From the Publisher
"This amazing collection of 125 recipes covers cookies, brownies and bars, pies, tarts, frozen desserts, candies, sauces and more. The options are endless and the photographs are so luscious, that it's easy to miss all the valuable information scattered throughout. There's information on how to choose the right chocolate for your baking needs, how to taste chocolate, how to decipher labels, getting perfect results when making chocolate chip cookies, and plenty of wisdom and techniques for perfect results." Modesto (CA) Bee
“Absolutely Chocolate ($29.95, Taunton Press) from the editors of Fine Cooking is an absolute must for chocolate lovers. This new cookbook, filled with tantalizing color photographs, makes you want to dive into a bowl of chocolate and never come up for air. It’s a breathtaking, mouthwatering look into the world of chocolate. I’d like to start at Page 1, making every recipe in the book. It’s not too often I make such a strong recommendation." Anne Braly, Chattanooga Times Free-Press
"Absolutely Chocolate, explains not just the painstaking process from bean to brownie, but offers a crash course in which baked goods taste better with cocoa powder and which benefit from chocolate. The virtues of high-quality bittersweet versus a semisweet are covered, and tips such as adding a little cocoa powder to mousse for extra flavor are provided." New York Daily News
From the simple to the elegant, the editors of Fine Cooking have all your chocolate cravings covered. After an introductory section that includes a chocolate primer tracing the journey from bean to bar and tips on storage, the 125-plus recipes cover cookies, brownies, cakes, pies and tarts, puddings and mousses, and other delectable treats. Recipes are clear and filled with enough basic tips to make novice cooks feel like pros. Equivalency charts are also included.
Read an Excerpt
Chocolate is the source of endless delight for so many of us, but it can also be the source of some confusion. Within the thousands of options to choose from, there can be as much variation in flavor and quality as there is in, say, wine or cheese, and chocolate is very much the same type of product. While you may buy a bar of beautifully wrapped chocolate from a chic urban boutique, all chocolate starts its life as an agricultural crop, and its quality depends on the care taken by the farmer and those processing the beans at an early stage. The final confection reflects the skill and sensibility of the manufacturer, whether that's an industrial giant such as Hershey's® or a hands-on artisan like one of the many small chocolatiers that have sprung up around the world. Understanding how chocolate is created can help you make the best decisions about which variety to use in cooking and for eating.
Chocolate's delicious journey from bean to bar
All real chocolate comes from the cocoa bean (also called cacao bean), the fruit of a tree, Theobroma cacao, that only grows in the tropics. Much of the quality of the chocolate will depend on the origin and quality of the beans. There are three main types of cacao: Forestero (and a subtype called Nacional), which has a robust chocolate flavor but not much finesse; Trinitario, a good middle quality; and Criollo, considered the premium bean. The beans are fermented after being harvested, dried, cleaned, roasted, and finally shelled, to produce the centers, called nibs.
These nibs are then pulverized or ground into a smooth liquid that's called chocolate liquor (although it contains no alcohol). When the chocolate liquor cools, it forms solid blocks.
Chocolate liquor is the basis for all things chocolate. Pure chocolate liquor is very dark and bitter and has only two components cocoa solids and cocoa butter. The solids give chocolate its characteristic dark, strong flavor, and the cocoa butter translates to a smooth mouth-feel.
In its natural state, chocolate liquor contains a little more than half (50% to 58%) cocoa butter and the rest is chocolate solids. Early on, producers learned that by increasing the cocoa butter, they could create chocolate with a better sheen and smoother texture. So they developed a high-pressure filter process that breaks down chocolate liquor and separates the solids from the butter. They could then manipulate the chocolate to produce a range of styles.
To create eating chocolate, sugar and flavorings are added to the cocoa butter and solids, and the mixture undergoes hours of a process called conching, using rollers that refine all the particles in sugar and create the luscious mouth-feel we crave in chocolate. While some sugar is needed to make pure chocolate palatable, the best examples contain a high percentage of real chocolate and only small amounts of sugar or other additives.