Les Truffes Au Chocolat - Dark Chocolate Truffles

December 28, 2009

Les Truffes Au Chocolat

I hope that you had a good holiday break, celebrating or just spending time relaxing, hopefully without pipes and heaters freezing on you because of a blizzard. Our holiday was quiet, loud, lovely and reflective all at once. Christmas wasn't anything huge or terribly fancy this year but we are lucky to have love and health, our couple and our families here and afar. It was filled with many heart warming and unexpected moments throughout the day, making it truly a wonderful time. And in my family, it's not Christmas without a batch of Truffes Au Chocolat. Really.

Seeing my nieces via webcam on Christmas Eve preparing for the "reveillon" twirling in their pretty new dresses, their hair held tight by shimmering headbands was a moment as delicious as cracking the crust of creme brulees. Watching my brother, their dad, the one who used to hide in my closet to scare me at night, this proud and gentle with his daughters was a moment to savour.

Making Truffles
On Christmas day, I had a very much needed webcam moment with my mom. To prevent us from getting emotional, we had the toddler caroling for us but I know exactly what we were thinking about: my late brother and grandmother, reveillons dinners lasting until 3am, my uncles practical jokes, my grandmother's marzipan stuffed dates and making chocolate truffles.

Lots of you commented how much you liked learning about other people's cultures and traditions that may be completely different or somewhat similar than your own. I'm the same way. It makes the world go round really. I visited lots of blogs these past few days and like you, enjoyed reading about others' traditions or important moments. In my family, there is no Christmas without a good dose of chocolate and chocolate truffles to be exact. Wether we make, eat or give them.

Les Truffes Au Chocolat
Christmas preparations were always made between my grandmother and my mother around a cup of tea and a slice of cake. When I was six or so, I complained I had nothing to do, pulled out a magazine and told them I would make chocolate truffles, like the ones in the ad for Van Houten cocoa. I was actually secretely trying to find the source for the ones my grandmother's friend, Suzanne, used to make. They were so different than ours. Creamier, sweeter, richer.

Every year we would go from Aix to Paris to spend Christmas with my grandparents, and a visit to Suzanne and her husband was always on the agenda. I loved their small apartment beside the bicycle shop. It always smelled as if beef Bourguignon was on the stove. We would enter, quickly marvel at the tree and impatiently wait for Suzanne to get the big silver tin filled with chocolate truffles. One for each and two for our parents. Except my parents never saw any of them. The truffles never made it this far.

Les Truffes Au Chocolat
As years went by, many truffle recipes came between Suzanne's and me. She passed away, so did my grandmother. One day, I did find a scribbled piece of paper in my grandma's recipe box reading "Les truffes de Suzanne". My heart skipped a beat. The proportions seeemed right but there were no instructions. I know chocolate, I know truffling. "Can't be that hard" I thought. I got close but there always seemed to be something missing. I made five batches the week I found the recipe. Bill was a trooper and sampled them all, each time finding the new batch as good and decadent as the last.

After he sampled the last one, I plopped next to him on the sofa and mumbled "something's missing". That's when he pointed out the obvious. They were missing: Paulette, my grandmother and her pal Suzanne. Indeed, many things had changed since that time. Life had changed us but those memories also gave us the essence of who we were now as adults. He also was quick to say that I could stop my quest for that particular truffle recipe if I wished but he hoped I didn't while rubbing his belly in a facetious way.

This recipe for Truffes Au Chocolat is so far the closest I have gotten to Suzanne's and by the look on everyone's face the other day, I'm inclined to think it could be the best so far. I am not done tweaking it so who knows what next year's batch of truffles will bring...

Chocolate Truffles:

8 1/4 oz (250gr) bittersweet dark chocolate (chopped, broken, or chips)
1 stick (115gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks
1 cup (125gr) powdered sugar, unsifted
cocoa powder for dusting

Melt the chocolate in a large bowl set over a pot of simmering water (make sure that the bowl fits snuggly over the pot so that very little steam escapes). Stir occasionaly.
Remove from the heat and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Stir until completely incorporated. Add the egg yolks and powdered sugar whisking until the batter is smooth.
Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
When ready to roll, scoop out balls of ganache with a spoon, roll them in between your palms fairly quickly and set them on a baking sheet. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day, roll them in the cocoa powder and keep refrigerated until ready to eat.
Yields 35 to 45 truffles, depending on size.

Wishing You The Sweetest Of Holidays!

December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

In the midst of all the Christmas preparations in our kitchen and I am sure in yours, I wanted to take the time to wish you a very Merry Christmas and plenty of joy and happiness this holiday season.

In my family we celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with two big dinners. In B's family, it's only Christmas Day. His is small-ish, mine is big. Huge actually. Nowadays, we are doing a bit of both even if I am not home and he indulges me in some of my traditions, like the Provencal 13 desserts and listening to "La Pastorale des Santons de Provence". Yes, baby Jesus was born in Provence and his parents spoke with the accent. You didn't know?! No Christmas is complete without it and in the 30 something years I have been around, I have had plenty of time to learn each character by heart.

Until my grandmother passed away, Christmas Eve dinner was held at my grandparents' house after church and we would go *all* out. Christmas Day's traditions were a bit more low key as it was the "in-laws" day, meaning my uncles and ant would go visit their in laws during the day and come back for dinner. Those who were without in-laws would make their way to my parents' house for lunch for macaroni, butter, parmesan and a plate of charcuterie. Came 8pm and we would have a Christmas Day dinner usually revolving around a buffet of regional delicacies.

One of our holiday traditions is to make a visit to our favorite chocolatiers, "Les Chocolats Colas" in the town of Maule. True chocolate artists making the most intricate as well as delicious chocolate creations. We usually get a few pieces to take home but we really go there for their chocolat chaud. More like ganache chaude really. Indeed, the chocolate is so rich and so thick that it is served in small espresso cups. Trust me, that is plenty. Strong, spiced just right and silky all the way down to your toes.

As part of my holiday rituals of listening to La Pastorale while baking, I always make sure to fix us a batch of hot chocolate albeit a little lighter than the one we have at the Colas chocolate shop when we go home. B. likes to have a handful of marshmallows in his hot chocolate but I really find store bought ones to be tasteless and gritty. Ok, so they can be gooey mess, marshmallows are so easy to make at home, it's worth it trying them at least once.

Both recipes for our favorite creamy and rich hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows after the bump.

Tonight's dinner will be with some of our closest friends around some French regional delicacies. Low key, reflective and quiet. Just what I like.

Thank you for your readership throughout the years. You cry and laugh with me and everytime I come here and spill some goodies, I feel like having coffee with some good friends. Thank you!

Hot Chocolate:
6 oz (180gr) semisweet chocolate (chips or chopped)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
pinch of ground cloves

Place the chocolate in a large bowl. Set aside.
In a large saucepan set over medium heat, bring the milk and cream to a simmer. Remove from the heat and slowly pour the hot liquid over the chocolate. Let the mixture stand for 2 minutes then slowly whisk the mixture until completely smooth. add the spices, stir and serve with the marshmallows.

Vanilla Marshmallows:
1/4 cup (60ml) water
1/4 cup (60ml) light corn syrup
3/4 cup (170 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
2 egg whites, room temperature
1 whole vanilla bean, split open and seeded

Line a 8X8 baking pan with plastic wrap. Spray lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle lightly with some cornstarch, shake the excess off.
In a medium saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites. Add the vanilla seeds and continue whipping until stiff. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and let set 24 hours at room temperature. Unmold and cut squares with a hot knife.

Poached Pear And Almond Fallen Souffle Cakes

December 21, 2009

Poached Pear Almond Souffle Cakes

All weekend long I kept hearing about the snow falling down, heavy and thick in some places, watery and clumpy in some others. Friends here were making hot cocoa and shoveling driveways. My parents back home in France were describing the park in our village as wearing a light dusting of snowflakes. Here, we started to wonder if we would spend Christmas day in shorts like we did last year. Probably not but neither Bill nor I have put on coats yet this year. Indeed, we finally had signs of Fall. In December.

I have long understood that the South beats to a different rythm. It's in the air. Literally. It suits my personality just fine. Winter breeze at 5am and reddish-brown leaves still falling, blanketing the yard by 5pm. Winter citrus sharing shelf space with Fall pears and apples at the market. I just felt compelled to fill my basket with the juiciest mini d'Anjour pears I could find, go home and make these gluten free Poached Pear and Almond Fallen Souffle Cakes.

Baking With Pears

One thing I have inherited from my mother and grandmother (beside the all-in-or-nothing temperament) is their love for poaching fruits in the colder month and using them in all sorts of desserts. I don't really care what the thermometer reads outside lately. I am a bit homesick. It's the holidays. I'm poaching. As I told Bill "French Christmas carols and lots of poached fruits - deal with it!". His eyes lit up and he replied "let me pull out some pillows and we can cozy up and you can tell me all about all the Christmases of your childhood." Love that man.

Fo us, one of the many joys of being in a relationship is to share just about everything. Even a bad cold. I don't mind having a cold. I do mind when it hovers between cold and flu with fever, aches and chills but without knocking you down completely. This thing we have been sharing back and forth has been lowering all our levels by 40%-50% or so. It angers the bejesus out of me. Especially a few days before Christmas when there is still a ton to get done and lots of friends to see. But as we sat down with a cup of ginger tea and a warm pear and almond cake, we felt instantaneously better, warmer and happier.

Sunday Mornings Are For Poaching Pears

I did convert the recipe to be gluten free to work with my diagnosis (yes, I know, research is still out on that one but I see the rewards of going gluten free and almost sodium free and that's good enough for me) and I snuck in a whole poached pear instead of a half like my grandmother used to do. However, I know it wasn't the reason why they rose as high and fell as quick as souffles.

We then changed their names too. The original was more of a scribble on a piece of paper from Mamie reading "Gateaux Amandes et Poires Pochees. Faites attention, ils degringolent" which could be translated as "Almond and Poached Pear Cakes. Watch out, they tumble down". And she was absolutely right. Hence B. felt compelled to rename them - he's a stickler that way, ahah!

Poached Pear Almond Souffle Cakes

Whichever name you choose, all I know is that they are the perfect cross between a souffle, a cake and a custard. That for a brief moment they stopped my coughing and sneezing and that "Douce Nuit Sainte Nuit" never sounded more beautiful.

That is good enough for me...

Poached Pear Almond Souffle Cakes

Poached Pear And Almond Fallen Souffle Cakes:

Makes 6

Note: you can core the pears from the bottom to about 1 inch from the top with an apple corer but these are so tiny that I just removed the stem button at the bottom. Everything else in the core baked to very soft texture and the seeds were easy to remove while eating (kind of like tails on baked shrimp).

For the poached pears:
6 mini d'Anjou pears, peeled (or other small pears like Forelles or Seckel)
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
2-3 cloves
2-3 cardamom pods
1 stick cinnamon
5-6 allspice berries
1-2 star anise
1/2 lemon
4 cups (1 liter) water

For the cakes:
3 tablespoons (40gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup (190ml) heavy cream
1 cup ground almonds (blanched or skin on - your preference)
1/4 cup (40gr) sorghum flour (or use 1/4 cup all purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder

Prepare the pears:
Place the pears, spices, lemon and water in tall saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower the heat and let them simmerfor 15-20 minutes or until the pears are just soft (poke with a toothpick to check).
Remove from the water using a slotted spoon and allow to cool on paper towel or baking rack.

Prepare the cakes:
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.
Slightly butter or spray 6 ramekins and place them on a baking sheet. Set aside.
In the bowl if an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffly (about 3 minutes). Add the eggs, one a time and beat well in between each addition. Reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla, heavy cream, almonds, flour and baking powder and beat until incorporated. Fill each ramekins about 1/3 full with the batter and place a poached pear in the center.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Yuzu Cremes Brulees

December 17, 2009

Yuzu Creme Brulee

If you were to visit our house right now, you'd be wondering if Christmas is really just a a week away. Oh, we have a small tree up in the living room but that's about it. No present wrapped up underneath and a few of Christmas decorations here and there in the house. We have gifts almost all ready to go for everyone but we can't leave them out since they are of the edible kind. The pupps have a tendency to get in trouble with bows and ornaments!

I like the feeling of turning the kitchen and dining room into some Santa's Edible Gift Workshop. The oven is on all the time, boxes, papers and ribbons cover most of the table. I also appreciate putting my feet up and taking in the spirit of the holidays by digging my spoon into of these Yuzu Cremes Brulees.

Fresh Yuzu

I could feel sad that we are not going home this year for the holidays but I don't. We are grateful to be busy at work with little time to think about being away from the rest of the family. B's family has always made me feel loved as their own, especially during big holidays. Some friends drop by for tea and cookies and some friends send goodies like Todd and Diane gifting me with a precious delivery of fresh yuzu for Christmas.

When they sent some Calamansi limes they also included three little yuzu fruits. I guess they heard me sigh "more please!" all the way to California and sent more. The first three yuzus yielded enough juice to make two doll house sized yuzu curd tarts. We ate them as soon as they came out of the oven and I never got the chance to take pictures. I got this new box the same day B. was asking me for creme brulees. In the 12 years we have been together I have never figured this out: every year around Christmas, he asks for cremes brulees. He's not picky mind you, any flavor will do and he loves trying new things. Hence, some of the yuzu fruits ended up being used for custards.

Yuzu Creme Brulee

If you have never had yuzu, think of it as the Rolls Royce of citrus fruit. Every time I am lucky to get some, I can't help but feel like I am holding a clementine sized grapefruit cloaked as a lemon, fragrant like Meyer lemons, seedy like a mandarine and as easy to peel as a tangerine. See what I mean...

Just as I hold yuzu in high regards, B. gives cremes brulees close to a royalty status around here. Hence it seemed fitting to combine both in one dessert. Todd and Diane sent me two types, yuzu and Kabosu and the latter were perfect to impart as much flavor as possible to the custards. They have more juice, less seeds and rind than yuzu. I zested the Kabosu, pureed the flesh (minus the seeds) and threw all this in the cream base of the brulees, much like as if I were using vanilla. I also let the batter steep overnight in the fridge, exactly as I do with straight vanilla bean creme brulee.

Yuzu Creme Brulee

I was worried B. would frown but he asked for seconds and declared these the best ones he's had so far. Believe me when I say, he has many years of Creme Brulee research attached to his resume! And they are gluten free which is perfect for me as I can eat my share too!

Thank you to all of you participating in Menu for Hope, either as item donors or item bidders, or both. You guys are awesome. Check the progress of the fundraising here and keep spreading the word! Thanks!

Yuzu Creme Brulee

Yuzu Creme Brulees:

Makes 6-8

Note: Since yuzu isn't the easiest thing to find, I've come up with a concoction to get pretty close to the taste. I am still experimenting but so far the following has been very promising: juice and zest of one lemon, zest of one mandarine and enough grapefruit flesh to take the whole mixture to about 1/3 cup.

Creme brulees are easy to make and require few ingredients. They are however considered royalty because they need to be handled properly to achieve the right texture. They should be smooth all the way through and once caramelized on top, they should have 3 levels of temperature from top-hot to middle-warm to bottom-cold. I say "should" because let's face it, the creme brulees police isn't going to come after you if they are not what a red-faced angry French chef would expect "perfect". (talking from experience, believe me). Anyways...

For the creme brulee filling:

6 egg yolks
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
2 cups heavy cream
3 yuzu, zested and pureed to get about 1/3 cup pulp/juice

For the sugar crust:
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup granulated sugar (50gr to 100gr)

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick (3-4 minutes). Reserve.
In the meantime, place the cream in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to asimmer. Add the citrus mixture.
When the cream is hot, slowly pour it over the reserved egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the yolks from curdling. Let cool to room temperature and refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

When ready to bake:
Preheat the oven to 350F (325F if using convection). Place 6-8 ramekins (depending on size) in a deep baking pan. Set aside.
Strain the mixture into a 3-4 cup measuring container, preferably with a spout as it makes it much easier to pour. Discard the yuzu or citrus mixture. Pour into the ramekins until about 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the rim
Place the baking pan in the oven and pour enough hot water to reach about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool before removing the ramekins from the pan.
Refrigerate until completely cold. When ready to serve, sprinkle each creme brulees with 1 tablespoon sugar and caramelize the tops with a blow torch (or use the broiler in your oven on high - the results are not quite the same though).

2009 Menu For Hope - East Coast Bid Items

December 14, 2009

Menu For Hope 6 to help Purchase for Progress launches today! Bidding is open from December 14th through December 25th 2009.

Thank you to all of those who came forward with awesome items to bid on. Each year I am delighted to chip in and this year I want to thank Pim for trusting me with hosting the East Coast and I am psyched of the work all the hosts and donors have achieved in the middle of all our/their busy schedules.

Now it's your time dear readers and participants to make this charitable enterprise a success! If you've missed previous posts on Menu For Hope, here are the details.

Here is the list of bid items from bloggers on the US East Coast for you to check out and you will find a complete list on Pim's site. Don't forget to check out the other regional hosts, Shauna, Tara, David, Ed and Alder, and their lists as many contain items without shipping restrictions. (See bidding instructions at the end of post).

I’m sure you’ll find some fabulous goodies you’ll want to place a bid on. Tickets are $10 each and tax deductible.

UE01: One Day Macarons 101 Workshop With Helene From Tartelette.(*Prize must be redeemed and used within the year)

Helene will come to your kitchen for the day to teach you how to make the ever elusive and tricky macarons like the pros. Charleston, SC area only unless you are willing to ship me to your place!

UE02: Hands-on 1 day food photography & styling workshop with Helene Dujardin of Tartelette OR Three 8x12 art prints by Helene Dujardin. (*Prize must be redeemed and used within the year)

Bid on a personal day of food photography & styling workshop in Helene's studio. We will tackle food styling, camera and light settings and spend the afternoon practicing! The winner is responsible for travel and lodging to Charleston, SC. Lunch and materials will be provided. OR The winner will choose between 3 prints professionally printed on Kodak Endura paper from Helene's etsy shop (no shipping restrictions). You can specify which one when you bid. (*Prize to be redeemed and used during the year)

UE03: New West Knifeworks "Phoenix 9" Knife.

From Marc of No Recipes. This 9 inch chef's knife from New West Knifeworks has a hand crafted Damascus forge welded blade, making it light, yet hard enough to hold
it's razor sharp edge for months. It effortlessly slices though
everything from carrots, to tomatoes to meat. (no shipping restrictions)

UE04: Eat Boutique Gift Box.

From Maggie at Eat Boutique, a gift box including an array of hand-crafted food products from across New England. Taza Chocolate Covered Almonds and Taza Chocolate Covered Nibs; Lark Fine Foods Salted Rosemary Shortbread and Mighty Gingers; Q’s Nuts Sweet & Sassy Pecans and Key Lime Coconut Ginger Cashews; Hutchinson’s Candy Famous Fudge; and, Silverbrook Farm Pear Ginger Jam. (no shipping restrictions)

UE05: Weekend at Farnum Hill Orchard, Lebanon, NH.

From Rich at Offbeats Eats, a two night stay at the Farnum Hill Orchard (Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon, NH), tours of the cider making facility, introduction to the craft and horticulture of cidermaking with heirloom cider varieties by Stephen Wood and Louisa Spencer and a selection of specialty heirloom ciders fresh from the source. Winner will provide their own transportation to Lebanon, NH.

UE06: Two night-stay in Chelsea Studio Appartment, New York City.

Annie from Annie's New York Eats offers 2 nights in her Chelsea in studio apartment in the center of a fascinating neighborhood, with choices such as the Chelsea Market, the Food Network studios, Tom Collichio's restaurants, the City Bakery, the Union Square Greenmarket, etc.. Fridge and pantry filled with the best locavore ingredients, plus a decent batterie de cuisine with which to cook. Personalized guide of the neighborhood whether you are a vegetarian, omnivore, Top Chef enthusiast, interested in cheap eats or big splurges.

UE07: Custom Beer Tasting.

Join Jessica and Marlene from My Hoppy Place for a custom beer tasting. Are you new to craft and microbrews? Do you want to get to know your local beers? Are you keen to explore a style or flavor? We'll select a tempting sample of brews, walk you through each, talk about food pairings, and generally schmooze about beer (a subject we love dearly). You can bring up to three guests. You must be local to the Washington DC area and all participants must be 21 or older.

UE08: Box of LA Burdick Chocolate Mice or Penguins.

From Mary at The Sour Dough: winner will get their choice of either 9 adorable little chocolate mice or 9 elegant and cute penguins. (US only)

UE09: Day of bread making.

From Mary at The Sour Dough: An “in your home” day long lesson on making bread completely by hand with three of your friends. We’ll make bread the old fashioned way,completely by hand. The winner will learn techniques like proofing yeast, kneading, shaping and baking. We will make two loaves: basic white and one specialty bread like cinnamon rolls, Challah, or whole grain. The winner will also get a home bread making kit that includes my preferred loaf pan, yeasts, King Arthur flours, and recipes for the breads we make with step by step instructions. Only in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Greater NYC area, New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania.

UE10: J. A. Henckels Professional "S" 7' Santoku knife + 5 bags of Impact Granola.

From Steve at My Favourite Flavors: a gorgeous J. A. Henckels Professional "S" 7' Santoku knife + 5 bags of Impact Granola. Each bag Of Impact Granola is filled with hearty, flavorful granola that’s good for both you and starving children. Each bag you buy will feed a hungry child for an entire day. Get your granola today, so they can see tomorrow. (no shipping restrictions on either bid items).

UE11: Fleisher's Grass Fed and Organic Meats in Kingston, NY + a copy of Julie Powell's new memoir Cleaving.

From Winnie at Healthy Green Kitchen: a $25 gift certificate from Fleisher's Grass Fed and Organic Meats in Kingston, NY plus a copy of Julie and Julia author Julie Powell's new memoir Cleaving (which chronicles her meat internship at Fleisher's). (no shipping restrictions)

UE12: 4 seasonal shipments of 12 cookies from Jacy Cakes LLC.

Bid on four seasonal shipments of a dozen from Jacy Cakes LLC's large hand-decorated sugar cookies over the course of the upcoming new year, one shipment every three months. Each cookie will be individually bagged and tied with a satin ribbon, ready to enjoy on the spot or give as gifts. Our cookies are made with the highest quality ingredients and are decorated, bagged, and shipped within two days of their baking, and are shipped priority mail overnight to ensure their freshness. Gluten Free and Vegan cookies available upon request. (no shipping restrictions)

UE13: 100% Certified Fair Trade Coffee Sampler.

From Alana at Eating From The Ground Up: Three 12 oz. bags of Barrington Coffee Roasters amazing coffee beans- Organic/ Fair Trade Sumatra Aceh, Organic/ Fair trade Berkshire Blend, and Organic/ Fair Trade French Roast Mexican Chiapas. (US only)

UE14: $50 gift certificate to Sucre Confectionary.

From Lindsay at Scoop: Adventures in Ice Cream: $50 gift card for Sucré, a confectionery and gelateria located in the heart of New Orleans, LA. Featured in O magazine, Sucré is famous for its array of sweet treats including delicious french macarons, delectable chocolates, and scrumptious baked goods. Everything Sucré creates is handcrafted in small batches from the finest ingredients available, often inspired from local, homegrown flavors. (US only)

UE15: Ethnic Chicago Neighborhood Spice Blends Deluxe gift box +"Chicago Cooks" cookbook.

Donated by The Spice House and offered by Lydia from The Perfect Pantry: The Spice House, Chicago's premier source of spices for chefs and home cooks, offers their best-selling Ethnic Chicago Neighborhood Spice Blends Deluxe Gift Box of ten spice blends that represent the rich diversity of Chicago's ethnic neighborhoods and cuisines -- Greek, Latino, Ukrainian, Italian, Central European, African-American, Polish, Irish -- plus a copy of Chicago Cooks, published by Les Dames d'Escoffier. (North America).

UE16: Moms’ Guide to Meal Makeovers Cookbook & Cuisinart Elite Collection 12-Cup Food Processor.

Liz & Janice of Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen are offering an autographed copy of their cookbook, The Moms’ Guide to Meal Makeovers and a Cuisinart Elite Collection 12-Cup Food Processor, a 4-cup work bowl nested inside the big, 12-cup and a SealTight™ Advantage System which seals bowls and locks blades to prevent leaking from the bottom of the bowl when the processor is in use or while pouring out ingredients. (US only).

UE17: Bacon Lover's Candy Pack.

From Mary at Cooking 4 The Week: A collection of bacon-based candies to delight the bacon lover in your life. The pack includes: Bacon brittle, a crunchy, smoky treat that’s great on ice cream or on its own. Bacon caramels, made with lard and bacon fat and topped with Australian pink flake salt. Bacon fudge, dark chocolate fudge layered with crisp, candied bacon. The pack includes 8 ounces of brittle, 8 caramels and 8 pieces of fudge.(US only)

UE18: 12 bars of Amano Chocolate.

From Jessica at Su Good Sweets. Amano has donated four bars each of the 70% limited edition Montanya, 70% Dos Rios, and 70%Guayas OR the 70% Montanya, 30% Ocumare, and 30% Jembrana. Winner’s choice! All together that’s 12 bars. If you’re having difficulty choosing, the first set is for traditionalists; the second is for those who like the creaminess of milk chocolate and the complexity of dark.(no shipping restrictions).

UE19: Sweet Amandine Trio.

From Jess at Sweet Amandine: A trio of homemade sweet, almondy treats - salted chocolate almond toffee, almond butter tarts, and almond biscotti - packaged in a Florentine gift box from my favorite local paper shop. There’s no sense kicking off the New Year with a belly ache, so I’ve designed the selection so that you can pace yourself. The tart is best eaten within a day or two, but the biscotti will keep for up to two weeks, and the toffee, even longer. (US only)

UE20: Cookbook Collection by Scribner.

A collection of six cookbooks provided by Scribner and hosted by Derek from The Best Food Blog Ever: The Joy of Cooking, Boy Gets Grill, On Food and Cooking, Bakewise, Elements of Cooking, and Ratio. (US only)

UE21: Stainless Kitchen Tool Set by All Clad.

From Derek at The Best Food Blog Ever: A set of kitchen tools, including a slotted spoon, solid spoon, fork, ladle, and turner, all in a nice matching caddy. (US only)

UE22: Nespresso Le Cube/Aeroccino Plus bundle.

From Derek at The Best Food Blog Ever: Combination of the Nespresso Le Cube espresso machine and the Aeroccino Plus milk frother. (US only)

UE23: Vermont Foodie Gift Basket and Essential Canning Tool Set.

From Robin at Hippo Flambe: Boyden Valley Vinyard Vermont Ice Wine, Fat Toad's Farm Traditional Goat's Milk Caramel, 7 oz bag Dakin Farm Vermont Maple Kettle Corn, 8oz jar Butternut Mountain Farm Maple Butter, jar tomato-orange marmelade, 8oz Vermont cheese, canning funnel, jar lifters, bubble wand superior canning rack and magnetic lid lifter. (no shipping restrictions).

UE24: A Taste Of Atlanta Prize Pack.

Hosted by Tami at Running With Tweezers:
- one super-chic heirloom apron from Ice Milk Aprons from their Rollings In Cinnamon collection.
- One Low Country Luxe candle from their Sugah candle collection. Beautifully packaged candles with a Southern spin.
- "Atlanta Cooks at Home" cookbook, curated by Melissa Libby which includes recipes that local chefs (including Iron Chef winner Kevin Rathbun and James Beard winner Scott Peacock) would make in their home.
- One box of 14 delicious assorted macarons from the lovely Crumb bakery in Atlanta.
- One bottle of Hot Squeeze, a sauce with personality. It’s smoky. It’s spicy, it’s sweet, it’s sassy and it’s sexy. All in one bottle.
- Taste of Atlanta has donated FOUR VIP tickets to Atlanta's largest outdoor food festival, in October 2010. Sample food and drinks from 80+ Atlanta restaurants. You will need to be in Atlanta in October 2010 to redeem this prize. Winner of the bid item will receive a certificate good for your four tickets, valued at $260.

UE25: The Sous Vide Supreme.

Hosted by Jaden from Steamy Kitchen: Cook like Thomas Keller, Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adria with The SousVide Supreme™ is the world’s first water oven designed specifically to bring the gourmet restaurant sous vide cooking method into home kitchens. The result is lusciously silky chicken, juicy, perfect and evenly cooked steaks just like from a master chef. This machine is the size of a bread machine and valued at $449.00. (Canada and US only)

UE26: Gift package of Stonyfield Products.

Donated by Stonyfield and hosted by Andrea of Andrea's Recipes: Stonyfield Fleece Jacket, Oikos Organic Cooton Tee, Oikos tote bag, Stonyfield hat, Stonyfield cookbook, coupons for free yogurts. (US only)

UE27: 2-piece Kitchen knife set from New West Knifeworks.

From Andrea from Andrea's Recipes: These are beautiful and functional pieces of knife art. The set contains a chopper and a paring knife with Fusionwood handles, and the winner gets to choose the color of the handles. Each knife comes with its own leather sheath and a lifetime guarantee. (US only)

UE28: Morgan Ranch American Wagyu Beef.

From Derek at Gastronomic Fight Club: You are bidding for 2 Morgan Ranch American Wagyu Coulettes.Taken from the sirloin, this French cut gives the Wagyu (American Kobe) Steak an exceptionally soft and sweet flavor. Since the Morgan Wagyu coulette steak is bit leaner in its makeup, its subtle, pleasant flavor makes it great for serving either carved as medallions or whole as a Chateaubriand. ($125 retail value) (US only)

UE29: Morgan Ranch American Wagyu Family BBQ Collection.

From Derek at Gastronomic Fight Club: This combination is perfect for a family barbecue. With 5 lbs. of ground beef, 4 sirloin steaks, and a pound of kabobs, adults and children alike will all find a favorite dish among this collection. It's a perfect way to become familiar with Wagyu (American Kobe) Beef. ($125 retail value)(US only).

UE30: North African Spice Blend Package.

From Warda of 64 sq ft Kitchen: four homemade Algerian spice blends along with the north African hot condiment Harissa. The four spice blends are as followed: 1/ Ras El hanout, both yellow and red. Ras el Hanout, a complex melange of spices (in this case 12 spices for the yellow and twenty for the red) commonly used in the Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian cuisine. 2/- Tagine spice blend. 3/ - Couscous spice blend (US only)

UE31: Duo of Burro Foods Olive Oil.

Duo of artisanal oils from Paola at Hungry Burro:
- Unfiltered Extra-Virgin Istrian Olive Oil (Olio Nuovo) made from 100% White Istrian Olives from Istranova, in Slovenia. Hand-picked hand, cold-pressed and bottled within hours this unfiltered raw extra-virgin olive oil is far from average! With an assertive peppery flavor best suited for palates that seek bold flavors, it has a higher antioxidant content than most.
- Lightly Toasted Pumpkin Seed Oil from Slovenia made from 100% cucurbita pepo styriaca seeds. It has a deep nutty, smoky, almost sweet, flavor with an intoxicating scent. Great ratio of Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Delicious in hearty soups or drizzled over vegetables. (no shipping restrictions).

UE32: The BloggerAid Cook Book + &50 gift card from B&H photo.

From Meeta at What's For Lunch Honey: The BloggerAid Cook Book is a collection of international recipes illustrating that bloggers can work together and unite for a greater cause. The authors of this cookbook are food bloggers from around the world who have endeavored to make a difference by raising funds for the World Food Programme and encompassing their passion for "all things foodie" at the same time.
B & H Photo is a photographers paradise! One can find a large variety of items to pimp up your equipment. Whether it's a new lens, a camera or a lighting set-up this gift card hopefully will add a bit to the budget. (no restrictions).

UE33: All-Clad Stainless Covered Saucepan.

Donated by Stephane of Zen Can Cook: classic straight-sided, 2-quart saucepan.
Three-ply: stainless-steel layers sandwich pure aluminum core for even heating. Comfortable lid and stay-cool handles riveted for strength. Dishwasher safe, but hand washing recommended. Lifetime warranty against defects. ($140 value) (No shipping restrictions).

UE34: "Everyday Harumi" by Harumi Kurihara.

Courtesy of Conran Publishing and hosted by Serge at Serge The Concierge: Signed copy of "Everyday Harumi" (simple Japanese food for family and friends) by Harumi Kurihara. (no shipping restrictions).

UE35: Mary Jane Soda Gift Package.

12 Pack of Mary Jane's Relaxing Soda from Colorado and Matching T-Shirt
Made from Kava root, carbonated spring water and natural cane sugar, it's good for your body and mind (retail value $49.99) (Good for any countries except European Union and Australia)

UE36: "Coco" Book - The most exciting new chefs and restaurants around the world.

Courtesy of Phaidon Books and hosted by Serge from Serge Le Concierge: Curated by Ferran Adrià, Mario Batali, Shannon Bennet, Alain Ducasse, Fergus Henderson, Yoshihiro Murata, Gordon Ramsay, René Redzepi, Alice Waters, and Jacky Yu
(Retail Value $49.99) (no shipping restrictions).

UE37: Wine You Can Wear Tee-Shirts.

Courtesy of Terroir NY and hosted by Serge of Serge Le Concierge: three tee-shirts about three revolutionaries of wine making.
These graphic and yet educational t-shirts each feature valuable information
about each winemaker on the back, baseball card style. (Retail Value: $57) (no shipping restrictions).

UE38: Kitchen Gift Package.

From Christina at Thirty A Week:
- Early Bird Granola donates a totebag with 3 varieties of their amazing granola: Pecans-Olive Oil, Mango-Macademia, Cherry-Pistachio.
- Econographics will donate a t-shirt and apron.
- Thirty A Week donates an embroidered kitchen towel with the winner's initials on them. (no shipping restrictions).

UE39: Two signed copies of "The Gilded Fork: Entertaining at Home" cookbook

Jennifer Iannolo and Chef Mark Tafoya invite you to stay in with a signed copy of The Gilded Fork: Entertaining at Home cookbook. Featuring 13 dinner party menus, the cookbook offers easy yet elegant recipes for every occasion, from romantic dinners for two to Mother’s Day, including a vegan dinner party menu.
Includes make-ahead options and cooking tips, desserts by pastry chef Monica Glass and wine pairing recommendations from wine blogger Lenn Thompson. As the first social media-driven cookbook, The Gilded Fork: Entertaining at Home also features photos from the Culinary Media Network’s audience of viewers and listeners. (no shipping restrictions).

UE40: Red Wine Extravaganza Package.

From Jon at Live To Feast: bid on a gift pack of exceptional Red Wines. The package includes a total of 4 bottles: 2000 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet, 2007 Bodega Teso La Monja Almirez Toro, 2004 Ruffino Modus, 1999 Domaine Combier Crozes-Hermitage Clos Des Grives (Valued at $170) (US Only)

UE41: Set of 4 Bambu Bowls.

From Beatrice at La Tartine Gourmande, a set of 4 Bambu bowls. They are fun and colorful and will always cheer up a dining table. Bambu bowls come in matte finish with natural lacquer which creates a durable waterproof finish. Food-safe, good for both hot and cold foods. Measures 4.5 inch in diameter.


To Donate and Enter the Menu for Hope Raffle

1. Choose a bid item or bid items of your choice from our Menu for Hope main bid item list.

2. Go to the donation site at Firstgiving and make a donation.

3. Please specify which bid item you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per bid item, and please use the bid item code.

Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a bid item of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02 - 2xEU01, 3xEU02.

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Check back on Chez Pim on Monday, January 18 for the results of the raffle.

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