"White Chocolate," by Janice Henderson

Pros: Fabulous; beautiful; delicious; easy!
Cons: These recipes are a bit on the fancy/gourmet side, if that bothers you
Rating: 5 out of 5

First published 4/20/2004

I know there’s been a lot of debate over whether “white chocolate” is really chocolate at all. I make a pretty simple distinction, for my own benefit. If it has cocoa butter in it, then it’s white chocolate. If it doesn’t, it’s “white chips” or “confectionery coating” or any of another dozen names that companies have come up with to make you think that imitation white chocolate is actually white chocolate. (Lesson #1: check the ingredient list carefully.) And yes, there is a difference in taste and texture. (Lesson #2: if you think you don’t like white chocolate, make sure you were really eating white chocolate.)

“White Chocolate,” by Janice Henderson, will provide you with dozens of ways to turn white chocolate into elegant, knock-your-socks-off desserts. If you want to impress your guests, this is definitely the way to do it! After all, everyone makes chocolate desserts, but many people haven’t yet ventured into the world of white chocolate. Thus, simply by using this wonderful, delicious ingredient you can make your cooking seem exotic and elegant.

The book starts off with the obligatory informational sections you should find in any ingredient-based cookbook. There’s a section that explains what white chocolate is and what it isn’t (how to recognize imitations, or “summer coatings”). The author talks a bit about how white chocolate is made, differences between brands, what happens when you bake it (particularly the differences between it and chocolate when baking with it), its natural affinities (things it goes particularly well in or with, like cheesecakes), She describes how you melt white chocolate (both in the microwave and on the stove), which is handy because white chocolate is very heat-sensitive and will seize at the least provocation. Then, of course, you’ll find ingredient and equipment notes.

Mousses and Terrines: One of my favorite ways to enjoy white chocolate is in chilled, cloud-like desserts. The white chocolate mousse with blueberry sauce in here is one of the most stunning mousses I’ve ever had, and it’s surprisingly simple. The author even includes make-ahead instructions so that you can more easily bring it out at the last minute for guests. Ms. Henderson doesn’t stop at just one mousse, though. The orange white chocolate mousse is quite good as well, and the vanilla white chocolate mousse is to-die-for! It’s hard to choose which is better, though–the mousses, or the white chocolate dumplings in strawberry soup.

Cakes, Cheesecakes, and Tortes: Sure, there are plenty of white chocolate cakes in here, and even a white chocolate lemon-orange roulade (which is not one of the simple recipes–this is definitely a show-stopper!). And who could resist the strawberry shortcake with white chocolate strawberry chantilly? (When our strawberries ripen this summer, I know what we’re doing with them…) But let’s face it. This entire chapter could consist solely of the white chocolate cheesecake with dark chocolate crust and you probably would have gotten your money’s worth out of this entire book. It’s so good that after the first time we served it at Thanksgiving, several of our guests requested it in advance every year thereafter!

Pies, Pastries, and Breads: White chocolate pecan pie? White chocolate cannoli? Delicious petit pains (oh they’re so delicious…)? Or maybe you’d prefer the white satin tart, or the white chocolate cinnamon bread. It’s hard to lose with this cookbook!

A Hint of White Chocolate: There’s a tri-chocolate terrine, and Riesling-poached pears with white chocolate ganache. The filo-wrapped bananas may sound odd, but definitely give them a chance! And of course, how could a white chocolate cookbook be complete without fondue? You’ll even find a recipe for chocolate ice cream with white chocolate truffles.

And that isn’t all. I didn’t even touch on Souffles, Puddings, and Crepes, or Cookies, Brownies, Quick Breads, and Confections. And believe it or not, there’s yet more: Ice Cream, Frozen Desserts, and Beverages. Followed, of course, by a handy index.

Recipes are laid out well, with clear, numbered instructions. Ingredient lists are easy to read. We’ve never once had a problem making these recipes, or found any mistakes; they seem to have been very well kitchen-tested! There are only a handful of color photos–sadly so, because these are gorgeous recipes.

This sadly out-of-print cookbook can be hard to find, but it’s worth spending the time to hunt down a used copy. Ms. Henderson notes that white chocolate can actually fulfill four distinct roles in cooking–main flavoring, supporting flavoring, texture enhancer, and sweetener–and this cookbook showcases every possible use of its main ingredient. If you enjoy entertaining at home, if you like to make something stunning in the kitchen now and then, or if you just want to be bowled over by the best taste sensations white chocolate has to offer, then you owe it to yourself to look for this cookbook.p>

Posted in Cooking, Reviews

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