Book Report: Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers
Because this is a time when we are supposed to be eating less and bestowing heart-shaped bonbons on our loved ones, consider the release of Debby Maugans's "Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers" a strategic blessing (St. Martin's Griffin/Thomas Dunne Books, Feb. 15, 2011; $21.99).
The 125-recipe paperback collection is the North Carolina author's follow-up effort to her popular 2005 "Small-Batch Baking." It marries techniques she has mastered with an ingredient that is never farther away than her bedside table; in the introduction, she confesses to eating a bite of a good bar every morning.
With the exception of those who must bake for the masses, these are recipes that work for everyone. Chocolate baklava is one of Maugans's favorite recipes in the book and mine, too; it's worth dealing with fussy phyllo dough. (Smaller sheets or wedges of phyllo available in Mediterranean markets are better suited for the job.) Her chocolate chip cookie recipe takes 20 minutes and yields a tidy sum: eight.
A note to those who do feed a crowd: The cake and quick bread recipes don't take kindly to upsizing. If you want to whip up two "in-a-can" cakes instead of one, mix and beat the ingredients in two separate bowls.
You'll want to keep a stash of 5-by-3-inch disposable aluminum loaf pans for making the easy Chocolate Lime Bread and German Chocolate Pound Cake; the latter is a fine example of a flavor combination that has been successfully and thankfully downsized.
Perhaps the most thoughtful parts of "Chocolate Lovers" are Maugans's storage tips, small-batch baking advice and equipment suggestions. She is admirably conscientious about "not wanting to tell people to throw away a can of coconut milk after opening it for two tablespoons."
And even with a chocoholic's palate, the author recommends nothing fancier than Ghirardelli.