Review of “Chocolate & Vanilla” by Gale Gand


Gale Gand is a pastry chef well known to lucky people in the Chicago area. (Chef Gand has been recognized as Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year by The James Beard Foundation and by Bon Appetite magazine and has been inducted into the Chicago Chefs Hall of Fame.) What I like best about her is that her recipes are very, very simple, requiring not many ingredients and not many steps. If you are a dessert person, and especially a chocoholic, this book is worth it for the pictures alone!

Of course, the recipes are great, and she provides background info as well. In the chocolate section for example (the book reverses – one half devoted to chocolate and one to vanilla), you can read about the history of the cacao bean (and even how to pronounce it – ka-kow for the tree or its beans, and ko-ko for the products from them). She gives background on how to buy chocolate and how to work with it. The vanilla section has analogous information, which is especially useful because there are a lot of products out there purporting to be “vanilla extract,” and she tells you how to evaluate them.

And what about the recipes? I haven’t tried them all, but I’ve even enjoyed just reading them and imagining. My favorites (so far) are “Best-Ever Fudgy Brownies,” “Hot Chocolate Pudding,” “Lemon-Vanilla Pound Cake,” and “Individual Lemon-Vanilla Pudding Cakes.” And again, they are short and easy.

Vita’s Ricotta Doughnuts - tender-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside doughnuts

Vita’s Ricotta Doughnuts – tender-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside doughnuts

Before each recipe she provides a short anecdote about how it, such as the fudge she made for a restaurant opened by Oprah, or why she uses vinegar in her chocolate cupcakes.

My only question to her would be why she occasionally includes corn syrup in her recipes, like for hot fudge sauce. (This book is from 2006 – it might be that she no longer advocates its use.) And then there are her unrealistic comments like “The [hot fudge] sauce keeps in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.” Ha ha! As if hot fudge sauce would ever last that long in my house!

Otherwise, this is a cookbook to savor – for the pictures, the recipes, and of course, the actual results of following her quick and easy directions.

Chocolate Almond Upside-Down Cake - chocolate cake with a gooey-nutty topping -

Chocolate Almond Upside-Down Cake – chocolate cake with a gooey-nutty topping –

She has quite a few other cookbooks as well – you can see them on her website, here.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2006


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13 Responses to Review of “Chocolate & Vanilla” by Gale Gand

  1. Beth F says:

    I might have to give her another try. I was disappointed with the one book of hers I checked out of the library. Maybe I’ll get this one next.

  2. Did you mention chocolate? I’m in!

  3. Rachel says:

    This sounds like a great cookbook for me. My house is a house divided in terms of chocolate vs. vanilla lovers. I am firmly on team chocolate!

  4. Rita K says:

    Totally sounds like your kind of book! I have barely opened the pie one yet, but plan on reading all of it.

  5. Suko says:

    These desserts look scrumptious, and I’m glad that you say they’re simple! 🙂

  6. Katherine P says:

    This looks delicious and I love that her desserts are fairly simple to make. So often books by pastry chefs are filled with recipes that are so complicated that I know I probably won’t be attempting them. Plus, my mouth is now watering at the idea of the lemon vanilla poundcake and all that chocolate!

  7. Vicki says:

    I’m a chocoholic so…

  8. Col Reads says:

    Hot Chocolate Pudding? Sign me up!

  9. I’ll have to check this book out of the library!

  10. mae says:

    Corn syrup that you buy for your own use may be less highly processed than HFCS that’s in beverages and so on. It does provide good texture or mouth feel in some recipes. Couldn’t you use maple syrup? Or agave syrup?

    best…. mae at

  11. Those ricotta donuts look yummy.

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