A Magical Christmas with Hotel Chocolat

Chocolate is one of those comfort foods that I’ve always had a soft spot for. My earliest memory of chocolate is probably Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bars, which I used to eat almost religiously. And then there was Kit Kat, which still remains one of my favourite chocolate bars up till today.

Through the years, I’ve tried lots of chocolate – some good, some not so good, and some absolutely amazing ones. Hotel Chocolat is one of those amazing chocolate brands that I’ve come across. I still remember my first ever experience of the Hotel Chocolat range of chocolate gifts – one of my best friends bought me one of their chocolate slabs for my birthday, and I was so in awe of its beauty that I simply admired it for a whole month before actually eating it. Yes, I am strange.

This Christmas, Hotel Chocolat have as usual outdone themselves and come up with a fantastic selection of chocolate goodies. From dark chocolate truffle trees to advent calendars to gingerbread liquid chocolat (hot chocolate), they have it all. Now, who wouldn’t want to receive such lovely treats for Christmas?

Definitely not me. Which is why I jumped at the chance to try out some of the chocolates from Hotel Chocolat’s Christmas present range.

The Ultimate Advent Calendar for two is one of the most beautifully packaged advent calendars I’ve ever seen. Boasting a selection of luscious luxury truffles behind each window, this advent calendar is a guarantee of a very happy and fulfilling run up to Christmas.

One of the most enjoyable things about advent calendars is the mystery of what is concealed behind each numbered window. I was swiftly transformed back to my childhood when I was opening up the windows to reveal the simple yet classy looking truffles. We don’t really do advent calendars back in Malaysia, so I got *slightly* over excited and opened every single window… I blame my inner child.

What I like most about this advent calendar is how there are TWO mini truffles behind each window – i.e. no need to fight your other half/siblings for the chocolate… which is what I know both my sister and I would have done if we had one of these growing up. We’re both slightly obsessive about chocolate, you see.

The truffles consist of six different flavours: liquid caramel (brown line – you can’t see this as it’s been halved in the photo above), gingerbread truffle (green topped), orange liquer caramel (orange topped), rum liquid caramel (light brown topped), mousse au chocolat (red line) and house milk praline. My personal favourites were the rum liquid caramel and the gingerbread truffle – nothing like a bit of rum and ginger to bring a bit of festive cheer.

And then there was Mr. Best Dressed Reindeer, who was made from 70% dark chocolate. This was another one of those “I can’t bear to eat this, it’s too cute/pretty” moments. After some oohing and aahing, I finally nibbled at his ear – and my, it was good. If dark chocolate is not your thing, you could always go for the milk chocolate Santa, or the white chocolate Snowman. All “Best Dressed”, naturally.

And then there were the Tiddly Snowmen. These adorable white chocolate mini snowmen would be a perfect stocking filler – and trust me when I say no child (or even adult!) would not want to find this in their stockings come Christmas morning.

Now on to the exciting part! Thanks to Hotel Chocolat, one lucky winner will win an Ultimate Advent Calendar to accompany his/her countdown to Christmas! Just imagine how much more pleasant December will be with the knowledge that you’ve got chocolates to look forward to every single day… 😀

To enter, do any (or all) of the following: (Each will get you ONE entry)

  • Visit the Hotel Chocolat Christmas site, and leave a comment below telling me what your favourite chocolate gift is.
  • Tweet about the giveaway: I just entered the @breadetbutter giveaway for a @HotelChocolat Ultimate Advent Calendar! http://wp.me/pAcXx-oI #giveaway
  • Like Hotel Chocolat on Facebook, and leave me a comment below telling me you’ve done this.
  • Stumble this post, and leave me a comment telling me you’ve done this.

This giveaway is open to all residents of UK, Europe and USA. Giveaway ends Friday 19th November 2010 at 23:59 BST. A winner will be chosen at random, and once he/she confirms their address, the Ultimate Advent Calendar will be sent out to them. If the winner fails to confirm their address within 24 hours, another winner will be chosen.

Good luck! 🙂

***Giveaway has now ENDED***
Congratulations to Alison, who has won herself a Hotel Chocolat Ultimate Advent Calendar!

* non-watermarked photos courtesy of Hotel Chocolat

Giveaway: Tickets to The Wine Show/Masterchef Live 2010!

Ahhh the sweet joy of being connected to the world again. I’ve been rather absent on the blog/twitter front for the last couple of weeks, and that’s because I’ve been back home in Malaysia. It’s not any normal trip, mind you. We’re moving after being in the same place for longer than I can even remember, so as you can imagine, there is a LOT of stuff. I kid you not. And of course, there was no internet access at the new place (and all of us who have moved know what a pain it is to get it sorted). It’s sometimes rather scary to think how dependent I am on the internet.

But no matter, the internet people (I don’t know what else to address them as) came by today – and YAY there is internet again! 😀 And don’t worry, this isn’t a post about how happy I am to be able to check my email compulsively again… it’s about a GIVEAWAY!

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, The Wine Show is a dedicated consumer wine show that gives visitors a chance to learn about, discuss, and buy a whole range of established wines from around the world. There will be hundreds of wines to choose from on the Show floor from a selection of Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference wines to wines from countries spanning Chile, New Zealand, France, Spain and also local varieties. And for those of you wine buying enthusiasts, do not worry about carrying bottles of wine on the tube journey home, as there will be a home delivery service on offer.

And this year, wine experts including Oz Clarke, Tim Atkin, Susy Atkins and Rob Buckhaven will be hosting tutored wine tastings in The Drinks Tasting Theatre. They will also be offering advice on how to pick out the perfect wine. This means that visitors to the Show will have the opportunity to not only taste and buy new and existing wines, but will also be educated on how to match food to wine at home and in a restaurant. Now for a wine dummy like me (I know absolutely squat about wine), this is perfect as my knowledge about wine truly leaves much to be desired.

And to make the day out even better, The Wine Show will be running alongside MasterChef Live, giving you the chance to combine two great passions – wine and food! MasterChef Live is a food extravaganza with celebrity chef demonstrations (including previous MasterChef contestants Mat Follas and Andy Oliver), expert advice, as well as the chance to master new skills and techniques. Fans of the show will also be delighted to hear that there will be a chance to see MasterChef judges John Torode, Gregg Wallace, Michel Roux Jr and Monica Galetti! (I love Michel Roux, he’s such a classic French cook. Plus I hear the food at Le Gavroche is to die for.)

And of course, that’s not all – there has to be some shopping as well (naturally). There will be a whole host of exceptional producers, delicious and unusual ingredients as well as the latest gadgets for sale at the show. I personally love shopping at food festivals/events/markets, and am really looking forward to buying some things during the show.

But enough of me rambling on about how fantastic these two shows are going to be. It’s not going to be much use if you don’t get a chance to go now is it? So, thanks to the lovely people at BBC, I’m delighted to be able to offer TEN pairs of tickets to The Wine Show & Masterchef Live 2010 at Olympia London!

So, how do you enter? Just leave a comment below and telling me why you want to win a pair of tickets.

  • Tickets are for general admission only.
  • Tickets exclude entry on Saturdays, are non-transferable, and cannot be exchanged for cash.
  • Giveaway ends on Thursday 4th November 2010 at 23:59 (BST). Ten winners will be chosen at random, and tickets will be sent to the winners once they confirm their addresses.

Good luck!

**COMPETITION HAS NOW ENDED**

Congratulations to Sarah, Michelle, Lyn, Rod, Ms Odumosu, Kay, Alvin, Karin, David and JY, who have each won a pair of tickets to The Wine Show & Masterchef Live 2010! Have a wonderful time at the show! 🙂

Photos are courtesy of The Wine Show and MasterChef Live.

Passionfruit yogurt cheesecake & the winner of the CSN giveaway!

Every now and again you come across something that you know you simply have to make. Sometimes it’s a recipe you see in a cookbook, sometimes it’s something you see on the television, and sometimes it’s something you see on other food blogs. On this occasion, it was Stephane’s passionfruit tofu cheesecake that caught my attention. Tofu? In cheesecake? Definitely interesting, as I’d never heard of it before.

I still had some Total Greek yogurt at the time, so decided to try substituting the tofu for yogurt – and then prayed hard that it would work out. And thankfully, it did work. The yogurt provided a beautifully creamy texture to the cheesecake layer, and I could even tell myself it was “healthy” because I used fat free Greek yogurt and light cream cheese.

Instead of making them into mini cakes, I decided to make them into tarts. What can I say? I’m a bit of a rebel when it comes to cooking – I can’t stick to instructions and am always adapting recipes to suit my mood on a particular day. Having said that, I’m not someone who believes that recipes are something that need to be followed to the letter – I agree that it’s important when it comes to things like pastry, but when it comes to day to day cooking I believe it’s more than acceptable to tweak the recipe to suit your liking.

And because I only have a limited number of tart cases, I used ramekins for the remaining cheesecakes (or in this case, cheesecake pots). I quite like how these turned out – the only tricky bit was scraping up every last bit of the biscuit base which was wedged into the groove at the bottom of the ramekins. I’m a HUGE fan of biscuit bases – I believe that it is a very important component of cheesecakes, and if I must be honest I think it’s my favourite thing about cheesecakes. Strange? Perhaps.

But before I get to the recipe, I have to announce the winner of the CSN Stores £50/$75 voucher giveaway! Thank you to all of you who participated, and after compiling all the entries – random.org has chosen entry #41 as the winner!

Congratulations, Leilani! You’ve just won yourself a CSN Stores gift voucher worth $75/£50! I hope you enjoy spending it. 🙂

Passionfruit yogurt cheesecake
Adapted from this recipe on Zen Can Cook
Makes one 8 inch cake/10-12 cheesecake pots

For the biscuit base:

  • 15 digestive biscuits, crumbed
  • 120g butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the yogurt cheesecake:

  • 400g greek yogurt (I used Total fat free Greek yogurt)
  • 450g cream cheese, at room temperature (I used Philadelphia light cream cheese)
  • 3 tablespoons passionfruit juice (I used Tropicana orange passionfruit juice)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (I used 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatine
  • 3/4 cup sugar

For the passionfruit jelly:

  • 4 ripe passion fruits, juiced – reserve the seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered gelatine

For the biscuit base:

1. Preheat the oven to 180’C. Butter an 8 inch cake tin/ramekins/tart tins. If using a ring line the bottom with aluminum foil and place on a baking tray.

2. Put the digestive crumbs in a bowl, and add the sugar, ground ginger and salt to it. Mix well.

3. Add the melted butter to the crumb mixture, and mix until combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin/ramekin and press it down in an even layer. Bake until golden (takes approx 10 minutes – this may differ according to the size of your tin) and let it cool completely.

For the yogurt cheesecake:

4. Put the yogurt and the passion fruit juice in a food processor and mix until smooth. (I used a stand mixer)

5. Put the heavy cream in a small saucepan and heat until warm to the touch. Add the powdered gelatine to the warmed cream,  and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside.

6. Put the softened cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla seeds/vanilla bean paste in the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat until fluffy.

7. Fold cream, followed by passionfruit yogurt mixture into the cream cheese mixture until incorporated.

8. Pour the cheesecake mixture into the crust, and refrigerate until set. This will take at least 6 hours.

For the passionfruit jelly layer:

9. Strain the passionfruit juice and place in a small saucepan over low heat. (I didn’t strain it)

10. Add the powdered gelatin and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat and let it cool.

11. Meanwhile rinse some of the passion-fruit seeds and place on top of the set cheesecake.

12. Pour the passionfruit mixture on top, and refrigerate for at least one hour/until set.

13. Serve!

CSN Stores giveaway!

I have an aunt is a great fan of giveaways and competitions. I remember how she would hand me a competition entry form, saying “Can you come up for a catchy slogan for why you love shopping at Jusco? Your dad could win a car!” Maybe she’s a lucky star, as my parents have won a trip to Hong Kong and a TV in the past. Not through a catchy slogan I came up with though, so I can’t take any credit!

Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this story is because I’m hosting a giveaway on the blog, in conjunction with CSN Stores. 🙂 Who is CSN Stores, you ask? Well, they are an e-commerce company comprising of over 200+ online stores. And they sell everything from a modern platform bed to a pretty cake stand! Basically, if you’re doing a spot of shopping for the home, I bet you’d be able to find what you wanted on their site. In fact, you’d probably find a lot of other things you want but don’t actually need…

Like me. I love wandering around homeware stores – spending time in such places in truly one of my favourite things to do in my free time. CSN Stores is similar. I don’t really want to admit how much time I spent browsing through their site and finding things I *wish* I had in my flat…

This beautiful china cake stand – I love the painted flowers on this, and I think it would be a great way to display cakes or muffins on the dining table. Things always look so much better when presented well, don’t you think?

Krups Citz Nespresso coffee machine – I’ve got a few friends who own one, and they say the coffee is surprisingly good and the machine is a breeze to use. An added plus is how it’d match the colour of my beloved KitchenAid stand mixer!

Le Creuset stoneware soup bowls – it would be so nice to serve soup in these, and think about what good props they’d make!

Zak 2 piece helping hands salad server set – they come in a range of vibrant colours, but red is by far my favourite.

Hyder day bed – I didn’t even know such things existed! This would be perfect for my post-lunch weekend naps… a bit pointless yes, but since this is a wishlist (as opposed to an actual shopping list), I figure I can get away with wanting a day bed for my living room. 😀

Chicago metallic 12 cup dainty daisy cupcake pan – a girl can never have too many cupcake pans, and this one is one of the prettiest ones I’ve seen. These would be perfect for a girly tea party, they’re so cute!

But enough of me prattling on, because you probably want to know more about this giveaway. Thanks to CSN Stores, I will be giving away a $75/£50 gift certificate to one lucky reader – this gift certificate can be used to buy anything from their website! You could get yourself a daisy cupcake pan of your own (or something else, if cute cupcakes aren’t your thing).

So, you know what the prize is. But how do you enter? It’s easy:

  • Visit the CSN Stores website (US/Canada residents click here, UK residents click here), and leave a comment below telling me what you would buy with your $75/£50 gift certificate.

For extra entries:

  • Tweet about this giveaway (you can use the “tweet” button below). Don’t forget to use @breadetbutter and #csngiveaway so I can find you! This gives you ONE entry.
  • Stumble this post (you can use the “stumble” button below), and leave me a comment to let me know you have done this. This gets you TWO entries.

Simples!

* The giveaway is open to readers from UK, US and Canada.

*Giveaway ends on Wednesday 6th October 2010 at 23:59 (British Standard Time). The winner will be chosen at random, and will have 24 hours to confirm his/her email address, following which the code for the gift certificate will be emailed to him/her by a representative from CSN Stores.