BITTERSWEET: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate

Alice Medrich, Author, Deborah Jones, Photographer . Artisan $35 (384p) ISBN 978-1-57965-160-2

Medrich founded the dessert shop Cocolat in Berkeley in 1976 and authored Cocolat and Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts, which offered new, more "adult" flavors than the super-sweet tastes in vogue until that time. Today, as Medrich points out in an interestingly market-savvy introduction, the popularity of high-quality brands of chocolate is on the rise, and each of these recipes includes notes about how to alter it using chocolates with a higher percentage of "chocolate liquor," or cocoa bean content. This all sounds highly cerebral, but once Medrich puts her theory into practice in the form of Macadamia Shortbread Brownies, and Grappa, Currants, and Pine Nut Torte, it becomes deliciously clear. Hers are highly inventive creations, grouped in chapters loosely defined more by feel than by strict adherence to categories, such as a group of fluffy confections that includes Intensely Bittersweet Soufflés and Melting Chocolate Meringue. Medrich provides a recipe for her signature Queen of Sheba torte, along with detailed notes about how it has evolved over the years. She even uses chocolate in a handful of savory recipes, such as Roasted Squash Soup with Cocoa Bean Cream. Clearly, this author's curiosity is her defining characteristic; her ability to convey the fruits of that curiosity is the readers' good fortune. (Oct.)

Forecast: Medrich's Cocolat (1990) was an IACP and James Beard award winner, and Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts (1994) was also the recipient of a James Beard award. This highly personal, engaging collection is likely to garner prizes as well, and Artisan is supporting it with a 45,000 first printing and a 10-city tour. This is bound to be one of fall's big books, and it deserves to be.

Reviewed on: 09/15/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
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