In late 2008, Robert Steinberg, co-author of this week's Cook the Book selection, finally succumbed to a two-decade battle with leukemia. Written with business partner John Scharffenberger, The Essence of Chocolate acknowledges Steinberg's bittersweet debt to the disease. For it was his diagnosis with the illness that drove the physician to apprentice himself to a small chocolatier in Lyon, to follow the trail of the cacao bean to Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago, and, in 1996, to co-found Scharffen Berger.
The Essence of Chocolate is an extraordinary book. It covers the history, cultivation, and lore of chocolate—and it does it in deft and lucid prose (before he was a doctor or a chocolate maker, Robert Steinberg was an English Literature major at Harvard) and with an appreciation for flavor and terroir that could only come from John Scharffenberger's experience as a winemaker. Add to that an all-star cast of recipe contributors, from Sherry Yard to Rose Levy Beranbaum, and you have a book that's unrivaled in richness and breadth.
Despite the caliber of the contributors, the focus of the recipe section is decidedly on chocolate, not the pastry arts; all of the recipes are well within the reach of the beginner cook. There's even a handful of savory uses for chocolate, and, unusually for a chocolate cookbook, none of them feel contrived. Starting with today's baked hot chocolate, we'll be bringing you a whole week of Scharffen Berger recipes: Come back for homemade chocolate liqueur, David Lebovitz's four-ingredient orbit cake, and three-bean chocolate chili. —Michele Humes
Win 'The Essence of Chocolate'
Courtesy of Hyperion Books, we are giving away five (5) copies of The Essence of Chocolate. In the comments below, just tell us the most unforgettable chocolate dessert you've ever tasted.
Contest will end and comments will close at 3 p.m. ET, Monday, February 16, 2009. One entry per community member. The standard Serious Eats contest rules apply.