Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Simple Cookbook a Bit Too Simple

For your Chocolate Priestess's birthday this year, her local hardware store sent her a gift card for $10 so I had to go spend it.  One of the things I found was this little cookbook from Gooseberry Patch called "Our Favorite Chocolate Recipes" for about $7.  I tried three recipes out of it and today I want to share the results of those recipes and a summary of the problems I found in the book that you can overcome if you have enough experience with chocolate and cooking.

I like that this book is small, 6 X 4.5 inches which means it can go on small bookshelves though it might get lost next to the huge cookbooks in your collection.  It is also spiral bound which I find incredibly helpful when I'm cooking because I don't have to have a special book holder or put something on the pages to hold it open.  It has 127 pages which include two pages about the types of chocolate you may need for these recipes, line drawings which most often are not of the recipe on that page, and an index arranged by the type of food (beverages, breakfasts, cakes, etc) though the book itself does not have neatly arranged chapters.

Sisters and Brothers, let me talk about the recipes in the order I tried them.  The very first one I tried was the "Chocolate Chip Waffles" (p 11) for breakfast one Sunday.  I noticed two problems with this recipe right away.  First, while sugar is listed as an ingredient the directions never say when to add it so I used my judgment and added with the other dry ingredients.  Second, the resulting batter seemed weak to me so I ended up adding in 3/4 cup of more flour.  That might be a factor of how my family likes waffles though -- very thick and crisp.  The waffles themselves were so delicious that I didn't want syrup on them at all.

The next recipe I tried was for the "Cinnamon Hot Chocolate" (p 23) as part of my hot chocolate drinks round of reviews I'll be doing this winter.  This also had a problem in that it required using a double boiler which I have and which frankly I'm not terribly fond of.  The problem is that if you are unfamiliar with how double boiler's work, this book gives you no advice on what  you need to do.  The other directions were very clear and the resulting drink was enjoyed by everyone in my household though this is just my mug of it so you could see the color better.  Often we'll add marshmallows to packaged hot cocoa but the cinnamon was enough of a kick to make this interesting so we didn't bother.  Hint: Make sure your cinnamon stick is fresh for greatest spice experience.

Finally I made the "Chocolate Peanut Candy" (p 115) or what I'd simply call "Peanut Clusters" as one of the items for our forthcoming holiday party.  This used the crockpot and it took a bit longer for all the chocolate ingredients to melt but it worked very well as a one-pot way to make these treats which included three types of chocolate: baking, white, and semi-sweet.  My candies are twice the size the book recommended you make but I know our guests will not complain at all if they must eat more.  It did take about four hours for them to cool and firm up enough to be stored.  While this recipe does not say how to store these or how long they can last, I think I can safely store then in an airtight container with wax paper between layers, at room temp until our party should work.

A note about white chocolate: Make sure what you are getting is white chocolate.  I used Baker's white chocolate for baking in this and for another recipe I'll talk about in a week or so I got a bag of the store brand chips from Kroger.  Here's the thing that annoyed me, actually it more than annoyed me.  A national brand had "white morsels" that were NOT chocolate, no cocoa butter at all in them.  Now they didn't lie because no claim was made on the package but to the average person for supplies for baking and candy making, you could think these were white chocolate just by their look and their location.  Always check the ingredients on the package, don't allow yourself to use something that isn't white chocolate if you plan to serve something with the Sacred Substance in it.

Overall I found the book had very simple recipes and therein is a slight problem. For the experienced cook this shouldn't be a big deal, you draw upon your work with previous recipes of a similar nature to decide what to do.  But for the brand new cook, especially if you are working with chocolate which can burn, seize, or bloom under certain not uncommon conditions and thus get ruined easily, simple isn't always helpful.  If you know an experienced cook who likes chocolate and you have a little money, you might look into this book.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.


Bridget said...

I'd definitely put those in the refrigerator and take them out before the party. I'm thinking they could bloom otherwise.

TheChocolatePriestess said...

Hhhmmm... There in is a huge problem for me -- refrigerator space. I'm thinking these are very like the pretzels that Tom dips and they never need refrigeration.

I wish the book had more specifics, you know?

Bridget said...

Ask Emilie. She knows more about baking than me anyway :).

TheChocolatePriestess said...


I won't debate that with you. But I do thank you, Bridget, for reading and commenting here in The Chocolate Cult and I hope you keep coming back and sharing your knowledge with us all.

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