The Art of Chocolate: techniques and recipes for simply spectacular desserts & confections by Elaine Gonzlez, photographs by Frankie Frankeny. ISBN 0-8118-1811-X
I picked this one up on a lark while browsing at a local bookstore, and later discovered that it's in a lot of the "gifty" sort of shops. But this is more than a gift book, it's a way to get one step ahead of that Martha bitch and develop some skills that'll really floor them at parties.
Thus far I've done three things from the book. I've cast a chocolate bowl, built chocolate roses and braid to decorate it, and put a "white chocolate" (cocoa butter and palm oil with vanilla extract) bow on it. This combination completely blew away people at the gathering I took it to.
The book starts with the obligatory "semisweet chocolate must contain at least 35 percent chocolate liquor and not mor ethan 12 percent..." which we've seen in a gazillion books before, but quickly gets on to the interesting stuff: Simple instructions from someone who's obviously done a hell of a lot of confection construction.
The instructions are complete to the point of which order your bowls should be laid out on our counter, but well organized enough that those of us who just want the pertinent temperaturs can still find the critical elements with a quick scan. The photographs are inspiring while being helpfully illustrative.
The tempering instructions worked better than any I've used before, the rose instructions were sufficient without being pedantic, the bow took a little work and my first one was pretty shakey, but that's okay because I didn't follow the directions closely enough; my substitutions were obviously wrong.
If tinkering for an afternoon in the kitchen is your idea of recovery, you'l be hard pressed to do better than a slab of marble, this book, and 5 lbs of a good semisweet dark chocolate.
Monday, December 27th, 1999 firstname.lastname@example.org