The First Lady of Chocolate
I am not sure if Alice Medrich even likes the title of "First Lady of Chocolate," but it surely is apropos. Her easy-going style belies a very meticulous nature that seeks perfection in her creations. She told me that it took her years to perfect a recipe for Chocolate Pecan Pie, but she persevered and the recipe is in the book. Her latest, that is: "A Year In Chocolate" (Warner).
All that effort has paid off for Alice, the only two-time winner of the coveted James Beard "Cookbook of the Year" award, for her previous works "Cocolat" (Warner, 1990) and "Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts" (Warner, 1994.)
"A Year In Chocolate" is her most home-cook friendly cookbook. She says it's mainly because she has moved away from the professional kitchen (she once operated a very well regarded pastry shop in the San Francisco area called Cocolat) to cooking in her own home kitchen. Spending 3 days making a dessert is more of a chore than it is a profession these days. So, gone are the tedious recipes with 5 interior recipes, most of the ones in "A Year In Chocolate" are pared down and simple. Sophisticated, "but not dumbed down!," warns Alice.
Even though chocolate has no season, the theme of the book takes us through the four seasons. Pairing this often-addictive sweet with fruits and textures of the seasons. The winter season holidays are well represented with everything from Chocolate Latkes to a festive Chocolate Hazelnut Roulade.
Getting back to that recipe for Chocolate Pecan Pie, she has a great method for melting chocolate. It's a variation on the double-boiler technique. But instead of a large pot of boiling water with another pot on top, Alice takes a skillet, and put's about an inch of water in it. Heat the water until it is barely simmering, then take a heat-proof bowl and place it in the skillet of barely simmering water. It really is simple and lighter than the double pots.