If you're one of those crazy people out there that doesn't like chocolate, I have to tell you two things. One, I don't understand you at all. Two, read no further. This review is definitely not for you.
I like to look at cookbooks. In my mind, they give me all kinds of ideas of dishes to make that my family would enjoy. In reality, we stick with the same boring meals that we always do because... we're like that. Plus, each member of my family is picky in their own way about what to eat, so there isn't really a point in making something new if no one wants to sample it.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I first picked up this book, after all, it is quite large (9" x 12") and bright orange. What I found was an introduction stating that Max Brenner's love affair with writing began at a young age and, after 10 years of making chocolate, he decided to tell its story (as well as his own). However, after a little bit of online research, there appears to be much debate over whether or not Max Brenner is an actual person or just a marketing ploy.
Multiple online sites state that the real founder of Handmade Chocolate by Max Brenner is a man named Oded Brenner and, with his partner Max Fichtman, created the concept of Chocolate by the Bald Man. Max Brenner is actually an international chain of cafe/chocolate shops with 21 stores worldwide and plans to open 300 branches in the US over the next 10 years. Is this book just one big promotion for the restaurants that are to come?
After getting over my feelings of being duped, I was still interested in what this book had to offer. The 65 chocolate dessert recipes in Chocolate: A Love Story are each accompanied by a short story or quip and a piece of vibrant modern art that makes you stop and think. The recipes are most definitely mouthwatering, ranging from somewhat traditional (Contentious Chocolate Chip Cookies) to what I would consider fairly strange (Meaningless Sweet Spaghetti really does combine dark chocolate, Irish Cream liqueur and actual spaghetti).
After flipping through the pages, I was torn between being hungry and wondering if people really would create and eat some of recipes listed. I wouldn't even know where to go to find the pulp of 10 passion fruits or 1 stem of lemongrass - was I just an inexperienced cook? However, in an attempt to really put the recipes to the test, I decided to try to find one that wouldn't be too difficult and involved ingredients that I could actually pronounce. If I can do anything, it's follow directions (if you ever need help putting furniture together, I'm a master at that) so I began searching the recipes for the right one for us.
What I came up with was a slightly altered version of the Home Industry Chocolate Cheese Pockets (found on page 118). Even if I left out the pears poached in wine (I do have kids, after all), they still look good in the picture (at left) from the book, right?
Even with Big Sister E's help, not long into making these Chocolate Cheese Pockets, I was reminded of why I don't cook too many things from scratch. All of the steps involved and all of the ingredients and all of the mess... hours later, the result was this:
As for the taste? Pretty good. Whether that is because of the recipe itself or because almost anything would be yummy if it had 12 ounces of good milk chocolate in it, I'm not sure. What I do know is that this is a unique cookbook that, for me, is more about the love and ideas about chocolate (and spreading "chocolate culture" around the world) rather than actually creating it. However, if a Max Brenner restaurant opens near me, I'm sure I'll be there to sample some of these delicious creations... particularly if they are made by someone else.
To find out more about Chocolate: A Love Story, Max Brenner or all of the related products, visit the Max Brenner website. Thanks, Hatchette Book Group, for allowing me review this book, it was fun to try something new. And, for dropping this long slim package in between my front doors, thanks, Mail Carrier.
(Other than the copy of Chocolate: A Love Story that I was sent, I was not provided with anything or enticed to do this review in any way. This review is solely my opinion of this book.)