Pros: Exquisite; delicious; unusual; adventurous; nifty informational tidbits; beautiful photos
Cons: FATTENING; many drinks require espresso
Rating: 5 out of 5
I’m a sucker for good chocolate and coffee drinks, and I was bowled over by Michael Turback’s Hot Chocolate recipe compilation. This was about as far as you could get from Swiss Miss—we’re talking melted bittersweet chocolate, heavy cream, and flavorings as diverse as cinnamon, vanilla, cayenne, and sake. Hot chocolate for the adventurer at heart.
Thus it was that when Turback’s Mocha showed up on my doorstep, I admit I allowed it to cut in line in my accumulated pile of review books. Unlike Hot Chocolate, this isn’t just a beverage book—it includes mocha-flavored desserts as well as mocha drinks.
I have only a couple of quick warnings, so I’ll get them out of the way first, as they’re the least part of my assessment of this book. First, yes, these are fattening recipes. They’re filled with sugar, heavy cream, etc. That much is probably pretty obvious from the subject of the cookbook. Even if you’re being super-careful with your fat and sugar intake, though, they can make great special occasion drinks; many of them are meant to be drunk in very small amounts.
Second, some of these are every bit as adventurous in nature as the drinks in Hot Chocolate. One recipe, Mokka Peppar, includes paprika, cayenne, and cracked peppercorns. I discovered from that previous book that these sorts of recipes can be quite delicious, but they aren’t everyone’s cup of… well, mocha.
And finally, many of these do require espresso as an ingredient, and I daresay most folks don’t have an espresso machine at home. If you don’t mind substituting with espresso made from instant espresso you can do that, but most of these recipes will work perfectly well with strong-brewed coffee as well. So this too is not particularly a hindrance.
As for the plusses… well, let’s just say I’m sighing happily as I think back on the recipes we’ve made from this book. One of the most memorable was a layered recipe of tapioca, homemade chocolate ice cream, and coffee. YUM! Chapters include simply drinks, cocktails (drinks with booze in them), and desserts, and the book is sprinkled with tidbits of information, history, and lore, as well as plenty of pithy quotes.
This is a gourmet book, with recipes from skilled chefs and baristas around the world, and so recipes do include some ingredients that you might have trouble locating. On the other hand, it isn’t that difficult to think of substitutes that will make for perfectly delicious mocha drinks if you can’t find something or don’t want to pay its price. Similarly, although chefs provide suggestions for specific brands and even varietals of chocolate to use, there’s no reason not to use your own favorite. The suggestions are simply there in case you want to experience the chef’s idea of the perfect pairing.
Obviously, as with most mocha drinks, individuals’ taste will vary in terms of things like sweetness, amount of liquor, and dairy content. However, these are all quite easy to adapt to your liking.
This is a delightful book that produces delicious results. The photos are beautiful, the information is fascinating, and the recipes produce uniformly amazing results. Whether you want to make elegant, traditional mocha drinks such as Bicerin Classico, complex and beautiful affairs such as Night in Casablanca—which includes a recipe for making your own cardamom marshmallows from scratch—or decidedly modern desserts like Buzz Cupcakes, you’ll find something completely delectable in here!