Alice Medrich on chocolate
Review by Chocolate-adorer and critic ('oh yes, please') J. Zimmerman

A delightful chocolate-stained book by Alice Medrich, founder of the Berkeley bakery Cocolat in Berkeley (back in 1976).

Delicious result from favorite recipes include:

"Chocolate Notes" for various recipes show how to alter by using chocolates with a higher or lower percentage of "chocolate liquor" (cocoa content). Her "Chocolate Notes" include such recommendations as:

For the chopped chocolate, you will get the most flavor from a bittersweet in the 70% range, but you will have good results with standard semisweet or bittersweet chocolates ... or any marked 50% to 72%. Chocolate chips are acceptable as well, just not as wonderful.

For truffle ganache (filling to be coated) her chocolate-to-cream ratio (leading to roughly 1 pound of truffles) is:

Basic Truffles 10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet 5 to 6 ounces heavy cream Coat with TEMPERED chocolate
Cold Creamy Truffles 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet.
Increase to 9 ounces if adding optional 2 TBSP rum or other liquor
1 C (8 ounces) heavy cream.
Mix ganache minimally to blend.
Refrigerate at least 4 hours till firm enough to form balls. [Freeze for an hour or two if ganache is too runny.]
Cover pan of balls and FREEZE (several hours and up to 2 months).
Coat with UNTEMPERED (!!!) chocolate. Refrigerate truffles to:
  • preserve the freshness of the cream (double in this recipe compared with basic truffles),
  • maintain form, and
  • prevent discoloring bloom).

For tempering chocolate (such as to coat a ganache truffle filling) she guides you through a series of steps, with these highlights:

Melt 1 pound chocolate, warming it slowly till mainly melted
Stir to mix and complete melting.
Let the chocolate cool to 100 degrees F; drop in a couple of 2-oz chunks of pre-tempered chocolate.
Stir constantly till 90 degrees F for dark chocolate or 88 degrees F for white or milk chocolate.
Use her temper test (see her book).
Once chocolate is tempered, remove the unmelted portions of the chunks.

But her inventiveness and willingness to share her method (based on instinct and experimentation) encourage the reader to develop their own recipes.

And be sure to read her chatty autobiographical notes at the start of each chapter, to discover how she adapted the recipes of others or (from naive experimentation) made her own discoveries such as Cold Creamy Truffles.

Lastly, note that she "lost faith in blink tastings a while back ... I realized that the results said less about the chocolate and more about the experience and demographics of the twelve tasters ... outliers are likely to lose points just for being different."

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