Chocolate Buying Guides Chocolate Gifts

Recommended Chocolate Cookbooks – The Perfect Holiday Gift

Recently, I asked acclaimed chef and FCIA board member Maricel Presilla to help me develop a list of chocolate cookbooks to share with our readers. She provided some wonderful suggestions geared for the beginner, all the way to the master chef level. I also added her book to the list, along with a few others! Hopefully you will find the perfect holiday gift from our selections below.   

From FCIA members

Making Chocolate from Bean to Bar to S’more: A Cookbook

Dandelion Chocolate (Clarkson Potter, 2017)

Here is the chronicle of Dandelion, the evolving bean-to-bar company that brought chocolate cool back to San Francisco. With recipes that will make you run to the kitchen in anticipation of complex flavors and dreams of the lands of fine cacao, this is a book that might inspire you to follow on the footsteps of the dynamic team that gave life to this innovative chocolate factory cum cafe in the heart of the Mission district. Inspiring and useful.

Guittard Chocolate Cookbook: Decadent Recipes from San Francisco’s Premium Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Company

Amy Guittard (Chronicle Books, 2015)

Amy Guittard is the fifth generation of the Guittard family, the sole owners of the venerable Guittard Chocolate Company. The company was founded in 1868 by Etienne Guittard, a Frenchman from Tournous who landed in San Francisco looking for gold only to discover a more enduring treasure, chocolate. With 60 recipes of differing levels of complexity and contributions from San Francisco chocolate stars such as Alice Medrich, this is a cookbook that tells an important chapter of the American chocolate story from a company that remains true to its roots.

The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Chocolate with Recipes, Second Edition

Maricel E. Presilla (Ten Speed Press, 2009)

In its 2000 and revised and expanded 2009 editions, The New Taste of Chocolate, a serious reference book from award-winning scholar and chef Maricel E. Presilla, inspired chocolate lovers, makers, and farmers to look deeper into fine cacao from Latin America. This was the first book of its kind to visually present a thorough overview of cacao varieties and their individual flavor profiles from a first-hand perspective and within a historical framework with chocolate recipes, both savory and sweet, calling for specific origins and percentages instead of using generic terms like bittersweet or bitter that mean little to cooks. A book to savor for its scholarship and for recipes that inspire.

Essence of Chocolate

Robert Steinberg and John Scharffenberger (Hyperion, 2006)

John Scharffenberger, a former sparkling wine maker, and Robert Steinberg, a retired physician who loved cooking and had done a brief stint as an apprentice under the legendary Maurice Bernachon, joined forces to create a small craft chocolate factory in 1996, Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker. Beginning in South San Francisco and expanding four years later in Berkeley, they made waves and gained converts. Their chocolate blends made with carefully sourced fine cacao inspired a new generation of small artisanal chocolate makers in the US. This book, born in the Berkeley stage of the Scharffen Berger project, tells the history of an iconic chocolate company and its founders with enticing recipes for all levels of expertise, many from great chocolate experts and chefs such as Flo Braker and Thomas Keller. Visually attractive, the book impresses with quality food and evocative field photography taken at one of the company’s suppliers of Dominican cacao, Hacienda Helvesia, in the island’s El Valle cacao region.

Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate

Pam Williams and Jim Eber (Wilmor Publishing Corporation, 2019)

In the spirit of The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate tells the story of what that next movement in the fine-flavor chocolate symphony might hold. Told in four lively parts covering everything from before the bean to after the bar – genetics, farming, manufacturing, and bonbons – the book features interviews with dozens of international stakeholders across the fine-flavor industry to consider the promises and pitfalls ahead. It looks through what is happening today to understand where things are going, while unwrapping the possibilities for the millions of us who believe that life without the very best chocolate is no life at all.

From master pastry chefs

Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

Pierre Hermé and Dorie Greenspan (Little, Brown, and Company, 2001)

Dorie Greenspan, a respected US pastry expert and cookbook author with vast experience in France, distills the genius of Pierre Hermé’s chocolate desserts in a book that is both a visual feast and an invaluable source of inspiration for anyone who loves fine chocolate. One of the first renown pastry chefs to work with fine chocolate, Pierre Hermé’s chocolate desserts combine boundless imagination and impeccable technical skill. An essential cookbook in any serious chocolate library.  

Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate

Alice Medrich (Artisan, 2003)

Alice Medrich, a beloved San Francisco award-winning author and pastry chef, showcased the possibilities of fine dark chocolate with higher cacao content than was the norm when she opened her iconic shop and atelier Cocolat in Berkely more than thirty years ago. This book tells part of her groundbreaking story with delicious recipes in the clear voice of a born teacher.

The Great Book of Chocolate

David Lebowitz (Ten Speed Press, 2004)

An alumnus of Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse and a graduate of Callebaut College in Belgium, the Ecole Lenôtre, and Valrhona’s Ecole du Grand Chocolat, David Lebowiz made a name for himself in San Francisco as an innovative pastry chef with an expertise in chocolate during the heyday of small craft chocolate companies such as Sharffen Berger. Before moving to Paris, where his blogs and cookbooks have attracted a cult following, he wrote this chocolate book for Ten Speed Press’s s Big Book series, tall and slender tomes on single subjects that are both fun and useful. Here is a collection of terrific chocolate recipes worth trying.

For beginners

Chocolate for Beginners: Techniques and Recipes for Making Chocolate Candy, Confections, Cakes, and More

Kate Shaffer (Rockridge Press, 2019)

Clear and informative with beginners in mind, this is a cookbook for first-time users and aficionados of chocolate needing to be taken by the hand by a gentle teacher. Give it to that motivated someone in your life, with a five-pound bag of chocolate couverture for lots of practice

For professionals

The Art of the Chocolatier

Ewald Notter (Wiley, 2011)

From renowned confectioner and pastry chef Ewald Notter, a gold medal winner of the Coupe du Monde in Lyon, France, this is a comprehensive illustrated overview of the exacting art and science of chocolate confections. A valuable resource for any chocolatier.

Chocolates and Confections: Formula, Theory, and Techniques for the Artisan Confectioner, Second Edition

Peter P. Greweling (Wiley, 2012)

Years teaching baking and pastry arts at The Culinary Institute of America inform Greweling’s impressive compendium of chocolate and confections. Described as a Bible on the subject by admiring readers, it is an indispensable reference for anyone seriously interested in the technical aspects of artisan confections.

Encyclopedia of Chocolate; Essential Recipes and Techniques, Edited by Frederic Bau, Second Revised Edition

Ecole du Grand Chocolate Valrhona (Flammarion, 2018)

Targeting mainly those who want to perfect their chocolate desserts, this is a pictorial cookbook with step-by-step instructions edited by Frederic Bau, the renowned instructor of Ecole du Grand Chocolate Valrhona in collaboration with master pâtissier Pierre Hermé. Among the important contributions of this lavishly illustrated and elegant tome are sound techniques that can be applied to chocolate desserts made with any fine chocolate, not just Valrhona’s.

For vegans

Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts

Fran Costigan (Running Press Adult, 2013)

A New York-based pastry chef and teacher, Fran Costigan lives what she preaches, embracing a diet free of all animal products, including eggs and dairy, and applying it creatively to her cooking and baking with chocolate. For those looking for deliciousness in dairy and egg-free chocolate desserts, this cookbook is the answer.

For passionate cooks

Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies

Laura Esquivel (Anchor, 1995)

A jewel of Latin American magic realism for those who believe in the wonders and mysteries of cooking. There might not be much hot chocolate in this novel, but plenty of passionate cooking stirs the senses like the burbling, steaming hot water needed for a hearty cup of Mexican chocolate.

Make your gift complete with 220 gram bag of Goodnow Almendra Blanca Single Origin Hot Cocoa, made with premium cacao from Tabasco, Mexico, a Gold and Best in Competition prize winner in the recent International Chocolate Awards World Drinking Chocolate Competition 2020 in Hannover, Germany.

By Bill Guyton

Bill Guyton is the Executive Director of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association.