My Top 5 Books for New Chocolate Enthusiasts

** This post contains affiliate links.**

For years, it felt like the world of chocolate books was divided in two: on one side, baking books with beautiful photos and super indulgent recipes — triple chocolate mousse cake, anyone? — on the other, serious books with in-depth information cacao genetics and the Mesoamerican roots of chocolate — too ambitious reads for a sleep-deprived mom.

As a new chocolate enthusiast in 2015, I longed for books I could read after putting the kids to bed, i.e. entertaining enough to keep me turn the pages, but with enough informative to deepen my chocolate knowledge.

Thankfully, the past couple of years have brought an abundance of books that fit that niche. With the holidays on the horizon, I thought I’d share my top 5 chocolate books for chocolate enthusiasts of all ages.

From Cocoa Beans to Chocolate, written by Bridget Heos, illustated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

58693D16-C1F1-4BEB-8EAA-A8BBCA6367FBWritten for a junior audience, From Cocoa Beans to Chocolate by Bridget Heos covers all aspects of chocolate production, from the cacao growing on a fair trade plantation in the equator “where it’s warm all year” to chocolate-making in a “small chocolate factory.” With lively illustrations by Stefanie Fizer Coleman, this kids book provides a simplified yet accurate overview of the chocolate making process.

Bean-to-Bar Chocolate, America’s Craft Chocolate Revolution by Megan Giller

B2B Megan Giller

To the non-initiated, the world of bean-to-bar chocolate can be nebulous. Three years ago, I didn’t know most makers, didn’t understand chocolate labels, nor could I place cacao-growing countries on a map. The only way to make sense of that world, it seemed, was to eat my way through it — that’s how the 37 Chocolates challenge came to be.

Since then, Megan Giller released Bean-to-Bar Chocolate, giving chocolate enthusiasts a much-needed bean-to-bar primer. In this abundantly illustrated book, you’ll learn how chocolate is made, where it’s coming from, and how to taste it. You’ll meet the pioneers of the American bean-to-bar movement and discover trusted, established chocolate-makers. I personally loved the pairing ideas (bread! beer! cheese!) and the conversational, sometimes self-depreciating tone of the book (you’ll love the story of Megan trying to make chocolate.) Peppered with maker profiles and recipes, it is the book I wish had existed when I started my chocolate journey.

The Chocolate Tasting Kit by Eagranie Yuh

img_5436

**This kit was gifted to me by Chronicle Books ** 

The Chocolate Tasting Kit by Eagranie Yuh is a great gift for the food-lover who likes to entertain. The kit contains everything you need to throw a chocolate party, from tasting sheets and flavor flash cards to an introductory booklet for the host or hostess. I like how the latter provides very specific guidance on how to select chocolate by naming actual company names (hello Pralus and Askinosie.) In fact, I wish you could actually buy it on its own, as it provides much needed guidance to those new to the world of craft chocolate. The kit would make a lovely gift alongside a selection of fine chocolate bars.

Making Chocolate, From Bean-to-Bar to S’more by Todd Masonis, Greg d’Alesandre, Lisa Vega, and Molly Gore

Dandelion

First, a disclaimer: I have no interest in becoming a chocolate-maker. However, as a chocolate lover and educator, there comes a time when you want to know more. Why are some bars grittier than other? How exactly is life on plantations? And how do you bake with a two-ingredient bar?

Written by the team at Dandelion Chocolate, Making Chocolate touches on all of these topics and then some, in a engaging, approachable way. This beautifully illustrated volume is for anyone who loves chocolate, from the gourmand looking for a single origin chocolate mousse recipe to the the budding professional who wants to start making chocolate at home.

As a chocolate educator, I rely on its show-stopping picture of cacao pods, drying beds, and plantations to bring context to my tastings. It’s also the only mainstream book I found that makes the less glamorous aspects of chocolate-making look fun: the reports of chocolate sourcerer Greg d’Alesandre are funny and the tech-inspired approach to roasting beans is fascinating. There’s a way the authors talk about machines that make you feel giddy about a roll mill. This is must-have if you ever dream of making chocolate at home.

Les secrets du chocolat by Franckie Alarcon

Les secrets du chocolat

Somewhere between a chocolate connoisseur manual (the author shares details about a cacao sourcing trip with Stéphane Bonnat) and a baking book (you’ll find a few recipes in there), this French graphic novel is the most entertaining chocolate book I’ve read to date. Playful yet informative, it is light enough to read after a long day at work, but serious enough to deepen your appreciation of chocolate.

Written through the lens of its author, French graphic novelist Franckie Alarcon, Les secrets du chocolat provides incredible insight on the philosophy behind the work of a great French chocolatier, Jacques Genin. If you can’t intern with Genin but read French, do yourself a favor and get this book! And if you don’t, you’ll enjoy this anecdote: Jacques Genin never tasted chocolate as a kid. As an adult, he worked as a pastry chef and, when becoming a dad, decided to work with chocolate so he’d make the best looking birthday cakes for his daughter. This is one of the many, many touching moments of the book.

Now, tell me, what are your favorite books about chocolate?

If you liked this article, sign up to my newsletter to be notified of future blog updates.

My French Book, v2.0

Estelle Livre Croissan
Look, I wrote a book!!

It’s been a little quiet here but for good reason: I launched the second edition of my French book! To say I am ecstatic is a huge understatement: from the content, updated after the “37 Chocolates” challenge, to the new cover, designed by Dan McShane, I am THRILLED at the improvements I have been able to bring to this edition. The book is a “food survival guide” for French expats in the US. It is written in French but printed in the US and, at the moment, exclusively sold online through a platform called Gumroad. It will make a great gift for the francophile in your life 🙂

A bit of background on the book. When I moved from France to the US in 2002, nothing had prepared me for the cultural shock I experienced at the grocery store. Milk was sold in the refrigerated section, there was no crème fraîche but a product called “sour cream”, flour was “all-purpose”, yeast dehydrated, and baking powder sold in ginormous containers. The first time I went to a grocery store on my own, I spent 2 hours reading labels.

blogger-image-318070440
Parliament Chocolate, a California-based bean-to-bar maker

The idea for my food survival guide was born 10 years ago, after I shared the result of my research on American dairy and baking products on my French blog. These posts inspired an actual book, which I first released in 2015.  In my book, I walk expats through two of the most daunting aisles of an American grocery store, namely, the dairy and baking aisles, then help them pick meat, eggs, potatoes (nope, there’s no Russett overseas), organic food, and, of course, chocolate. My goal is to give expats the keys to understand their new food environment so they can spend less time at the grocery store and more time enjoying their new American life.

The “37 chocolates” challenge had started as an offshoot of the book: if you remember, on the first video, I mention stumbling upon a grumpy expat’s comment online, who was complaining that American chocolate was bad. “I’ll show you”, I thought, and, at the last minute, made US-made bean-to-bar chocolate the focus of my challenge.

image
Dick Taylor is a bean-to-bar chocolate-maker I recommend in my book

Today, I am particularly proud of the chocolate section of the book, which I believe provides a blueprint for a casual chocolate eater to expand their horizon and start dipping their toes into the world of handcrafted, single origin chocolate.If you already like Lindt and Endangered Species, why not look for Theo, then move on to TCHO? You could then give Olive and Sinclair a try,  move on to Dick Taylor, before sailing off to your next chocolate adventure.

The last three makers are the newest additions to the chocolate section. I selected them for their chocolate-making style, which I believe will please French palates, as much as for the American touch they bring to their bars.  I love that TCHO calls its chocolate “new American chocolate” or that Olive and Sinclair uses brown sugar to sweeten their bars. This is my favorite kind of food, food that embraces its roots, does not pretend to be what it’s not, and  I hope my readers will give these bars a try.

What I really wish, though? Find the grumpy expat to make him sit through my 37 reviews.