"Death by Chocolate," by Marcel Desaulniers

Pros: Fabulous chocolate; author has diabolical connections; precise, detailed directions; beautiful photos
Cons: So much for my diet; author has diabolical connections
Rating: 5 out of 5

First posted 8/7/2000

I must direct you to the back flap of the cookbook, where you will find a picture of author Marcel Desaulniers. This man is slender and looks quite happy and fit. I respectfully submit that no chef who makes such splendiferous desserts as these could possibly be thin unless he doesn’t eat his food (there’s that old “never trust a thin cook” saying) or he’d made a deal with the devil.

If he didn’t eat his own food, one would expect that the recipes in this cookbook wouldn’t be particularly good. (Hence that old saying.) After all, if you can’t taste things, adjust the seasoning, and check whether the new variation you tried works better than the last one, your recipes probably won’t come out very well.

That just leaves us with our deal-with-the-devil theory. Because trust me, these recipes are amazing. What, you don’t believe me? Then let’s take a little side trip.

The recipes

First of all, I’m sad to say that my taste buds and stomach can no longer handle a lot of things that they used to. You’d think I was growing old or something, and I’m not even 30 yet. Anyway, I mostly stay away from overly chocolate desserts now. They’re too rich, too overwhelming. I much prefer desserts that have some chocolate in them, but would not be labelled “chocolate desserts.”

If you’re like me, you’ll still find plenty to love in this cookbook. Take, for example, Sliced Blood Oranges with White Chocolate Sauce. Oh my heavens! How can you possibly go wrong with a sweet-tart dessert like that? Then you’ll find Caramel Banana Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. Wow! Fresh Berry Tulip with White Chocolate “Ice Cream” is spectacular, strewn with strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Chilled Orange Cappuccino Cream with Grated Chocolate could melt you straight into a puddle. No matter what your dessert fetish, you’ll find something for it here.

Whether or not you’re like me, you’ll still find the mostly-chocolate recipes to be hard to resist. Even I dive head-first into the Chocolate Chippy Crunch Souffle, or the Chocolate Harlequin Birthday Cake.

Each recipe comes with a delectable photo that will leave you reeling with choices. Do we make the Dark Chocolate and Pumpkin Cheesecake this weekend? Or the Tipsy Chocolate Pecan Crunch Ice Cream? Well, they both look beyond good.

And the wedding cake…oh my. We may end up making it for our wedding. Layers of cake with chocolate raspberry mousse, white chocolate buttercream icing, white chocolate ganache, and for decoration – chocolate grids, chocolate leaves, and fresh raspberries.

At first the recipes may look daunting. They’re long. A number of them take up two large pages. Don’t let this worry you, though. While some of these recipes are indeed complex, many of them are simple (how hard is ice cream, anyway? Just pour it in the machine and go). And the long pages of directions are a result of the author’s wish to detail every step with precision. We have yet to encounter confusion or missing steps, which other cookbooks often offer up. Included with the recipes are sections called “The Chef’s Touch” which offer tips, hints, and serving suggestions. Few of the recipes call for unusual ingredients (the blood orange recipe is one of them), and any equipment from the lists that you don’t have you can probably substitute for.

So much for the “he doesn’t eat his own food” theory. That brings us to…

The names (Or, further evidence for that deal-with-the-devil theory…)

Danielle’s Temptation. Caramel Rum Delerium Ice Cream Cake. Chocolate Demise. Chocolate Devastation. Chocolate Phantasmagoria (yum!). Double Mocha Madness. Death by Chocolate.

Still more evidence

Young Marcel apparently wanted to grow up to be a mortician.

You decide.

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