From The Vault Of Delectable Chocolate Arcanum

Who Loves The Chocolate?

Above all else, I admire passion in others.

Not for me are the random masses shuffling along through their workaday lives, never fully immersing themselves or finding anything worthwhile to commit to.  Instead I respect the creative, overly exuberant doers, the ones who push the envelopes and expand the boundaries of their respective fields through constant trial and experimentation.

When I familiarized myself with Paul A Young’s 2009 work Adventures With Chocolate recently, I knew I’d found a rare culinary maverick worthy of further examination, whose book I just had to lay hands on.  Once I managed to track down a copy through Alibris UK I only had to exercise a modicum of patience until it arrived on my doorstep a week and a half later.

Adventures With Chocolate is a rollicking stroll through the mind of a (not so evil) genius, whose book jacket photo reveals a dapper young man reminiscent of a modern day Willy Wonka.  This is by no means your mother’s cookbook, resplendent as it is with the rich tones and lush textures of pure chocolate juxtaposed against rustic, homespun preparations.  It’s part concept journal and part chocolate as high art, but on all accounts they add up deliciously.  I’ve yet to test drive a single recipe, but after my recent experimentations with chocolate and ‘nduja I’ve been inexplicably drawn to some of his more whimsical combinations, including chocolate water crackers (for cheese), fig and date tarts with cumin chocolate syrup and cedar cassia truffles (to name a few).  I’ve no doubt that once I start I will work my way through the book in its entirety.

Especially helpful for the novice chocolatier is the glossary near the beginning that identifies certain flavours that marry well with distinct varieties of single origin chocolate.  I may be somewhere between amateur and professional (having only dabbled in truffle making during my late teens and early twenties under the moniker Princess P) but even I found the table to be an invaluable tool.  I’ve also found it curiously prevalent for British recipes to specify the variety of sugar; whether it’s turbinado, muscovado, caster or any other, nothing is left to chance in the precise flavour compilations Young is after (definitely a trend I would like to catch on universally).

Beyond what I would refer to as the “cerebral” or thinking man’s portion, the book does offer a whole lot more.  It’s chockful of history, definitions, detailed instruction and suggestions for personalization, plus recipes for grown up versions of many childhood favourites like hot chocolate, syrups, chocolate hazelnut spread, sorbet and fondue.  Moreover, all of the photo spreads are so sumptuous that even pairings that might not immediately hold appeal (like the gin, cucumber and rose ganache) end up creeping up and inviting you to dig in.

For some reason there was a certain amount of hot fuss about his Stilton chocolate truffle more so than any of the rest, but I’m not entirely sure why.  I know of several chocolatiers in the Toronto area alone who have variations on bleu ganache and as far as cheese and chocolate are concerned, I’ve personally been making chocolate chevre truffles for the past 10 years so it can’t be considered that new.  That being said, I am heartily looking forward to the rosemary poached pear with Stilton ganache seeing as how I love all of the ingredients on their own.  The only thing I could figure was perhaps Britain has not yet rode the ‘adding everything savoury to chocolate’ train (i.e. bacon, etc) yet but I’ve found no substantive evidence one way or the other.

So, you may be wondering how I can be comfortable recommending a book to anyone who may be able to get their hands on it even though I have not cooked a thing?  Well, not only is it beautiful to behold, but it’s also a wellspring of knowledge and inspiration – and I don’t even need to taste one damn thing to discern that.  Cook from it if you will, but above all else allow it to encourage more creativity to flourish in your mind.

Until next time…

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2 Responses to “From The Vault Of Delectable Chocolate Arcanum”

  1. larbo says:

    “Above all else, I admire passion in others.”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. No wonder we are kindred spirits!

    When people ask why my meats are so good, I reply that everyone who has had a hand in preparing the food, from the farmer raising the animal, to the butcher, to someone like me turning it into a finished product, has a passion for what they’re doing, you can taste it in the end.

    I would always rather taste, drink, see, feel, listen to something passionate, however flawed, over something uninspired, however competent. Your own passion for the food you try out is what makes this blog such a gem, however hidden!

  2. mochapj says:

    Aw, Larbo, I’m blushing – thank you for your kind words!

    In your two statements I wholeheartedly agree, and would have to turn it back to you as well; you say the things I am thinking so much more eloquently than I ever could do.

    “When people ask why my meats are so good, I reply that everyone who has had a hand in preparing the food, from the farmer raising the animal, to the butcher, to someone like me turning it into a finished product, has a passion for what they’re doing, you can taste it in the end.

    I would always rather taste, drink, see, feel, listen to something passionate, however flawed, over something uninspired, however competent.”

    Well said, sir, well said!

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