Book review – Couture chocolate

18 November 2011
Book review – Couture chocolate

Couture Chocolate By William Curley
Jacqui Small, £30
ISBN 978-1906417598

With just two pages on the discovery of cocoa and the journey from bean to bar, William Curley's book is all about the recipes and not the history of chocolate. Inspired by its beautiful presentation, budding chocolatiers and pâtissiers will want to get to work straight away on the delights behind the chocolate-coloured cover.

Brightly coloured matcha (green tea) and pistachio truffles lure you in, while exquisite Yamazaki (Japanese malt whisky) and single malt chocolates coated in dacquoise propel you on to interesting combinations of tarragon and mustard and Japanese sake and kinako (soy bean), all with notes on infusing, piping and preparations of coatings.

Stunning photography entices readers at every turn of the page. Step-by-step pictures make otherwise difficult professional techniques such as tempering, chocolate décor and framing a ganache achievable, even for novices. This is a beautiful book that will appeal to all levels of chefs and chocolate makers.

Recipes are broken down into easy to access sections such as chocolate essentials, truffles, couture chocolates, bars and bites, cakes and biscuits, pâtisserie, bouches and ice creams and drinks. The pâtisserie section is outstanding, with masterpieces of complex layered desserts providing an insight into the offerings provided by William at his shops in Richmond and Belgravia (and his pop-up shop in London's West End, which is open until the New Year).

A commis might find these inspiring, but more of a challenge. However, there is something for everyone and the section on cakes and biscuits has everything from easy-to-make sables, mouth-sized chocolate cakes studded with hazelnuts and figs, traditional hollandaise cookies to whimsical chocolate-covered blackcurrant tea cakes.

Couture Chocolate is informative and structured, avoiding confusing French terminology that some might find offputting. Recipes are set out in plain English, making even the more complex recipes understandable, although notes on how to fill a spray gun led me to the directory.

Interesting flavours abide, such as black olive and tomato in caramel. William's love of Asian influences - which stems from his marriage to Japanese pâtissier Suzue - come through with the use of matcha, yuzu and wasabi. Even the brownies are laced with sesame seeds and chestnut.

It's not a book for the faint-hearted or non-experimentalist. However, it's a must have for anyone serious about chocolate, whether you are a beginner or a professional.
By Claire Clark, pastry chef and consultant

If you like this, you'll love these:Chocolate: The Definitive Guide Sara Jayne-Stanes
â- Cooking with Chocolate: Essential Recipes and Techniques Frédéric Bau and Clay McLachlan

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