Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers

small-batch-baking.jpgThe best things come in small packages. In the case of “Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers,” the best chocolate things come in small packages. Author Debby Maugans perfected the art of baking for one or two people in her first book, “Small Batch Baking.” Realizing that the average recipe produced a larger quantity of the end product than a single person, or couple may want to eat, or be able to finish she revised recipes so that the serving sizes were more appropriate for one or two people. A pretty smart idea in and of itself.

Being the professed chocoholic she is, Maugans saw a need for a small-batch cookbook for chocolate lovers. And thank goodness she did! In the introduction to the book she explains that her go-to dessert choice is always something with chocolate. I couldn’t agree more. Out at a restaurant I always go for chocolate desserts over any others. Often I won’t have a dessert if there is nothing with chocolate in it. I, too, love chocolate and I know that I’m not alone. This is a book I’ll use often.

Smartly so, Maugans begins the book with a chapter called “Small-Batch Chocolate Baking Know-How” which explains everything you need to know to start small-batch baking. From the equipment needed, to ingredients and measuring techniques, to storage of ingredients, it’s all spelled out. Then the fun really begins. The chapters unfold from cakes and cupcakes; to pies, tarts, and cheesecakes; to puddings and soufflés; to muffins, scones, shortcakes, and loaves; to desserts that are “better with chocolate”; to holiday desserts, and finally liquid pleasures. I’d say the gamut of possibilities is well-covered. I knew Maugans was a serious chocolate lover in the chapter titled “Better with Chocolate” in which she takes desserts that are normally not made with chocolate and adds it. Cinnamon rolls with chocolate rolled up with the nuts and cinnamon sugar. Baklava with chocolate in the nut filling.

A good chocolate chip cookie recipe is worth its weight in gold – I mean, chocolate. Maugans’ recipe for “Simply the Best Small-Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies” is so good it might be the best small or large batch recipe around. Soft, gooey, super-chocolatey deliciousness, (yield 8 cookies). And I learned not to dip the measuring cup into the flour canister but to spoon the flour into the measuring cup and then level it off. I’ve been doing it wrong all these years. Other recipes I tried and loved were Classic Chocolate Cake, (yield 2 cakes, or 4 cupcakes); Chocolate Decadence Cheesecakes (yield 2 cheesecakes); Ultimate Brownies (yield 3 brownies), and Whole Wheat Chocolate Banana Bread (Maugans is right, chocolate added to banana bread is a revelation) (yield 1 loaf, 4 or 5 slices). There are plenty more I want to try including several recipes for ice cream cakes. One comment re the yields, Maugans uses recycled tin cans such as 8 oz., 14.5 oz., and 15 oz. tomato sauce, or bean cans in the cakes recipes hence the yield of 2 small, single-serving sized cakes. She has a few other tricks like this to make small-batch baking work.

If you live alone, or are a couple, and don’t want to make desserts that yield enough for a family of six – and you love chocolate – then “Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers” is for you. Actually, I’d say it’s for anyone who wants to reduce the size of their desserts, or dessert intake. With only eight chocolate chip cookies there will be none leftover to tempt a middle-of-the-night craving.

Happy small-batch baking!

Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers: Recipes for Cookies, Cakes, Pie, Tarts, Muffins and Scones. Debby Maugans. Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. $21.99. (340p) ISBN: 978-0-312-61224-5


Charles G. Thompson is a Los Angeles-based freelance food writer, whose reviews and stories can be found at his blog 100 Miles, an exploration of local sustainibility.