Animal crackers and cocoa to drink
That is the finest of suppers, I think
When I’m grown up and can have what I please,
I think I shall always insist upon these.
Christopher Morley – American author and journalist
This is the most charming little treasure of a book that I’ve come across in a long time. A book devoted solely to my favorite drink on earth: Hot Chocolate, which is also its title. Written by American restaurateur Michael Turback, the book is just 150 pages long, and contains 60 recipes from noted pastry chefs and preeminent chocolatiers.
Hot Chocolate kicks off with a Chocologue, a primer of sorts on ingredients that go into hot chocolate as well as its tools and techniques. From there, it branches off into six chapters: Ancestral Hot Chocolates; European Classics; Modern Variations; Spiked Hot Chocolates; Nostalgic Hot Chocolates; and Hot Chocolate Pairings, a neat little chapter that wraps up the book by suggesting sweet treats to eat with this hot drink (i.e. beignets, cinnamon-dusted churros, chocolate cookies, etc.) The chapters include hot chocolate drinks spanning the range from the traditional to those spiked with cayenne and liqueurs. Since hot chocolate begs for a flourish of whipped cream, there is also a Whipped Cream menu at the back with recipes for six kinds of whipped cream.
The author’s passion for his subject is evident. His prose is written exceptionally, using evocative phrases to describe the recipes: ferociously inventive, aromatically happy. Quotes on hot chocolate are also peppered liberally throughout the book to further whet the reader’s appetite for this luscious drink — the quote I used above is my favorite from the book.
The book is an easy read, but like hot chocolate, is best savored slowly. I picked up some insights that have made me appreciate this beverage all the more:
First, that combining chocolate with other ingredients is a highly subjective, inexact endeavor. One must be conscious of the contribution each [ingredient] is making to the final result. Secondly, hot chocolate is better if not consumed immediately — allow it to cool uncovered and then reheat while stirring. In this way, it acquires wisdom and grace and the ingredients meld beautifully together. (God, doesn’t that sound so profound?) Lastly, to maximize the pleasure of drinking hot chocolate, sip it slowly and allow the warm liquid to remain in your mouth for a few seconds to release its flavors and nuances.
I intend to cook my way through this book. Reading it is like a glimpse into hot chocolate’s personality and truest nature. I may never look at a cup of hot chocolate the same way again.
Written by Michael Turback
Available at Fully Booked.