There is no denying the fact that I am a chocoholic. As such, my mother-in-law gave my husband and I "The Chocolate and Coffee Bible" for Christmas a few years back. We made the most gorgeous tasting Black Forest Gateau for New Years and it put me in mind to share my thoughts on this particular cook book. I hope I don't tempt you to break those New Year's Resolutions.
This book by Catherine Atkinson, Mary Banks, Christine France & Christine McFadden contains over 300 recipes and 1300 photographs, obviously chocolate and/or coffee play a role in each one. The first half of the book focuses on chocolate, the second half on coffee. Each section starts with a chapter on the history of chocolate/coffee followed by information about that item in different countries around the world. There is then a chapter on technique (chocolate- how to make curls, etc; coffee- how to drink coffee). The recipes follow, divided into a number of subcategories. I will be completely honest with you. I drink coffee now and then, but my husband doesn't like it so we haven't really used the "Coffee" half of the book at all. The "Chocolate" section is, however, a different story.
The chocolate recipes are grouped as follows:
Cakes and Gateaux
Tarts, Pies and Cheesecakes
Chilled and Iced Desserts
Small Cakes and Bakes
The coffee recipes are grouped as follows:
Cream Desserts and Hot Puddings
Souffles and Meringues
Cake and Torte Recipes
Pies Tarts and Pastries
Sweets, Biscuits and Breads
I have tried dozens of the recipes (from the chocolate section) with mixed results.
This isn't the best book for your basic sponge. All of the simple chocolate cakes I've tried came out a bit dense and dry (including the Simple Chocolate Cake, One-Mix Chocolate Sponge, and Frosted Chocolate Fudge Cake).
There are quite a few so-so options. The Sachertorte, Rich Chocolate Leaf Gateau, were tasty, but not remarkable. They didn't stick in your mind for more than a day or two. I was never tempted to make another one right after finishing the first. The Magic Chocolate Mud Pudding has great potential, but as written it isn't brilliant (adding more cocoa power and a few chocolate chunks turns it into a splendid dish for when you are in rush and need a little something special. The Nut and Chocolate Chip Brownies were a bit dry. The Chocolate Truffles were too bitter and dense.
There have been a few really poor results. The Death by Chocolate was simply too heavy. I swear, lifting the plate was a workout. It felt heavy in my stomach too. It was too chocolaty (I know, I didn't realize that was possible). The Mocha Rum Souffles were awful, we threw two away. The Baked Chocolate Cheesecake was extremely dense and not sweet enough (and I don't like things too sweet- but this was too far even for me).
And then there are a few gems. I am writing this review because of the Black Forest Gateau. It was stunningly good. It was easy to make and tasted fantastic. The sponge was light and blended really well with the cream and cherries. It was richly chocolatey without being overpowering. It is also very easy to make. I frequently make the sponge from this recipe with various different frostings. It is the easiest light, fluffy chocolate sponge recipe I have found. The Chocolate Butterscotch Bars are lovely. The base complements the layers of butterscotch and chocolate perfectly.
There is at least one picture for each recipe showcasing the finished product (many have several pictures depicting steps along the way as well). The ingredients are listed clearly in several means of measurement (g/oz/cups or ml/pints/cups). This is really helpful to me as I am from the USA and used to working with cups while my husband is more comfortable with grams. I can also use it as a reference with using other recipes. The instructions are split up into easy to follow steps. Everything is very clear. The pages are tick and glossy (so splatters wipe of easily).
This cookbook is available in hardback and paperback. I have the paperback- which has a sturdy card cover. Amazon currently has the hardback listed at £6.29 (free shipping).
Conclusion: I had almost given up on this book. So many of the recipes are only so-so, but then every once in a while there is a recipe that blows your socks off. I love all the pictures. The cakes look so good my husband and I have to try them. We have had a lot of fun trying new things, even if some of them turn out to be duds. I wouldn't necessarily recommend buying this book (there are more consistent books on the market), but we like it all the same.
This review is also posted under the same username on ciao.