This is the time to indulge in life’s delicacies – and what else can represent it better than chocolate.
It is usually the time that I look for chocolate books as gifts for my friends who share my enthusiasm about this glorious product. At this time I decided to review the chocolate book created by one of my mentors, the famous sugar and chocolate artist, Ewald Notter.
If you really want to learn to work with chocolate and to understand this temperamental product – then this is the book that should treat yourself with as a Christmas or Chanukah gift.
If you are more interested in a book that has lots of recipes, this is not the book that you should buy. I am actually surprised about the limited quantity of new cookbooks with chocolate as the central theme.
I attended Ewald’s class about working with chocolates and creating truffles, pralines, and molded bonbons and I can tell you that Ewald spares no time nor effort to make sure that you gain the most in his class. I was still in my infancy of learning at the time and made errors on left and right. Ewald knew that I am an amateur, not a pastry chef, nevertheless, he worked with me until I got it right.
Ewald Notter is the recipient of so many awards that I cannot list all of them, but I can tell you that he did not receive anything he did not deserve.
He did not hold back in his classes and he is not holding back in this book. Meaning, if you read this book from cover to cover, follow his recommendations and guidelines, you can actually become a chocolate connoisseur.
The book is organized in a way to assure that first you learn everything there is to know about chocolate and the ingredients that are used often in combination with chocolate: he wants you to have a strong foundation.
Without a strong foundation whatever you are trying to build will collapse.
Next, he introduces the reader to the essential equipment needed to be able to create successful chocolate candies, or pastries where chocolate is the principal ingredient. In other words, this chapter is a “supportive tool” for the Foundation.
With the correct and useful tools you will be able to build a strong and solid “tower” (your chocolate creations).
Unfortunately, the section about techniques is weak. I almost tempted to say “useless”. For some reason he thought that if he knows the best techniques to use depending on what is it that you are trying to create, then everybody else must know it too. Not so. Particularly if he intended the book to be used by amateurs, newbies and novices with the same frequencies as experienced chocolatiers.
Knowing how to handle chocolate, including proper techniques for cutting, melting, and tempering this temperamental substance, can greatly increase your chances of making successful chocolate candies, cakes, frosting, etc. So it is too bad that you will need to rely on other books on the market to gain technical expertise (watch for my next cookbook review: “Cooking with Chocolate”, supported by Valrhona, the top chocolate manufacturer in the world )
We all know what sections we are interested reading the most (recipes, of course) – and those sections are well written, and well-selected for ease of preparation and lack of difficulty in finding the ingredients. The end results are attractive chocolate creations.
Both Chapters 4 and 5 contain recipes for candies that you can easily create in your kitchen and he uses ingredients that many other chocolates books do not cover, like marzipan, nougat, caramelized nuts, pate de fruit, and gianduja. The only ones that are somewhat more complex are the nougat made from a combination of nuts, dried fruits and honey and gianduja made with hazelnuts and chocolate (he introduces a caramelized version, as well).
You should definitely make some pate de fruit (also called fruit jewels). They are great looking candies made from fruit; so you can consider them a healthy snacks for kids and they really look like little jewels (see my post …….
Chapter 6 is all about ganache and I consider it the best chapter of this book. Ewald goes into a detailed explanation about what is ganache, the ingredients that can be used in a ganache, the basic and more advanced techniques in creating and working with a ganache, and troubleshooting with ganache. How to fix a “broken” ganache is a great tip that you will be able to use in many situation, like in creating frosting, glazing, mousse and more.
I am sure you know how easy is to prepare a ganache, but you may not know the ins and outs of ganache, like how many ways you can prepare it, how many ingredients you can add to it to create a multitude of products using a single basic creation.
The rest of the chapters deal mostly with decorations. There is no better teacher then Ewald in learning to create chocolate centerpieces. From the simplest techniques of using transfer sheets, or finger-painting to a more complex techniques of using an air brush and various molds you will learn creating decorative chocolate pieces for your holiday table and pralines that your guests will be declining to eat, because they just want to enjoy looking at them.
He starts of with simple and easy to prepare product, that either can be used by themselves or added to cakes, pastries and molded chocolates. He moves slowly toward the more complex decorating techniques, which can be very useful for presentation.
I would recommend that you try to create most of the praline recipes, if for nothing else, then just for fun. (Chapters 8 and 9). You can also use the pralines as a homemade gift, by placing them into an attractive chocolate box with trays.
If you want to give a try to create a showpiece or two, I would encourage you to do so. You know the adage: “If at first you do not succeed, just try and try again”. But aside from that, if the piece does not look the way you thought it should look, just re-melt the chocolate and you are ready to use it again.
I would love to hear from you guys: did you try to create anything from the book? how did you like it? or how did it come out? Do you feel that you have learned something from the book?
Some recipes will follow