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November 17, 2010

Gift Guide: For Chocolate Lovers

This post is brought to you by Lindt's Lindor Truffles. When its smooth center starts to melt, so will you.

Sure, there are chocolate-of-the-month clubs and ready-made gift baskets, but why not get something a little different for the chocolate fiend in your life? From secret ingredients to exotic vacations, here's a selection of seven unique, chocolatey holiday gift ideas.

Book Review: 'The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised' by Maricel Presilla

"Relevant to armchair cacao historians and budding chocolate geeks alike."

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Ever think about how much work goes into this baby? [Photograph: Liz Gutman]

20101110-chocolatecover.jpgThere are endless ways to categorize books on chocolate. Professional vs. home cooks; academic vs. flashy; or cookbooks vs. history books. Maricel Presilla's The New History Of Chocolate, Revised falls somewhere in the middle of...well, everything.

The book is divided into four main sections, with recipes at the end. The first, "A Natural and Cultural History of Chocolate," is just that: an accounting of the earliest evidence of what we know as Theobroma cacao (which dates back to 500 BCE, in case you were wondering) up to present day. There are a lot of really interesting and specific details here; if you're a newcomer to chocolate history, this is a great intro. Old maps, hieroglyphs, and photos of relics make it visually interesting as well.

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Banana Bread: Don't Fuss with Grandpa Rozzy's Recipe

"Or, if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

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Looking good so far... [Photograph: Molly Gilbert]

Some of food's greatest dishes are born out of a necessity to get rid of stuff that's past its prime. French toast, for example, or cobblers. Anything pickled and anything stewed. But today I'm going to talk about the humble, the unsung, the delicious, banana bread; and my particular history with it.

Now, it wasn't that we only made banana bread when we had mushy bananas. No, no. Those bananas often went into the freezer for smoothies later. We really only had banana bread when there were mushy bananas, and my grandpa was staying with us, as he did for six months out of the year when I was a kid.

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The Best and Worst of Halloween Candy

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See, the pumpkin-shaped ones, when they're fresh...no? [Flickr: juushika]

Oh, Halloween. The one day of the year where you knock on strangers' doors and demand free candy. Well, I guess you could do that any day, but on Halloween you'll actually get it. There is an overwhelming variety of special spookily themed treats, but I've divided them into four arbitrary categories (the stalwarts, seasonal chocolates, all-sugar-all-the-time, and gross-out candy) and picked my favorite and least favorite in each. Are you with me?

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Scotch Pairings with Chocolate

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So where's the chocolate? [Photograph: wsimmons on Flickr]

This had to be one of my favorite Serious Chocolate columns to write: a scotch and chocolate pairing session with Marcia of Sip Smoke Savor. She sent me seven bottles of nice single malt scotch, a box of nine Chuao chocolates, and guided me through the pairing. It was very edifying, especially for someone like me who has long been intimidated by single malt scotch ("do you detect a hint of saddle leather, Wilfred?" "Quite so, Algernon, quite so").

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