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Chocolate French

Recipes, Language, and Directions to Français
au Chocolat

by André K. Crump

Chocolate French

After dipping into this meditation on French chocolate, you might be inclined to believe that the national motto of France should be revised from “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” to “Liberté, Égalité, Chocolatier.” Equal parts cultural history and chocolate cookbook, Chocolate French elucidates the relationship between the French obsession with “chocolate noir”—chocolate made with a minimum of 50% cocoa and sweetened only with cane sugar—and the phenomenon of global chocolate cuisine.

The book traces this French chocolate fetish from its beginnings in the mid-17th century to present-day France where chocolate is an everyday pleasure. In addition to touring the Paris chocolatiers, crêperies and pâtisseries that make quality chocolate available on nearly every block, it also offers cultural notes on chocolate’s distinctive presence in French film, literature, music, fashion, beauty and intellectual life.

Chocolate French convincingly demonstrates how this chocolate-loving tradition has been exported to French-speaking countries, former French colonies and international culinary destinations. From Switzerland, there’s a recipe for Swiss Dreams—cocoa-covered, praline-filled chocolates. From California’s Napa Valley comes a method for preparing a dipped Camembert and chocolate sandwich. New Orleans is represented with Miss Celie’s bananas Foster avec chocolat. Bearing the influence of North Africa, a recipe for couscous is sweetened with honey, raisins and cacao.

While some of the recipes are quite involved, Chocolate French remains accessible to beginning chocolate cooks. There are instructions for preparations such as melting and tempering chocolate, as well as recipes for staples of chocolate cooking like ganache and praline.

And the pictures—oh, the pictures. In this second edition, Chocolate French is now published in color with over 200 photographs of molten chocolate on cooks’ stoves, artisanal candies and pastry in chocolatier display cases and quaint Paris street-side cafés. It’s impossible to read the book without craving the melt of bittersweet buttercream on your tongue and thanking the French with reverent sincérité.

Reviewed by Rachel Levin

(Updated: 01/21/10 CT)

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