It’s the end of the year. Holiday season. And the season for very special cookbooks.

Some cookbooks really are special. And some are quite exceptional. Ferrandi Paris Chocolate is exceptional.

Ferrandi Paris is officially titled The French School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management. Le Monde calls the school the “Harvard of Gastronomy.” That’s probably an understatement. The school was founded in 1920 and offers unparalleled excellence in all aspects of culinary education.

The ultimate in cooking techniques is — do I have to say this? — chocolate. Chocolate is a wonder, a demanding wonder. It can be unforgiving, frustrating, and surely formidable.

This is a one-stop chocolate book. From basics to exceptional conceptions, this book can be your single guide to using chocolate in a flotilla of recipes. Now, there are other one-stop chocolate books. How does this compare? Most favorably. I really mean this is a book you can sit down with, begin with the basics and work your way up the chocolate ladder.

You can quickly succeed with a Marble Loaf Cake:

Ah, now, it is going to take some time to refine the skills to make this Black Forest Gateau:

But if you have patience and time, you can explore Chocolate one chapter at a time, one recipe at a time. Enjoy the journey. And, of course, lick those fingers.

There are four chapters to the book:

Equipment discusses everything from thermometers to chocolate melters to immersion blenders. You won’t need everything from day one, but you will see that chocolate cooking has soared in terms of technology.

Chocolate: The Essentials literally takes you from beans to bar. Chocolate is NOT simple. The terminology can be confusing — cacoa versus cocoa — and the classification of chocolate seems to bounce around like a bowl of Jello. Dark and milk and white we know about. But couverture or cocoa paste? Chocolate gives you a short, informative tour.

Techniques covers almost 100 pages. What are the basic skills you need for working with chocolate? What special needs are there when making creams and sauces, doughs and pastries, bonbons and confections, or superior decorations? For example, the section on Chocolate Puff Pastry is three pages long with nine steps and eight color photographs. Working with Chocolate, you are almost right there in Paris, in class. This book wants you to succeed. If a book can hold your hand, Chocolate is that book.

Recipes covers almost 180 pages. There are sections for:

  • Molded and Hand-Dipped Bonbons
  • Chocolate Bars
  • Chocolate-Flavored Beverages
  • The Classics
  • Individual Cakes and Desserts
  • Gateaux and Celebration Cakes
  • Plated Desserts
  • Frozen Desserts

In the Classics section, you’ll find cakes and cookies and souffles. It’s the chapter you will live in

But, but, be sure to visit the Chocolate-Flavored Beverages. The hot chocolate recipes here are going to give you something very, very close to Angelina’s in Paris. Oh, you don’t know about Angelina? The best. Ever. And here in Chocolate you are invited to sample the best. To make the best, yourself, at home. It’s a glory.

The book is published by Flammarion and no expense has been spared. The paper and typography are superior. The layout is spacious and comfortable. Look, chocolate can be intimidating. This book is welcoming.

And, that paper quality is important. It lets the 250 photographs by the most talented Rina Nurra sparkle.

Everyone who has collaborated on Chocolate deserves our congratulations. You deserve to give the book a spin. Looking for holiday presents for foodies? This is the one. And, don’t forget to give yourself a present, too.

The hot chocolate. Start there. Maybe with a slab of that Marble Loaf Cake!