I am a firm believer that if a product is put out there into the world then, if it can be beautiful, it most absolutely should be. And since the opening of their chocolate salon on the Champs Elysées, Ladurée seem to have embraced this idea with gusto. Not only are their stores exquisitely beautiful, but so is their food. In a Ladurée house, one can find jewel-bright macarons and sumptuous sorbets finished with the finest twists of deep, dark chocolate.
And Ladurée’s latest book – Chocolat: The Art of the Chocolatier: Les Marquis de Ladurée – is no exception to this. It comes packaged almost like a box of chocolates itself, in a beautiful blue and gold box. The book’s ivory covers mimic the walls of the Ladurée salons, which are decorated with acanthus leaves.
The book’s author, journalist Serge Gleizes, writes with an almost hypnotising beauty. When he discusses the characteristics of chocolate from different regions, he describes a “waltz of flavours”. Talking about why we like to share chocolates with friends, he says it is less about generosity, more a way to “lure more accomplices into the divine sin”. His enthusiasm for his subject is infectious. Serge makes us love chocolate – as if we needed persuading.
Learn here around Marie Antoinette’s penchant for orange blossom chocolate, or why Colombus made the mistake of throwing a gift of cocoa beans into the sea. There is a wonderful story about the invention of one particular chocolate favourite… ‘Ganache!’ was the insult hurled at the young apprentice who first poured hot cream over chocolate – it was an accident, as so many great discoveries are. Interspersed between the reams of history, the science and the stories are wonderful quotes about chocolate, gorgeous maps, and ancient illustrations. And then, of course, we come to the recipes…
You might wish to try making some of the treats that would be perfect for an afternoon tea: roses des sables (crunchy little messes of chocolate, raw almond slivers and candied lemon peel), chocolate financiers, or striped and show-stopping chocolate raspberry verrines. There are also some hearty little puds, such as a chocolate rice pudding or a crème brûlée, that would be just the thing after a wintery supper.
Most of the recipes have ingredients you could pick up at any corner store – a little honey, double cream, dark chocolate, a handful of hazelnuts and raisins. Even less common ingredients such as cocoa butter and glucose syrup, which cause a beat of panic when spotted on an ingredients list, can be found online pretty easily, if you can’t find track down locally.
I decided to test the coconut-flavoured truffles. These are made in three stages. On day one we must make and set the ganache, before shaping this into balls on day two. On the third day, the truffles are dipped into white chocolate and coated with powdered coconut. At first I thought the recipe was a little off for a home chef – most of the sweet recipes make almost 200 bonbons or truffles. I made a fraction of the recipe but needn’t have worried – they were gobbled as soon as they were put down. The full amount, I am certain, would have been poached almost as quickly. Worth the three days of effort, for sure.
White chocolate and passion fruit macarons await the next time the urge to bake hits, and the chocolate whipped cream – the picture of which made my mouth physically begin to water – assures me that this is a cookbook that will be revisited many times in years to come. Lavishly presented, beautifully written, and a joy to own, this is a flawless cookbook.
Serge Gleizes’ Chocolat: The Art of the Chocolatier: Les Marquis de Ladurée is published by Scriptum Editions and available to buy online here.