Comments: We have made many truffles in our day and have not come upon anything better than the Caramel-Chocolate Truffles in this book. Yes, we burned the sugar on our first try (Hermé uses the pastry chef's method of heating a small amount of sugar on the bottom of a heavy pan, letting it start to color and then adding more and more sugar, rather than the home cook's method of dissolving sugar in a bit of water, evaporating away the water and then cooking more until the hot sugar reaches the right color), but the results were worth the false start. And we haven't even tried the Milk Chocolate & Passion Fruit Truffles or the Sichuan-Pepper Chocolate Truffles yet.
A follow-on to the very successful Desserts by Pierre Hermé (Canada, UK) by the same cooking-writing duo, chocolate seemed the logical next step for an ultimate-indulgence cookbook, and we're inclined to agree.
The book's chapters take in cakes; cookies; tarts; puddings, custards & mousses; truffles and other candies; frozen chocolate desserts; and hot & cold drinks. There is also a substantial glossary and a list of cookware and ingredients sources for those who don't live down the street from a Valrhona chocolate store.
Some of these desserts are well within the scope of an advanced-beginner cook, even a courageous beginner. Many are more challenging, though. And, as can be expected with this kind of book, many desserts require several separate recipes, all artfully executed and beautifully assembled near serving time the Plasir Sucré, for example requires the Whipped Cream, the Dacquoise, the Praline, the Sauce, the Ganache, and the Chocolate Sheets all before getting to the assembly. The authors are conscientious, though, about noting which components may be made ahead and which whole desserts can be stored or frozen for days or weeks or months.
As expected in a book written by Dorie Greenspan, the instructions are crystal clear and extensive. The number of recipes that fit on one page can almost be counted on one finger, and some stretch beyond four pages, and have you flipping back and forth to the section on Base Recipes for fundamental building blocks. But the recipes are clear. If you can read and follow directions, you can make many of these desserts. And it goes almost without saying that you will want to make them.
The photos by Jean-Louis Bloch-Lainé are stunning, and will probably encourage more sales of the book than the recipes themselves. The great disappointment of this book, of course, is that mere human beings won't be able to recreate desserts that look like those in the photos. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.