The return of fruitcake, fruitcrack.

Oops. I did it again.

Before I get into another fruitcake story, a reminder that Menu For Hope ends this Friday and we’ve already raised $44,000. Or rather, we’ve only raised $44,000. We can do better! Go! Go and bid right now! Just don’t go and bid on what I bid on because I wanna win.

White FruitcakeSo it turns out that Korean-Americans like my fruitcake. A lot. Had I known that, I might not have offered it because I was kind of hoping I could keep it all for myself. My mom reports that they polished off the fruitcake before they made much of a dent in the pile of four different cookies I’d baked. Rumor has it that my aunt even took seconds. She never takes seconds.

The remnants of my original cake are still aging in my crisper drawer. What’s pictured here and what the Korean fruitcake theives ate is a second version baked strictly according to Steingarten’s original recipe this time. It uses for fruit a pound of candied cherries, a pound of candied pineapple, and a pound of golden raisins, and I used the required lemon extract instead of vanilla. It’s not as delicious as my first attempt but still great. The benefit of this version is that it’s much easier to slice because the cake doesn’t form a heavy crust. The problem is that the crust is where you get that thing where your eyeballs roll into the back of your head. I also found all the cherries too sharply sweet for my taste, though I liked the color that they added. In the end, I think the best cake is something between the two.

Adapted from The Man Who Ate Everything, by Jeffrey Steingarten
Makes 2 large loaves, ideal for triceps presses
May also make 2 large loaves for gifts and one mini-loaf for personal consumption

The recipe reflects a compromise between flavor and ease of slicing. I still prefer the baking method in the first long-baked version, but I’ll use this one in the future to give as gifts—now that I know it’s popular—because it’s much easier to slice and still delicious. Besides, just how delicious should gift fruitcake be? People might break into your house and force you to bake fruitcake at gunpoint. For my own cravings, I plan to put some of the batter into a mini-loaf pan and bake it until well-browned like the first version, then age it and eat it without bothering to slice it. It’s just as good in rabidly torn off chunks as it in slices.

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Fourth Annual Menu for Hope and ice cream (updated).

It’s back! Last year’s Menu for Hope raffle raised more than $60,000 for the UN World Food Programme. We hope to beat that record by raising even more money for the same program, and this year the money has been specially reserved for the school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa. Pim has posted amazing pictures taken by the residents of Lesotho themselves with donated disposable cameras. Here is even more information on the details of the Lesotho program, Menu For Hope, and where the donated money will go.

Menu for HopeFood bloggers worldwide are donating food and food-related packages, tours, and treats for lucky winners of the Menu For Hope raffle. The full prize list and links to the regional hosts are at main host Chez Pim. Kalyn’s Kitchen is once again coordinating the central United States prizes, which includes Bon Appegeek’s six-part ice cream maker package (UC04).

Ice Cream Maker Package – UC04

My personal policy is never to offer a prize unless I’ve tested and used it myself. Last year I offered a pasta maker for knocking out burglars and, uh, making pasta. The first part of Bon Appegeek’s six-part prize this year (ships to the U.S. and Canada only) is a White Cuisinart ICE-20 1-1/2-Quart Automatic Ice Cream maker. I’ve used the same model for years. It has churned out this azuki bean ice cream and the rich vanilla bean ice cream pictured here and has never failed my taste buds (I can’t say the same for my waistline). It can also be used to knock out burglars, and the chilled canister can ice bruises should you accidentally conk a beloved family member on the head instead.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Wait, I lied. I’ve never tested or used David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop, the second part of this prize package. Why not? Because I couldn’t buy cookbooks for myself this year, that’s why. If I’d known that David would release a fabulous ice cream book that the food blog world would go crazy over, I would have made an exception ahead of time, but noooooooo. So this book has been on my wishlist for months while everybody else has been happily using and loving it. Now you can too. And as of January 1, 2008, I WILL TOO. Stupid 2007 new year’s resolutions. It’s been a tough year for me, let me tell you.

UPDATE: The third part of this prize is free ice cream! If you’re planning a trip to Paris in 2008, David Lebovitz has generously offered to take the winner and a guest out to famed Parisian ice cream maker Berthillon for ice cream. (And while he didn’t explicitly offer this, if I were you I’d pick his brain for all the best places in Paris to eat and shop, assuming you can stop moaning over the famous ice cream. If anyone knows where to score the best food, it’s him!) Thanks, David!

Ice Cream Maker PackageThe fourth part of the prize is a small jar of hand-raked Fleur de Sel culled from my precious small stash. This is the celebrated sea salt of France. I’m a big fan of Fleur de Sel, and it’s important if you want to make, say, this Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream recipe. This is your chance to try the salt and see if you like it. It’s also fabulous over braised cabbage and sprinkled on roast beef. There’s about five tablespoons or a heaping quarter cup in the jar.

Wait, I lied again. The fifth and sixth parts of the prize are two items I’ve never used but suspect are pretty awesome. This soft-handled Calphalon ice cream scoop looks like it can slice its way through even the hardest ice creams, and this bottle of Kahlua chocolate—that’s right, Kahlua and chocolate together in one bottle—looks luscious. No doubt you could mix up this sinful combination yourself, but until then, you’ll have it right there waiting for you to drizzle it all over your homemade ice cream . . . assuming I don’t drizzle it onto my own ice cream first. Bid fast, people! I’m only human!

This prize package’s code is UC04. Shipping is limited to the United States and Canada. Please feel free to ask any questions about the prize in the comments. More information on the raffle and the charity are at Chez Pim and Kayln’s Kitchen. Good luck everyone, and happy bidding.

How to donate and enter the raffle

1) Choose a prize(s) of your choice here.

2) Make a donation at First Giving.

3) Specify which prize you’d like in the “Personal Message” section of the donation form. Write how many tickets you want per prize and use the prize code. Each $10 buys one raffle ticket good for any one prize. (For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02. Please write 2xEU01, 3xEU02.) Of course you may donate without entering the raffle if you wish.

4) If your company will match the donation, please check that box and fill in the information so that we can claim the corporate match.

5) Please check the box to allow us to see your email so that we can contact you if you win. Your information will remain private. Check Chez Pim January 9 for results.

Bulging bellies and other neighborly gifts.

Based on all the glittery holiday posts I’ve been reading, I think I’m supposed to be frying up crisp latkes, baking elaborate cookies, and constructing gingerbread houses that would make Martha Stewart gasp. I feel guilty that I haven’t. In fact, I let Thanksgiving go by without so much as a glimpse of turkey, pumpkin pie, or me in my sexy pilgrim hat. Instead I posted a photo of salt.

Squirrel glutton with hollyI can explain Thanksgiving—God canceled it. Or rather, my mom went to a church dinner that night, my bored brother fell asleep in the church basement (God wasn’t serving booze), and I stayed comfortably at home and dined on gnocchi with fried Spanish Chorizo sausage and roasted red peppers. That’s not Thanksgiving, that’s a pleasant evening in November.

The problem with the holidays is my waistline (barely visible, but it’s there somewhere). If I started gifting pinwheel cookies and peanut butter fudge weeks in advance of Christmas, my belly would inch across the state line into Wisconsin and, after I was done sampling the cheesecakes, force its jolly jiggly way into Canada. That’s a terrible gift for a neighbor. How do thin food bloggers do it? Willpower? Photoshop Svelte Me plug-in? Amphetamines? Elaborate restraint system using a cooperative family? That’s what I’d do if I had obedient family members.

“Mommy’s making truffles again. She says get the non-itchy rope this time.”

Squirrel glutton with presentBy the time I post any useful Christmas ideas, you probably won’t need it. So as weak compensation, here are two pictures of a squirrel doing exactly what I plan to do Christmas night: grab food twice the size of my head, bury my teeth in it, and let the crumbs fly. For all who celebrate, I hope you do the same. There are many starving people in the world who can’t, so for them, please donate to the Menu For Hope III campaign and maybe win a cool prize for yourself. It has been an honor to participate in something that not only helps the world’s hungry but brings back the joys of childhood again with all its greed for sparkly, shiny, awesome stuff. You know you want stuff too! Go for it! December 22 is the last day to participate.

Now take a good look at the two photographs above. Do you notice anything that seems out of place, maybe even unnatural? That’s right sharp-eyed readers—that tubby squirrel doesn’t have a visible waistline. The squirrel gut has left the country. See what happens when you start the gluttony early?

I’m so sorry, Canada. If you regift, send it to France. I still haven’t forgiven them for éclairs.