Appetite for Books
Hot Chocolate

by Michael Turback
Ten Speed Press, 2005
$9.95, paper
150 pages

BORED WITH GODIVA? Sick of Snickers, can't get excited for a Hershey's kiss? It's time for you to try the 60 recipes in Hot Chocolate that will excite your tastebuds and return that chocolate swoon you've been looking for.

Whether you're craving a childhood treat, a grown-up indulgence, or exotic flavors, this book's recipes push beyond plain powdered cocoa. Turback wants you to enter into a world of luxury and you'll start by banishing cocoa, that is, powdered chocolate. Turback advocates a return to real chocolate, whether in a ganache, mexican -style with sugar and cinnamon, ivory white, or just everyday bittersweet. The real thing makes a dense and velvety drink that is worth every calorie.

Real chocolate also offers a backdrop for flavors from cream stout to make Samuel Adams Adult Hot Chocolate to Nutella for a gorgeous childish treat. Turback starts the book with a "Chocologue," covering ingredients, tools and techniques, and after a chapter on sources and origins, dives into recipes. He starts with European classics like Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream from the Cafe Mozart in Vienna and Cioccolato Caldo from the Caffe Florian in Venice.

From Stockholm, Turback shares Het Choklad Vit. Even through short winter days, the city's cafe life continues, where diners can snuggle under blankets and enjoy a warm cup of chocolate, in this case, white chocolate, melted into warm frothed milk and flavored with vanilla and a slice of orange. White chocolate always tastes sweeter to me and runs the risk of being insipid, but here the vanilla and orange round out and brighten the flavor with just a touch of sweet tang.

Turback recalls that Spanish monasteries kept the secrets of luxury chocolate and in the chapter on Haute Chocolate he calls on the creativity of today's high priests of chocolate - chefs. And the chefs call on flavors like tarragon and black pepper, paprika, lavender and pistachio, and ginger-caramel, or on luxury chocolates like Sharffen Berger.

Bay Leaf-Infused Hot Chocolate, from Sisha Ortuzar at 'whichcraft in New York, is a subtly but clearly perfumed drink. Bay is usually considered a savory, but against chocolate's own underlying bitterness, the bay's sweet fragrance is highlighted. This version begins with a ganache of chocolate smoothly melted into heavy cream. The nice thing about the ganache is that it can be made ahead and added to the bay-infused warm milk when you are ready. Lovely and gentle, it can be an elegant dessert or a smooth start to the day.

Another contemporary take is Chinese Five-Spice Hot Chocolate from Christopher Elbow who runs an artisinal chocolate shop in Kansas City. This drink is appealingly spicy and even a little sharp with the flavors of star anise, fennel seed, cinnamon, cloves, and tingly Szechuan peppercorns.

For Adults Only mixes chocolate with rum, whisky, sake, and plenty of flavored liqueurs. For a cup of second childhood, Turback offers famous Frrrozen Hot Chocolate from Serendipity in New York, and Hot Chocolate Eggnog, or Black Bottom Hot Chocolate enriched with homemade fudge.

A final chapter on Convivial Companions combines drinks with Cherry-Chocolate Beignets, Nibby Cookies, Churros, Coconut Marshmallows, and even Cheese Arepas. Just reading the list makes me dizzy.

Send that Swiss Miss back to the hills and enjoy the real thing.

© 2005 Claudia Kousoulas
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