Adventures with Chocolate: 80 Sensational Recipes
by Paul A. Young
Publisher: Kyle Cathie, Country: UK
ISBN: 9781856268295, Year: 2009
Link to publisher’s page or site
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Overview

An exciting new book by a renowned and pioneering master chocolatier for anyone serious about their chocolate, filled with innovative and unusual recipes that will challenge, intrigue, and delight the tastebuds in equal measure.

Full review

Close your eyes. Imagine we’re somewhere that looks like old London town. We wander along a warren of dank passageways, seeking out a place. As we arrive, we’re greeted by heady, sweet-scented air. Tables are piled high with finger-worn tomes. The walls are lined with all shapes and sizes of glass jars brimming with exotic ingredients. And there’s a heady symphony of aromas! Rich with vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, burnt sugar, and oh, so many other unfamiliar ethers, it bewilders and delights our senses.

We’re in a realm of dreams, of course. Or are we? Find yourself with a copy of Paul A. Young’s Adventures with Chocolate and the line between reality and fantasy soon blurs. Lavishly and evocatively illustrated with gorgeous (and beautifully-styled) photographs, and laid out much in the style of a craftsman’s notebook, set against a sumptuous gold, brown, and parchment background, it’s a positive joy to look at.

And once you delve into the 80 novel recipes, you’ll find plenty to feast on too. For those who don’t know (where have you been?), Young is a modern-day alchemist, widely regarded as one of the most innovative and exciting chocolatiers in the world and, consequently, the recipes in this book are hardly run-of-the-mill. Green garlic chocolate ganache? Hendrick’s gin, cucumber and rose ganache? Chocolate sauce for fish and shellfish? A book for the faint-hearted, this is not (the clue’s in the title of the book, after all). But the bold of palate, the chocolate adventurers, will surely be amply rewarded.

Young provides a useful and thorough touchstone in the introductory section about chocolate and tasting more generally. If you’ve ever been curious about how chocolate is made, from cocoa bean to finished bar, and about how and why it can vary so much in flavour and texture, this is where you’ll find your answers. Moreover, you’re then encouraged to undertake your own chocolate adventures following Young’s articulate and supportive instruction – not only in tasting, but also in tempering (seeding and spreading methods are set out, with pictures, step-by-step), moulding, and decorating.

So, what of the actual recipes? For more confident cooks, recipes such as chocolate and almond tortellini with blood oranges and pine nuts, and dark chocolate and wild mushroom millefeuille, are bound to delight and inspire. But novice chocolatiers will also find much here to try their hand at, for the recipes are perfectly straightforward, clear and concise. I’ve heard exemplary reports of the chocolate and basil fondants, the sea salted tart, and the chocolate martini (well, hello…), which all augur well. Young’s guiding and reassuring presence is evident at the turn of every page, from the introductions to each recipe, through tips and hints as to shelf life and so on.

Paul A. Young chocolate aficionados will be thrilled, too, to see some of his most well-known creations included and their secrets revealed – for example, his Aztec-style hot chocolate, Bing cherry and chocolate brownies, port and Stilton truffles, and love-’em-or-hate-’em Marmite truffles.

The reality is that there is something here to tempt anyone with a real interest for all things cocoa, from a dazzling array of ganaches and truffles (from basic muscovado sugar truffles through to the exotica of e.g. curly parsley, lemon and sea salt ganache), through spreads, syrups and drinks (alcoholic – how about a chocolate bramble cocktail? – and non-alcoholic), and cakes and biscuits, to savoury dishes and desserts. It makes for a most wonderfully hedonistic, indulgent, and intoxicating mix.

But with this heady elixir comes a small warning. At the risk of stating the obvious, chocolate isn’t cheap (and neither are some of the other much-used ingredients), and some of the recipes are positively budget busting. Young’s ‘Trifle of four chocolates’ will set you back 500g Javanese milk chocolate, 300g white chocolate, and 150g dark chocolate, plus more for grating. That’ll be a kilogram of chocolate, then, not to mention almost a litre of cream. A recipe for just twelve cookies needs 300g Venezuelan dark chocolate, 50-100g cocoa nibs, and generous quantities of butter and sugar. Perhaps, tucked away in his rarefied alchemist’s grotto, Young has forgotten the real world of retail prices?

It’s noticeable, too, that very specific types of chocolate are needed for many of the recipes — not just 66% dark chocolate, but 66% Caribbean dark chocolate, or ‘67% dark chocolate from the Dominican Republic’; and not just milk chocolate, but Javanese 40% chocolate. (A short section at the end of the book lists suppliers.) It probably won’t come as a surprise that most of these are produced by the esteemed Valrhona, Amedei, and Cluizel houses, with the consequent issues of price premiums and availability to match. Can they be replaced with other, less refined versions? Apparently not if you want to recreate Young’s magic. As he goes to great pains to explain , successfully flavour-pairing chocolate with other ingredients depends greatly on the origin, percentage cocoa solids, and chocolate manufacturer. So using a generic, other-brand milk chocolate will result in a rather different-tasting (not necessarily in a good way) maple macadamia ganache than if you were to use 50% Madagascan chocolate, for example.

In practice, however, it is likely that Young’s target market will already be aware that he won’t use common-or-garden chocolate or other ingredients and that, accordingly, they won’t be deterred. For those who are serious about their chocolate, then, and for those who revel in seeking out new taste experiences, this book is likely to be a welcome addition to their culinary book collection. And deservedly so – it’s a lush production all the way through from frontsheet to the index, and Young has clearly given a great deal of care and thought to the recipes. Best of all, it’s a book which succeeds in reflecting something of the magical and intriguing realm of the real-life alchemist at work, an achievement for which the publishers should be applauded. It’s a tome that Paul A. Young should be proud of, and that all those who buy a copy can be equally pleased and excited to own. And if the idea of an adventure into the beguiling world of chocolate appeals to you, this book should be your first companion and guide.

This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
Main rating: 5. Highly recommended
Visual appeal: Beautiful
Suitability as a gift: Likely to be strongly appreciated
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One Comment

  1. Posted 04 Feb 2010 at 11:56 | Permalink

    I also adore this book. Young’s enthusiasm show clearly through. I was disappointed in his chocolate chicken recipe, but I justified it by saying a Brit can’t make a good molé. Other than that every recipe I’ve tried has been wonderful. My favorite to date is his goat cheese ganache which I’ve transformed into a cake filling with lemon curd. Very good book.

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