Great Book of Chocolate

Review by Norene Gilletz

Everything you need to know about Chocolate

David Lebovitz is a chocolate maven. He nibbles chocolate every day – and he thinks you should, too! In his Great Book of Chocolate: The Chocoholic’s Guide with Recipes (Ten Speed Press), Lebovitz not only writes about the history of chocolate, he also provides resources for chocolate-lovers and presents the health benefits of chocolate. This tall, slender book is even shaped like a chocolate bar!

This is the book that chocoholics have been waiting for. His third cookbook, it includes Lebovitz’s personal collection of his best chocolate recipes, plus contributions from his favourite bakeries, chocolate shops, restaurants and chocolatiers. The mouthwatering recipes and pictures for Deep Dark Chocolate Truffles, Double Chocolate Soufflés, White Chocolate Custard with Raspberries and Triple-Chocolate Parfait will transport you to chocolate heaven.

Lebovitz lives in San Francisco and Paris. A former Chez Panisse pastry chef, he trained at the École Lenôtre in Paris and attended Callebaut College, a chocolate school in Belgium. Visit him at

In his chocolate primer, you’ll learn how to choose the best chocolate for the recipe you are preparing. He offers terrific tips for working with chocolate, including chopping, melting and tempering. You’ll find out why chocolate sometimes seizes (clumps up) and what to do when it does.

Lebovitz advises: “The rule of thumb is that if you need to melt chocolate with a liquid, there should be at least 25 per cent of the liquid to the chocolate. For example, if you melt 4 ounces of chocolate, you should have at least 2 tbsp. of liquid or butter. Adding too little liquid (or even butter, which is about 20 per cent water) will likely cause the chocolate to lose its smoothness and become a granular mass.”

I found Lebovitz’s tips on using the right chocolate extremely helpful. Did you ever wonder what kind of cocoa or chocolate to use in a recipe? Here is the maven’s advice: “Do not interchange natural cocoa powder for Dutch-process cocoa powder. Use what the recipe specifies. One is acidic and the other is alkali. If you don’t have Dutch-process cocoa, chocolate guru Nick Malgieri advises adding a pinch of baking soda to the cocoa powder.

Bitter chocolate is unsweetened chocolate. Bittersweet chocolate is sweetened, with added cocoa butter. Bitter and bittersweet chocolate behave very differently in recipes and are not interchangeable.”

A recipe for Katharine Hepburn’s brownies cropped up in Lebovitz’s files when he was selecting recipes for this book. He was told that at the time she was making them, they were considered as legendary as the woman herself. Hepburn’s recipe was fine as it was, but tastes have changed over the years, so Lebovitz tweaked it here and there, adding more chocolate as well as a handful of chocolate chips.

“I think she’d agree that Dave and Kate’s brownies are the product of a perfect partnership,” Lebovitz says.

These legendary brownies are easy to mix up with (or without) the kids over the holidays. Enjoy!


8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
½ tsp. vanilla extract
6 tbsp. all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped*
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Butter an 8-inch square cake pan and lightly dust it with flour, tapping out any excess. Adjust the oven rack to the centre of the oven and preheat to 325°F.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the chopped chocolate and stir over low heat until melted. Remove from the heat and mix in the sugar, then the eggs and vanilla.

Stir in the flour and salt, then the nuts and chocolate chips. Scrape the brownie mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 16 brownies.

Note: The original recipe said to cut the cooled brownies into neat squares and eat them right out of the pan. Or store them at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

*Toasting Nuts: Spread raw nuts on a baking sheet and toast in a preheated 350°F oven for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice to make sure they are browning evenly. To test doneness, snap open a nut: it should break cleanly and the inside should be lightly browned throughout. Taste a few to make sure the ones you are using are fresh tasting, as they can turn rancid easily.

* * *

Several attempts to come up with a great pudding cake made David realize that to get just the right texture, you need to bake it less than you think you do. When it’s done, it will still appear quite jiggly in the centre. You’ll swoon as you dive in. This dessert is a marriage of pure chocolate and coffee bliss. Serve warm, perhaps with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of sweetened whipped cream flavoured with coffee liqueur. What a wonderful way to bring in the new year before starting on that January diet!


1 cup all-purpose flour
1½ cups sugar
6 tbsp. plus ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tbsp. butter, melted
½ cup (125 ml) milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup (250 ml) hot, very strong, great-quality brewed coffee

Adjust the rack to the centre of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square cake pan or a 2-quart shallow baking dish.

Sift together the flour, 1 cup of the sugar, the 6 tbsp. cocoa, baking powder and salt.

In a medium bowl, mix together the eggs, melted butter, milk and vanilla. Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Mix together the remaining ½ cup sugar and the ¼ cup cocoa powder and sprinkle evenly over the top.

Pour the hot coffee over the cake batter, then bake for 25 minutes, until it appears just set around the edges yet still slightly jiggly in the centre.

Makes one 8-inch cake, 6 to 8 servings.

Great Book of Chocolate
by David Lebovitz
Ten Speed Press

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Norene Gilletz is a cookbook author, cooking teacher and food consultant. For information, call 416-226-2466 or visit her website at