Melt - a book of chocolate
By Louise Nason and Chika Watanabe
Absolute Press, £25
In the past few weeks I have been invited to a plethora of chocolate book launches - on one evening there were two alone. And I am not referring to the dated books bulging with recipes for chocolate confectionery. We are talking about serious chocolate here.
Melt, the latest such book, is a feast for the eye. The publisher, Absolute Press, has got the cutting edge illustrations by Jean Cazals down to a very fine sensual art. Louise Nason, founder of the Melt chocolate shop in London's Notting Hill, and her talented chocolate maker Chika Watanabe have been very clever in exposing fine chocolate to its elegant, simplest form, taking much of the mystery out of this wonderful product.
For those who want to enhance their chocolate knowledge, Melt gives an excellent introduction to what 'fine' chocolate actually means, along with useful pairing and tasting notes. However, the authors have cleverly resisted the temptation to go too deeply into the history of the cocoa bean, focusing instead on what vexes us about chocolate and what skills are needed to turn the product into exquisite, subtly balanced, visually inspiring paradise in the mouth.
The basis of the majority of recipes is tempering, the process of creating glossy chocolate by melting it, cooling it down and then reheating it. Someone not versed in the intricacies of tempering may find it a complicated procedure, particularly because if the tempered chocolate is not correct, the whole process will have to be repeated.
Care has been taken in judicious pairings with a myriad of herbs, spices and essences that gently bring out the character of the chocolate without masking it - very clever. There is nothing new in the world of chocolate, but like all things edible and worth eating, nothing stands still and all the recipes are very much of the moment and do great justice to the subject.
So, what's not to love about a book that says that chocolate should be enjoyed every day? Indeed, the book is unputdownable!
Today, real chocolate commands a strong market, with consumers mostly at ease with its price and appreciative of the skills of the chocolate maker. The best chocolate is often expensive - but the old adage that less is more could never be truer than with chocolate. For many of us, chocolate has come of age - so let's celebrate, embrace and be thankful.
By Sara Jayne Stanes, chief executive, Academy of Culinary Arts and chocolate maker
If you like this, you'll love these:
● Chocolate: The Definitive Guide
Sara Jayne Stanes
● Chocolate Unwrapped
Sarah Jane Evans
● Couture Chocolate: A Masterclass in Chocolate
● Adventures with Chocolate: 80 sensational recipes
Paul A Young