SERIOUSLY BITTER SWEET The Ultimate Dessert Maker's Guide to Chocolate

Since 2003, the world of chocolate has grown exponentially and terms like “bittersweet” and “semisweet” no longer suffice as chocolatiers everywhere are making chocolates that are labeled with specific percentages of cocoa.

These days, people are accustomed to seeing chocolate labeled 54%, 61%, or 72% on grocery store shelves, but some bakers are still confused by what the labeling means and how to use it. In Seriously Bitter Sweet, Alice Medrich presents 150 meticulously tested, seriously delicious recipes—both savory and sweet—for a wide range of percentage chocolates. “Chocolate notes” appear alongside, so readers can further adapt any recipe using the percentage chocolate on hand. The book is a complete revision of Alice’s 2003 Bittersweet, which was named the 2004 IACP Cookbook of the Year. Since 2003, the world of chocolate has grown exponentially and terms like “bittersweet” and “semisweet” no longer suffice as chocolatiers everywhere are making chocolates that are labeled with specific percentages of cocoa.Alice clearly outlines the qualities of different chocolates as she explains how to cook with them. With tricks, techniques, and answers to every chocolate question, Seriously Bitter Sweet will appeal to a whole new audience of chocolate lovers

Alice Medrich is truly a star in the baking world, having won more cookbook-of-the-year awards and best in the dessert and baking category awards than any other author. She received her formal training at the prestigious Êcole Lenôtre in France, and is widely credited with introducing the chocolate truffle to the United States when she began making and selling them at her influential Berkeley dessert shop, Cocolat. She has since left the retail world, devoting much of her career to teaching and sharing her expansive knowledge about baking.


She is the author of Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies, Pure Dessert, and Chocolate Holidays. Her newest book, Seriously Bitter Sweet, is a complete revision of her 2003 IACP-prize-winning Bittersweet.


Deborah Jones‘s recent honors include Best Photography in a Cookbook from the James Beard Foundation for her work in Bouchon. A frequent contributor to national magazines, she conducts a parallel commercial career from her San Francisco studio.



Warm Mocha Tart




Serves 8 to 10


Two weeks of nonstop shortbread testing produced an unorthodox surprise: perfect shortbread made with melted butter. That shortbread became an exquisitely crunchy and flavorful base for lemon bars, a crust for cheesecake, and, ultimately, my favorite sweet tart crust. I even bake brownie batter on top of it. This remarkable crust barely shrinks in the pan, so there is no need to weight or even prick it before baking. To ensure that the bottom remains crunchy, bake the crust fully, to a deep golden brown, before pouring in the filling.


At the same time I was playing with the new tart crust, I was experimenting with different cocoas, tasting and comparing natural and Dutch-process in all kinds of recipes. Voilà, rich warm cocoa custard in the simplest crust. 


Special Equipment

9½-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom



For the Crust

7 tablespoons (100 grams) unsalted butter, melted

¼ cup (50 grams) sugar

⅛ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour


For the Filling

3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks

½ cup (100 grams) sugar

¼ cup (25 grams) premium unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process) (see Chocolate Note)

1 cup heavy cream

1¼ teaspoons instant espresso powder
(such as Medaglia d’Oro), or 1½ teaspoons instant coffee powder or crystals

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 large egg, lightly beaten


1.  Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.


2. To make the tart crust: Mix the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the flour and mix just until well blended. Don’t worry if the dough seems too soft. Press all of the dough very thinly and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan.


3.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown.


4.  Meanwhile, make the filling: Place the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and cream in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture is blended and smooth and begins to simmer around the edges. Remove from the heat and stir in the espresso powder and vanilla.


5.  Just before the crust is ready, whisk the egg thoroughly into the hot chocolate mixture.

6.  Pour the filling into the hot crust and turn off the oven. Leave the tart in the oven until it quivers like tender Jell-O in the center when the pan is nudged, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a rack.


7.  Serve the tart warm or at room temperature.



Espresso Walnut Tart: The same tart in a walnut cookie crust produces a subtler but still delicious effect. You could also make it with toasted skinned hazelnuts—then I would omit the espresso powder.


Reduce the butter to 6 tablespoons (85 grams) and add 2 teaspoons brandy and 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (or a heaping teaspoon instant coffee powder or crystals) with the sugar, salt, and vanilla. In a food processor, pulverize ⅓ cup (35 grams) walnut pieces with ¾ cup (105 grams) flour until fine. Substitute this mixture for the flour. Proceed as directed.


Chocolate Note

Either natural or Dutch-process cocoa works well here. The former has a livelier, more complex, fruity flavor, while the latter has a cozy old-fashioned flavor reminiscent of chocolate pudding. You choose.


Excerpted from Seriously Bitter Sweet by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013. Photographs by Deborah Jones.