Monday, May 27, 2013

The Great Book of Chocolate by David Lebovitz

My chocolate obsession first led me to different flavours, then different brands, and now it slowly drags me into dark, chocolaty, technical depths. The more I read labels and the back of packs of exotic chocolates, the more I felt I knew nothing. I realised soon after I started this blog that if I were to make any serious headway as a chocolate reviewer, I would have to learn about the finer points of chocolate. I started looking for books on chocolate, but apart from chocolate recipe books there is precious little - at least in India. I turned to Google for books that would help me understand chocolate's bean to bar journey, and it threw me this book among its many results. Albeit a slightly expensive foreign publication, The Great Book of Chocolate by David Lebovitz seemed the perfect place for my initiation.

David Lebovitz

I picked this book largely because of the author credentials. David Lebovitz has extensive 'chocolate experience', having worked for 12 long years at the pastry department of Chez Panisse, has trained from Ecole Lenôtre in Paris and attended Callebaut College, a chocolate school in Belgium. And this offered me just the tiniest glimpse of the author's knowledge of chocolate. As I read page after page, I took away not just lessons in chocolate, but also his enduring passion for chocolate.

The book opens with a brief introduction, followed by a chapter called 'Chocolate Explained', which is the most useful one for a new student of chocolate. In this chapter, he explains how and where cacao is grown, what the types are, how it is processed, a historical view of chocolate and even traces the origin of his own romance with chocolate. The next chapter 'Sustainability of Cacao' addresses important environmental issues pertaining to cacao farming, especially in the rain forests of Africa, and briefly, the subject of organic chocolates. The next chapter, 'A Chocolate Primer' will be very handy for bakers and cooks dealing in chocolate, but is rather technical for a 'general' student of chocolate. That said, I will always turn to the helpful definitions provided of the types and compounds of chocolate whenever I am trying to decode information on the back of a chocolate pack. The chapter that follows is titled 'Chocolate and Wellness' and puts together the scientific findings about and the proven benefits of chocolate that the media writes about so often.

The following two chapters, 'Buying Chocolate' and 'Chocolate in Paris' are largely accounts of the author's own chocolate adventures, where he writes about the world's most famous and exciting shops he has bought chocolates from, offering tips on how to buy them along the way. There is also a seven-day diary entry of the  author's experience of working at a famous chocolate workshop. While rich in information, reading this section can get boring for a 'general' reader, especially if there is little prospect of actually visiting the mentioned places. But yes, should I have the opportunity to go on a chocolate pilgrimage, I shall be holding this book close.

Finally, there is the big fat section on recipes. While it was of no import to me, it can be an excellent resource for people who don't just like to eat their chocolate but make it too.

ISBN: 978-1-58008-495-6
Ten Speed Press
Price: Approx. INR 940

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