
The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee: Growing, Roasting, and Drinking, with Recipes
A book not about chocolate, but another celebrated bean — coffee. This is an excellent, instructive text that takes the reader from coffee plant to tastebud. To the best of my knowledge, a similar book does not exist in the craft chocolate world (Presilla’s comes closest, perhaps), but one should.
Original 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book
A reprint of an American classic, of interest and use for almost all home kitchens. Historical chocolate recipes, too!
The sixth edition of a canonical educational text on baking.
Sugar and Spice: Sweets and Treats from Around the World
Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra is an award-winning food historian and writer. In this text, she has collected over 120 clear recipes for sweet treats from around the world. Stories and images make this book equal parts good read and useful cookbook.
The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook: How to Make Truly Scrumptious Candy in Your Own Kitchen!
For DIY enthusiasts and candy lovers, this cookbook from the popular Liddabit Sweets brand clearly explains home candymaking with fun flavor twists. The photos are lovely and instructive, and the authors’ humor is entertaining.
Luscious Chocolate Desserts
For the reader who wants alluring pictures and mouthwatering, well-tested chocolate recipes designed for home cooks, this cookbook from Lori Longbotham, a former food editor at Gourmet, does not disappoint. 65-plus recipes, clear instructions, and easily-located ingredients make this ideal for someone obsessed with chocolate but new to cooking with it.
I’m Dreaming of a Chocolate Christmas
Award-winning chef and pastry chef Marcel Desaulniers provides 72 delectable chocolate Christmas recipes for home cooks. Includes a section on packing and shipping treats as gifts.
Rococo: Mastering the Art of Chocolate, Chantal Coady
Rococo is an elegantly branded product line from one of Britain’s top chocolatiers, Chantal Coady. In this exquisitely designed book, Coady tells the story of her business and provides a selection of plainly written recipes. Also great for display and gifting.
Chocolate to Savour, Kirsten Tibballs
Kirsten Tibballs, Australian chocolatier, pastry chef, Callebaut representative, and founder of the Savour Chocolate and Patisserie School in Melbourne, offers plainly written recipes for enthusiasts in this debut cookbook.
Patrick Roger, en quète de chocolat, Patrick Roger, Jean-Marc Dimanche
Eccentric French chocolatier Patrick Roger has here collected stunning photographs of some of his most celebrated chocolate sculptures, from an exhibit series that illustrates the dangers of deforestation to animals. These remarkable works of chocolate art feature orangutans, gorillas, polar bears, elephants, and more. In French.
Chocolat Café, Pierre Marcolini
Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini has produced a cookbook that brings together chocolate and coffee. The text has recipes, photos, advice on chocolate and coffee pairing, and stories from Marcolini’s life. In French.
Chocolat, Christophe Felder, Domitille Langot
Noted French pastry chef Christophe Felder’s enormous cookbook has approximately 200 recipes for chocolate and pastry, ranging from simple to challenging, traditional to innovative. Felder offers advice on tasting, flavor pairing, and working with chocolate. A good fit for pastry chefs and adventurous home cooks. In French.
Chocolat Menier, Vincent Boué, Hubert Delorme, Didier Stéphan, Héloïse Martel
This cookbook is the stuff of nostalgia for any who grew up eating Menier chocolate. Nearly 300 easy-to-make classic recipes for the home cook. In French.
Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate
Author, entrepreneur, and educator Pam Williams has long been a leader in the chocolate industry. (Regular readers will note that I took an online course at her school, the Ecole Chocolat.) Jim Eber, her co-author, is a specialist in food and business marketing. In this important text, they survey the current state of the chocolate industry — from cacao genetics to farms to marketing to the art of the chocolatier. A must-read for the serious chocolate geek.
Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa
This travel narrative from historian Catherine Higgs traces the travels of Englishman Joseph Burtt, hired by Cadbury Brothers Limited to investigate claims of forced labor on the cacao plantations of Sao Tome and Principe, through Africa. Burtt’s early twentieth century “fieldwork experience” of sorts, and subsequent slow, but deliberate reporting on the abuses he witnessed played a role in influencing a number of important changes in African labor practices and chocolate industry ethics. (This history is detailed in different form in Lowell J. Satre’s Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business) An important read for those interested in chocolate industry ethics, labor rights, African studies, and history of chocolate.
Taste Matters: Why We Like the Foods We Do
How do genes, maternal diet, culture, and physiology affect taste? Prescott ponders these questions in this fascinating, well-researched book. Interesting as much for the information it provides as for the potential it demonstrates for public health causes.
Coffee Life in Japan (California Studies in Food and Culture)
This book isn’t about chocolate, but it is about coffee culture, which presents interesting parallels and contrasts. A carefully researched, thoughtfully written history-ethnography-memoir about the experience of coffee in Japan.
Chocolate in Health and Nutrition (Nutrition and Health)
If ever there was an argument for keeping libraries well-funded, this book is one. Try to borrow it from the library if you can. (A WorldCat search shows where to find it.)
An academic text with a very high price point, this text is unique in its broad level scholarly, data-driven treatment of the research on chocolate and health.
The Science of Ice Cream
For ice cream professionals and serious enthusiasts, this book will not so much teach you how to make ice cream as about the science behind how ice cream is made.
On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao
Rabbi Deborah R. Prinze traces the historical connections between Jews, religion, and chocolate in this unique text. While at times the links drawn are slightly overstated, the author’s passionate writing makes for a fun introduction to the topic.
Chicago’s Sweet Candy History (Images of America)
A book of photographs with trivia mixed in, this is an enjoyable way to picture 150 years of Chicago’s confectionery history.
The Trebor Story: How a Tiny Family Firm Making Sweets in London’s East End Became Britain’s Biggest Sugar Confectioner, Creating Iconic Brands Before Selling to Cadbury and Later Kraft Foods, Matthew Crampton
The lengthy title more or less summarizes this book, written by a fan of the Trebor family business in an engaging style. Of interest to those studying business or confectionery history.
Du Cacao et Des Hommes, Voyages Dans le Monde du Chocolate, Alfred Conesa
French researcher Alfred Conesa spent six years traveling the world investigating cacao and the lives of people who care for it. His resulting book is organized in two parts – the first describes the history of the cacao tree, the second traces the metamorphosis of cacao fruit from its first indigenous uses to present day popularity. The book is illustrated with artwork by cacao producers. Of interest to anthropologists, historians, agronomists, indigenous studies scholars, and serious chocolate enthusiasts. In French.
Peaches for Father Francis: A Novel
The third book in the best-selling Chocolat series, this story takes Vianne Rocher back to Lansquenet, the French village where readers first learned of her magical chocolates. While Harris’ descriptive style itself relies on stereotype, her writing makes the heavy themes of religious and cultural tolerance easy to stomach, and provides a heartwarming emphasis on the importance of food and chocolate to building community.
The Chocolate Thief
Paris, chocolate, romance, comedy — a fun read all around.
Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot
A period drama fantasy, one reviewer aptly summed up this book’s style as “Jane Austen meets J.K. Rowling.” Plus there’s talk of an enchanted chocolate pot. An entertaining read for young (and young at heart) adults.
Palmeras en la nieve, Luz Gabas
Moving between colonial and present-day Fernando Pó (now called Bioko), the northernmost part of what is now Equatorial Guinea, the only Spanish-speaking African country, this novel is part dramatic intercultural love story, part ode to the magic of growing some of the world’s top cacao. The cacao is named Sampaka, just like the Barcelona-based company Cacao Sampaka (see what the author did there?). In Spanish.
Sweet Coco: Chocolate Maker’s Apprentice
Perhaps the only children’s book to describe the process of taking cacao from bean to bar chocolate, following a young girl’s magical journey with her favorite chocolate maker. I found the story and rhyming cloying at times, but the book is nevertheless instructive and well-designed.
Too-Loose the Chocolate Moose, 30th Anniversary Edition
It’s not easy being a moose made of chocolate. This millenial childhood classic has been rereleased for its 30th anniversary.
Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot
A moving, if somewhat romanticized, account of Operation Little Vittles, a candy drop initiative carried out by an American pilot during the Berlin Airlift of 1948-1949.
La fabuleuse histoire du gâteau au chocolat!, Orianne Lallemand
This colorfully illustrated children’s story tells the tale of a troublesome dragon wooed by chocolate cake (with recipe). In French.
Ok, it’s not a book, but this French film is a delight! If you love chocolate, introverts, romance, and laughter, you must see it. In French with English subtitles.
What’s next on my chocolate reading list?
Cacao, Michèle Kahn
Well, it’s Valentine’s Day again. Didn’t this just happen last year?
This xkcd comic pretty much sums up my feelings on the holiday:
But the chocolate industry relies on Valentine’s Day for an enormous portion of its yearly profits. And given the history and subsequent commercialization of the holiday, which I explored last year, that means that the usual heavily gendered and sexualized images of chocolate consumption are being broadcast at a fever pitch right now.
Really, there’s so much diversity in these images, I was hard pressed to choose which to show you. And so, inspired by one of my all-time favorite examples of ridiculously gendered advertising, Women Laughing Alone With Salad, I present:
Women Being Seduced By Chocolate
Sometimes their eyes are open.
Sometimes their eyes are closed.
Sometimes their bodies are covered in chocolate.
Sometimes they’re just a mouth.
And occasionally they experience a total loss of control!
Ahhh, to be a chocolate loving woman. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!
PS – Today’s the one-year anniversary of le blogue de chocolat d’amusement sans fin. I’ve had such a great time embarking on chocolate adventure with all of you and can’t wait to see where the next year takes us. Thank you for everything!
I am an avid reader, bookworm, bibliophile, wordnerd…. I enjoy reading pretty much anything — fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks, cheesy young adult urban fantasy — you name it, I’ve been getting reprimanded for reading it at the dinner table since I was a kid. In fact, my main goals for the holiday season are pretty simple: 1) relax with family and friends (possibly while reading), 2) taste a hefty portion of my chocolate stash (definitely while reading), and 3) organize my books, which have now overflowed onto the floor of my office, leapt up onto my desk, crawled into the kitchen, and occupied the dinner table. Given the severity of the book situation, how can I not read during dinner?
This year saw a number of excellent books published on chocolate, which I hold partially responsible for the chaotic growth in my apartment library. I’ve listed several of my favorites below. But since this blog didn’t exist in 2010, it just felt wrong not to recommend a few of my favorites from that year, and then I remembered that two of the best chocolate books out there were published in 2009, so, really, how could I justify a list without them?, and, well, here is the result.
If there are other recently published books that you don’t see listed here, I would love to hear your recommendations.
If there is only one book that every chocolate lover should own, a strong argument could be made for culinary historian and chef Maricel Presilla’s 2009 revised masterpiece. This book introduces readers to more or less everything chocolate, including the long history of cacao cultivation in the Americas, chocolate’s adoption by European colonial powers, our still burgeoning scientific understanding of cacao genetics, the growth of the fine chocolate industry, and the art of tasting chocolate. The writing is clear and concise; the photographs and other visual aids are artfully presented. And the recipes? They’re fantastic — they will teach you about the changing tastes of chocolate from past, present, and future and challenge more traditional sensibilities about how to use chocolate in your own cooking. Presilla has even taken the time to recommend specific chocolates to be used with each recipe, a boon for those working to train their palates.
Follow the ever exploring, ever learning, ever cooking Presilla on Twitter.
For the history buff
Lawrence Allen, a former senior executive from both Hershey and Nestlé who was deeply involved in the companies’ expansion into China, has written a fascinating tale of international business intrigue. This book details the battle by five companies — Ferrero, Cadbury, Hershey, Nestlé, and Mars — to infiltrate the massive Chinese market, one that until recently remained relatively unexploited due to chocolate’s scarcity in the country. While the companies’ branding itself operated on a series of uncomfortable cultural stereotypes and generalizations (e.g. “the hedonistic West” bringing sweets to “xenophobic China”), the history detailed in the book is essential for those interested in cultural differences in chocolate appreciation and the corporate influence on chocolate consumption.
Another battle themed narrative, this book follows “the 150-year rivalry between the world’s greatest chocolate makers.” Written by a relative of the famous Cadbury chocolate family, it is a thoroughly researched and well written historical work and example of family biography. Readers will learn about the history of the slave trade in chocolate production as well as Bournville, the model village that Cadbury built around its factory. Also illuminated is the history of technological innovations in chocolate production, from milk chocolate to caramels and more. A must read for big chocolate brand lovers (Cadbury, Hershey, Nestlé) and those interested in the development of large chocolate companies.
Journalist Órla Ryan’s book traces chocolate from bean (in Africa, specifically Ghana) to bar (primarily in the hands of multinational corporations). The book covers history and present day politics, while also detailing individual struggles among the mostly small holding cacao farmers in West Africa. It is a quick read and a good one for those interested in better understanding the international politics, trade apparatus, and ethics surrounding cacao cultivation and chocolate production. Ryan explains how it is that so little of the money that we pay for chocolate actually makes its way into the hands of cacao growers, even when chocolate is Fairtrade. The book would benefit from more recommendations (if qualified researchers who have evidence and experience don’t take a stand on reform, it will continue to falter) as to how to improve the existing situation in the cacao industry.
For the aspiring home chocolatier and pastry chef
This book is an incredible reference of 100 techniques for cooking with chocolate, written by Frédéric Bau of Valrhona’s École du Grand Chocolat. There are abundant textual and photographic explanations, glossary and index entries, and a very useful DVD with demonstrations. The recipes are categorized according to difficulty level, and range from every day sweets to special occasion desserts. It is an important text for those who aspire to make excellent chocolate treats at home.
UK based chocolatier and patissier Paul A. Young, famous for his chocolates and brownies, provides an entertaining and accessible guide to chocolate tasting and truffle and pastry making. From the start, his book is gorgeous — the photos are atmospheric and inspiring. The text is particularly helpful for those new to tasting, as he recommends chocolate from single origins and brands to go with each recipe. He combines chocolate with spices, sweeteners, fruits and nuts, and even savory foods. I brought the mulled cider truffles to my family Thanksgiving celebration this year. Simply divine.
Jeni Britton Bauer’s bright and colorful debut cookbook isn’t a book about chocolate per se; rather it is a beautifully presented ode to butterfat. It is an absolutely delightful book with some of the best ice cream recipes that I have ever come upon. Using the excellent instructions, home cooks can make delicious, rave-worthy ice cream (you simply can’t buy anything this good in stores). Jeni’s Ice Creams have an ongoing collaborative relationship with Askinosie Chocolate, one of the most established craft chocolate companies in the United States. Jeni writes “We are a true cow-to-cone ice cream company. When Shawn [the owner of Askinosie] and his team say that they are bean-to-bar chocolate makers, they mean it, too.” I’m hard pressed to choose a favorite recipe, but “The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World” just might be the one.
Regular readers of the blog will recognize Kate Shaffer’s name — she is the artisan behind Black Dinah Chocolatiers of Isle au Haut, Maine, where I spent a magical day this past summer. Her new cookbook captures the warmth and beauty of her chocolates and baked goods as well as her chosen home and community. The recipes include chocolate bonbons, truffles, breakfast pastries, tarts, pies, cakes, cookies, ice creams, sorbets, puddings, and savories. The writing is moving and inspirational, and makes this book an excellent option for aspiring home chocolatiers who are equally invested in personal growth and emotional satisfaction.
You can follow the lovely Black Dinah Chocolatiers on Facebook.
For the serious chocolate geek
Ramon Morató’s impressive book brings together recipes for breakfasts, snacks, drinking chocolate, jams and creams, bonbons, turrons, cakes, plate desserts, petit fours, and more. The techniques range from basic to very advanced. Many of the recipes would be beyond even skilled home chocolatiers because they require special equipment. This book is bilingual in Spanish and English, though the English translations would have benefited from more editing. While they are entirely readable, you might find that you want to pop a term or two into Google Translate as you work through the recipes. Regardless, the advanced recipes and techniques are wild — sure to wow pastry chefs and chocolatiers alike.
This book includes a wide range of chocolate, pastry, and confectionery skills best suited to industry professionals or serious home chocolatiers. Designed as a textbook but presented artistically enough to adorn your coffee table, it covers chocolate composition and basic techniques, equipment needs, advanced methods and recipes, decorating techniques, and chocolate showpiece creation. The author, Ewald Notter, is a renowned master of sugar and chocolate work. If you’ve always wondered how those fragile looking chocolate showpieces manage to stand up, then this is the book for you.
Rosemarie Lewis of Broward City Public Schools, Fort Lauderdale, FL, provides an excellent description of this scholarly tome:
“Grivetti (nutrition, emeritus, Univ. of California, Davis; Food: The Gift of Osiris) and Shapiro (global director of plant science & external research, Mars, Inc.) compile 57 essays by 100 experts—all members of the Chocolate History Group, a UC Davis-Mars collective—in fields ranging from art history to molecular biology; despite these connections to a major U.S. candy producer, branding does not taint this scholarly text on the evolution of chocolate. Antiques aficionados will find four separate studies of chocolate pots engrossing, while crime buffs may be surprised to learn that 13 people were once executed in England for chocolate-related crimes. Ancient chocolate recipes, the role of chocolate in the Inquisition, and an analysis of early chocolate advertising are of particular use to historians. The chapters are arranged in rough chronological, geographical, and topical order, as dictated by the subject matter, and are backed by extensive references. Eleven appendixes, including a comprehensive chocolate time line and a guide to library research etiquette; an index (not seen); and 64 pages of color plates complete this impressive textbook. Recommended for academic libraries and large public libraries.”
This is a canonical text for the serious scholar of chocolate. The book was also an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) 2010 Award Finalist in the Culinary History category.
Another scholarly work, this is an important text for those interested in the science and technology behind chocolate. It covers cocoa production (cacao bean composition, genotype, fermentation and drying processes, etc), the manufacturing process (mixing, refining, conching, and tempering), and sensory, nutrition, and health aspects of chocolate consumption. This book is best suited for industry professionals, scholars, and serious enthusiasts. I have come to use it as a desk reference.
For the story lover
This memoir, dubbed “The True Story of Two Sisters, Tons of Treats, and the Little Shop That Could,” is a lyrically written, charming tale of the relationship between chocolate and life. The book details the adventures and challenges that two sisters faced starting their own chocolate shop in their twenties (in the 1980s), the many regular customers who became cherished characters, and their work in the writing world. I was especially moved by the sisters’ stories of grief and struggle, from their parents’ experiences as immigrants from Korea to their own life challenges, and how their family repeatedly turned to chocolate for comfort. This book has romance, family drama, loyalty, and courage to spare.
Roald Dahl’s classic likely needs no introduction. This 2011 reprint edition includes whimsical illustrations by Quentin Blake. It’s one of my favorite gifts to share with the kiddos (and youthful grown-ups) in my life.
What’s next on my reading list?
Couture Chocolate: A Masterclass in Chocolate by William Curley
You can follow William Curley on Twitter and Facebook.
Chocolate: Histórias Para Ler e Chorar Por Mais by various authors
Text in Portuguese. Check out a detailed review here. Available now via FNAC Portugal.
Chocolate Line, Brugge by Mary Lee Hahn
Chocolate World, Hershey Park by Robert Burakiewicz
Double chocolate cupcake by alaczek
Flores de chocolate by Sahumerio Love
MARS Chocolate ground breaking in Topeka, Kansas by KDOTHQ
Untitled by Thomas Chapman
Ecuadorian Neapolitan by Katie Riek
Death By Chocolate by Mr. Evil Cheese Scientist
Chocolate Dipped Strawberry by Poppy Thomas-Hill
Liquid Truffle at French Broad Chocolate Lounge by David Berkowitz
Chocolate Cake by Ralph Daily
Pure Chocolate by Dakotilla
Chocolate in the Grass by Jens Schott Knudsen
Chocolate Brownies by Waleed Alzuhair
Chocolate Camera by Mitchell Joyce