Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Charitable Basketcases: The Recap

by Erin and Xani

As you may recall from our friendly reminder last week, this past weekend we participated in the annual Maryland Public Interest Law Project (MPILP) Goods and Services Auction, a fundraiser whose proceeds go to grants given to law students who want to work in public interest law during the summer.

We decided to donate a basket full of gourmet goodies, and we had such a blast preparing it (despite Xani's sleep deprivation due to a red-eye flight the previous night)! We decided to include some homemade goodies, and some store-bought goodies. Here were the contents of the basket:

  • Chocolate Truffles
  • Raspberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies
  • Bacon, Gruyere, and Scallion Mini-Buscuits
  • Cafe Latte and Cappuccino-flavored Jelly Beans
  • Jamaican Whole-Bean Coffee
  • Sparkling Wine

The weekend before the auction, we went shopping for the coffee, the basket, and fun crafty stuff like ribbons and tissue paper. The jelly beans (Jelly Bellys, of course!) were an impulse buy. We have a tendency of buying jelly beans when out shopping together, particularly for non-food items (e.g., we always pick some up in the check out line at Staples - normal?).

The night before the auction, while Xani was flying back to Baltimore, EP went grocery shopping (see the ingredient spreadsheet here) and later made the chocolate truffles while taking a study break. We used the Ina Garten recipe (of course), which was quite easy, even in EP's completely ill-equipped kitchen. Simply chop up good bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolates and pour hot heavy cream over them (let the cream come to a boil and then take it off the heat for about 20 seconds). Gently whisk to combine and then add some fresh-brewed coffee and some vanilla extract. (We wanted to add some coffee-flavored liquor but we didn't have it on hand, so we nixed it.)

The recipe said to let the chocolate mixture stand for an hour at room temperature before rolling it into balls, but it did not set up in that amount of time, and it was getting into the wee hours of the morning, so EP put it into the fridge for about 20 minutes and it came together well. Then she rolled the chocolate into cherry-sized balls and rolled them in cocoa powder, and whadya know? They look like real truffles!!

The next day, after Xani had gotten some rest, we gathered at TinyHouse and got started on the mini-biscuits and the jam thumbprint cookies. The mini-biscuits, according to the recipe, are technically full-sized muffins, but we wanted to make them in our mini-muffin tins because (all together now) tiny = cute! We also found that they turned out more like biscuits than muffins, so we re-categorized them.

The biscuit recipe was also quite simple. Cook up and crumble some bacon, finely chop scallions, grate a bunch of gruyere, and add those to some flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Meanwhile, take some milk, an egg, and the reserved bacon fat (!!), mix together, and then add to the dry ingredients. We then scooped the batter into buttered mini-muffin tins and baked for about 11 minutes. We wish we had used more liquid because they were a bit on the dry side (which made them more like biscuits and less like muffins). Still, a delicious little savory treat that we'd probably make again, with a few adjustments.

(Sorry, no pics of the final product - we were rushing!)

Last we made an old standby of ours: Ina Garten's jam thumbprint cookies. These are so delicious, and we always get compliments on them. The recipe calls for butter (3 sticks, natch), sugar, vanilla extract, flour, and salt. Then the dough is rolled into 1 1/4 inch balls, then rolled in egg wash and then sweetened shredded coconut. Then an indentation is made and raspberry jam put in the little hole (we used a makeshift piping bag made from a zippy bag to pipe in the jam). They are baked until the coconut becomes golden. We are drooling as we type this - OMG these are so rich and intense and AWESOME!

While everything was baking and cooling, we began assembling the basket, which was so fun! (Special thanks to BCD Mom for scoping out the basket selection at a nearby Marshall's - she's got a good eye!) We bought cellophane baggies and pretty ribbon for the goodies, and a HUGE cellophane bag to put the entire completed basket in. We also printed off a "menu" that listed the items in the basket and included our logo.

Here's a few shots of the almost-finished and completely finished product:

You can see the jam thumbprints, the truffles, the mini-buscuits, and the champagne

Ready for the party!

We brought the basket to the auction (which the BCD parents also attended, being alumni and all) and there was a lot of hype about the basket! Unfortunately, there were lots of other great items at the auction, including other baskets, so ours did not stick out as much as we wanted. In the end, it was auctioned off (in the silent auction) for $90! And guess who the lucky winners were?? THE BCD PARENTS! They bid when we weren't looking! So sweet of them...

It was a great time and a lovely event, and MPILP raised over $35,000 to support law students working in public interest this summer. We were so happy to participate and do a little mitzvot. Looking forward to next year!

Happy eating,

E & X


  1. gorgeous photo of you two! Pink really suits you Xani.

  2. I agree with Lexi on the pink Xan! The basket turned out beautifully. what a lot of work!

  3. what can i say, I'm just a pink lady!

  4. Looks delish... if you've ever got some extra raspberry cookies, you know where I am!

    Good work on the fundraising!

  5. So...is it weird that I also make those exact truffles AND those exact thumbprint cookies every Christmas?

    Or is it just that Ina is the best ever?

    (BTW, one of my friends ran into her AND Jeffrey on the beach in the Hamptons over Mother's Day a couple of years ago. She doesn't really watch the show, but knew that I loooved Ina, so she chased after her, calling "Inga! Inga!" She said that even though she totally mispronounced, they were both super sweet, especially Jeffrey...)


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