Chocolate books to die for

Chocoholics, rejoice!

That for which you crave is at hand, on page after page after page of incredible, heart-arresting recipes. So bountiful is the selection of rich and silky indulgences that even chocolate-addicted hedonists would cry out: "Enough!"


Clearly head and shoulders above the rest are "Death by Chocolate: The Last Word on a Consuming Passion," by Marcel Desaulniers (Rizzoli, 144 pages, $25), and "The International Chocolate Cookbook," by Nancy Baggett (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 287 pages, $40).

The latter, a lovely book, came out late last year, but it is so good it deserves mention over and over again. Ms. Baggett traveled the Western world for chocolate lore and 125 glorious recipes, each of which she explores in great detail. The publisher would have you believe novices could duplicate many of her creations; I don't think so, but they'd have one heck of a happy time trying.


The same is somewhat true for "Death by Chocolate" by the talented executive chef at the Trellis Cafe Restaurant & Grill in Williamsburg, Va. There, we are told, more than five tons of chocolate are used in desserts annually.

Mr. Desaulniers spends a little more time on instructions, including some helpful step-by-step drawings on unique procedures. Consequently, his book is easier to cook from.

"Truffles, Candies & Confections: Elegant Candymaking in the Home," by Carole Bloom (Crossing Press, 202 pages, $22.95), is written by a chocolatier at heart, but Ms. Bloom does dabble in other flavors. She also is an excellent instructor.

This absolutely scrumptious -- and easy -- dessert from "Death by Chocolate" was created by the mother of Trellis' assistant chef, Jon Pierre Peavey.

Mom's chocolate chip date cake

Makes 12 to 18 servings.

1 1/2 cups water

2 cups chopped dates (1 8-ounce package)


1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 pound plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar


2 eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup walnut pieces

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Heat the water in a 2 1/2 -quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Place the chopped dates and 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a stainless steel bowl. Pour the boiling water over the dates, and allow to stand until needed.


Coat a 9-by-13-by-2-inch cake pan with 1 tablespoon of butter. Flour the pan with 1 tablespoon of flour and shake out the excess. Set aside until needed.

Combine 1 3/4 cups flour, cocoa, remaining baking soda, and salt in a sifter. Sift onto waxed paper and set aside.

Combine 1 cup sugar and the remaining butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. Beat on medium for 2 minutes, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat on high for 1 minute, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating on high for 15 seconds after the addition of each egg, and scraping down the bowl after each addition. After the eggs have been incorporated, beat on high for 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl.

Add the vanilla extract and beat on medium for 15 seconds. Scrape down the bowl. Add the sifted flour mixture and beat on low for 20 seconds. Add the cooled date mixture and continue to beat on low for 20 seconds, then on medium for 10 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to thoroughly combine. Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly, including the corners. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup sugar over the top of the batter. Bake in the center of the heated oven for 20 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips and then the walnut pieces over the top of the batter. Return the cake to the oven and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature, about 30 to 40 minutes. Refrigerate the cake for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Leaving the cake in the pan, use a serrated slicer to cut the cake lengthwise across the center. To yield 12 portions, make 5 cuts across the width of the cake at 2 1/4 -inch intervals. For 18 servings, cut the cake lengthwise into equal thirds, then make 5 cuts across the width of the cake at 2 1/4 -inch intervals.