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Jacques Torres' A Year in Chocolate:
80 Recipes for Holidays and Special Occasions

By Jacques Torres
ISBN: 1584796421
Publisher: Stewart, Tabori & Chang
Publication date: November 2008
Format: Hardcover
List price: $35 
Type: Desserts: Chocolate
Sample recipe: Poached Pears with Chocolate Fondue
Intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
Apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive coffee-table Biblical stature
Competition: outclassed follower in the pack strong challenger likely champ
Variety: too little too much unusual nice mix just right
# of recipes: <50 <100 <200 <300 ≥300
Practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% ≥80%
# of ingredients: ≤4 ≤7 ≤10 ≤12 >12
Ingredient hunt: 7-Eleven airfare required online pantry supermarket
Recipe complexity: too hard simple medium challenging professional
Instructions: inadequate verbose bare-bones full-figured educational
Time conscious: unconscious outright lies white lies realistic honorable
Cooking time: weekend project takes all day takes time ≥30 minutes <30 minutes
Added info: zip overwhelming scant balanced generous
Photos/drawings: none distracting decorative instructive glorious
Recipe results: ≤dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
Nutritional info: none overwhelming hit or miss adequate comprehensive
Format/Ease of Use
Layout: ugh cluttered fine considerate work of art
Legibility: unpleasant challenging tolerable clear brilliant
Production quality: cheesy dubious years of service gift quality stunning
Page numbers: non-existent hard-to-find spotty sufficient every page
Table of contents: AWOL frustrating passable useful excellent
Index quality: none tragic adequate good a treasure
Page flipping: upsetting tedious acceptable rare never
Writer: beginner food writer writing cook personality auteur
Cook: unknown self-taught chef teacher celebrity
Fulfills ambitions: falls short almost there satisfactory exceeds home run
Flavor delivered: sad inconsistent tasty delicious exceptional
Overall tone: sterile trying too hard straightforward best friend mom
Value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money a deal
Overall rating: skip it good very good excellent Ochef Top 100

Comments: A prominent cookbook editor was whining recently that, "people don't cook anymore." We told him (proudly) that Ochef readers cook and that nearly everyone cooks for holidays. Pastry chef/chocolatier Jacques Torres and his publisher might have been thinking along the same lines, as they produced a book that links fancy – but manageable – chocolate desserts and confections with seasons and holidays throughout the year.

The recipes look great, are very well explained, and appear to be within the means of cooks who know their way around a kitchen and perhaps have some experience working with chocolate. You might need to buy a mold or two for certain recipes, but there is a page of mail-order information in the back of the book.

The hole in the holiday theory is that Torres introduces each chapter (each month with its collection of holidays) by telling of the special candies and confections he makes in his stores or that he grew up eating and/or making, but then he gives a half dozen other recipes for that month, only some of which have any real link to the holidays. They're just nice recipes that use chocolate; most of them would be equally good during any other month. The book loses a certain amount of its holiday theme when, for example, there's not really anything particularly Halloweenie or Mother's-Dayish.

The other issue we have is that the confections in the (gorgeous) photos are occasionally a more professional version than what you will produce if you make the accompanying recipe. Yes, Jacques Torres, or anyone working at his level, needs to "dumb down" or edit out many recipes that are beyond most home cooks, but we think some people will be disappointed to find that the results of their labor don't – and can't – look like the pictures in the book.

Otherwise, as we said, a beautiful book with beautiful recipes.


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