Friday, October 21, 2005

Toasts with Chocolate and Fleur de Sel: SHF #13 (with bonus cookbook review!)


Meet Amanda Hesser's Toasts with Chocolate and Fleur de Sel. I chose the recipe because it embodies everything that I loved and hated about Cooking for Mr. Latte. Amanda Hesser is basically the anti-Nigella. In this single recipe--which is not really even a recipe, but a paragraph--she admonishes us to use "the best bittersweet chocolate you can find" and "the best extra virgin olive oil you own" and fleur de sel. She does note that, in absolutely desperate circumstances, you could probably make do with coarse sea salt.

Here's the thing: basically any combination of top of the line, best-available baguette, chocolate, olive oil, and fleur de sel is going to turn out tasty. But you don't do your reader much of a service if you imply that each of the ingredients must be absolute top quality. Of course, we'll all use the best we can, but what about when "the best extra virgin olive oil you own" is actually the store brand from Safeway, and (like your humble correspondent) it makes no claims about its virginity? Is it still worth making the recipe? Would these toasts perhaps be a fun novelty food if made with a Hershey's bar? No such information is forthcoming from Amanda. The fact that the book is filled with whimsical chick-lit drawings that depict Ms. Hesser as a fashion sketch do nothing to endear her to me either.

But here's where you have to give the book credit: The woman knows her food. And loves it. She readily admits to dreaming about beets. You've got to respect that. And the recipes that she included in the book are good. Really good. Every single one I've tried has been excellent and eye-opening. (I'll blog about the stellar "Single-girl salmon" later.)

The chocolate toasts were no exception. All the joy of a chocolate-covered pretzel, and ten times the class. And easy! Here's the "recipe":


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice a baguette into 1/4 inch slices. Put one little square of chocolate on each slice, arrange on a baking sheet, and pop it into your hot oven. When the chocolate is soft, but still holding its shape, remove from the oven, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on a tiny bit of salt. As Amanda reminds us, "the salt should enliven the flavor of the chocolate, not make it salty."

In the spirit of fairness (and Sugar High Friday experimentation), I also tried them with Hershey's Special Dark, defiled olive oil, and sea salt:


The Human Vacuum graciously performed a blind taste test. The results: One out of one eaters agreed that the Hershey's toasts were superior. (Actually, I prefered the snobby toasts, but the point is--Do whatever you want. They'll still be good.)

Happy Sugar High Friday!

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8 comments:

chronicler said...

I wish I had a nickel everytime, while making my entry, I thought why don't I just do the ultimate breakfast? Your entry is perfect, especially with the blind test!

Tina said...

Hmm, something to do when I'm craving chocolate and saltiness. I bet the olive oil adds a little kick too. Not sure if it beats this though: http://www.chuckwagondiner.com/pieiron/chocsand.html

michelle said...

I love your commentary and the experiment -- and the dish looks really good too! It seems so simple and yet, I bet it's all just amazing tasting together.

Katherine said...

Tina--I've actually had a version of the recipe in your link. They serve it at Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle. Of course, they charge $8 for the damn thing.-K

stef said...

yum! herme' does something similar with his chocolate chip cookie -- there's fleur de sel in it, i couldn't believe the first time i tasted it how good the chocolate and salt go together! and LOL -- your pic could have been taken in my kitchen -- i have the same ingredients in my pantry!

LisaSD said...

Simplicity is often the best...If you have good bread, you almost can't go wrong...

FRQSTR=18841713|18841713|18841713|18841713|18841713; BSUID=1; KIDYMD=#199175:EJ]C#209343:EJXA#206984 said...

Now that is... amazing! I would never have dreamed of doing anything like that! But then, in France we have salt-caramels. So, if one day I feel bold enough, I might even try the "recipe".

Luisa said...

Okay, I'm going to be contrary here. I know Miz Hesser can be pedantic to the point of annoying sometimes, but I do agree that she has a point about using gooood ingredients. I read somewhere once that Hershey's chocolate has, of all things, flour added to it for stabilizing or something crazy like that? Anyway, it sounds like you worked it out with your own ingredients just fine... ;) And yes, tell us about the single girl salmon! I've been meaning to make that recipe for a long time.