This is not the caramel you are looking for

Five minute caramel my ass.

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Was going to try making a better filled chocolate tonight after work. My caramel would have time to firm up in the fridge. If I had caramel. What I have is the reeking results of scorched sugar and a smoke detector freaking out and terrified cats. That’s what I have.

Devil’s food cupcakes with chocolate buttercream

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So these were delicious, if not quite as expected. I’ve made these before and went for the double chocolate experience this time. I skipped most of the pictures for this one since I’ve done it previously.

The cake and frosting recipe are included in Good Housekeeping Chocolate!: Favorite Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Pies, Puddings & Other Sublime Desserts which is available on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca and one day I swear I’m going to test every frosting recipe inside.

As usual, go big or go home. I used Callebaut Belgian chocolate for this.

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Time required: 2 hours

Yields: hopefully 24 cupcakes

Cost per cupcake: $2.16

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $42-$52 depending on the quality of vanilla extract and the chocolate

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • KitchenAid mixer
  • incorrectly sized-muffin tin! (don’t do this)

Cake ingredients:

  • 2 C flour
  • 1 C unsweetened cocoa
  • 1½ TSP baking soda
  • ½ TSP salt
  • ½ C unsalted butter (one stick), room temp
  • 1 C golden brown sugar, packed
  • 1 C granulated white sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temp
  • 1½ TSP vanilla extract
  • 1½ C buttermilk  (or add 1 TBSP of vinegar to regular milk, stir and let sit)

Frosting ingredients:

  • 2 C icing sugar
  • 1 C butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 3 TBSP milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet Belgian chocolate, chopped

Cake instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 177°C / 350°F. Place cupcake liners in trays.

2. In a medium bowl combine: flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a mixing bowl at low speed, beat: butter, brown sugar, and white sugar, until blended. Increase speed to high: beat 5 min until it’s light and fluffy.

4. Reduce speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time.

5. Beat in vanilla.

6. Add the dry mixture and buttermilk alternating like so: half of the flour, all the buttermilk, and the rest of the flour. After each addition beat until just combined. Scrape the sides a few times and make sure the batter is smooth.

7. Bake about 18 minutes for full-size cupcakes or 14-15 min for minis. A toothpick inserted should come out clean.

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UGH WHY!! Not again. What the hell is this? This is what happens when you use a small muffin tin instead of the right size pan. Ugh.

8. Let cupcakes cool in pan one minute before removing from pan and placing on rack.  Cool before frosting. Judiciously select which ones to use in final photo.

Frosting instructions:

1. On low heat melt the chopped chocolate, stirring occasionally, then set aside to cool 5 min.

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2. Beat together until smooth: icing sugar, butter, milk, vanilla.

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3. Add chocolate and keep beating until well-combined. Beat on High about 2 min.

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Scrape down the bowl every 30 seconds.

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It lightens up quite a bit.

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Verdict:

I love this devil’s food recipe, it’s delicious. There are lots of ways to frost it and this is my first go at chocolate buttercream. It tasted great. I was surprised how soft this frosting was, it’s not runny, but it’s not suitable for piping. It is delicious however.

I’m not sure what happened to my cupcake pans, must have misplaced them in the move. This muffin tin is too shallow. I was conscious of not over-filling them and they still went kaboom.

I’ve been toying with the idea of reverse-engineering a Joe Louis for awhile and this frosting consistency has convinced me I can do it. Stay tuned.

Playlist:

Type O Negative – Love You to Death

 

Washington Pie

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I made Washington Pie for my mother’s birthday, which is a frosted yellow cake with a jam filling (shares traits with Boston cream pie). My Nanny used to make it and it’s been a long time since we’ve had it. I figured nostalgia would gloss over any technical errors on my part. This was served partially raw and uh, note the ratio of frosting to cake in the centre is not same on the outside edge? More on that later.

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This recipe comes the red and white Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, but I’m not sure which edition, ours doesn’t have it but Mom’s did.

Working in a different kitchen is always weird. I got to use the Onyx Black KitchenAid, which is just as reliable as my precious Nemo (if not quite as beautiful). I’m not used to this oven and that may have contributed to one of the problems with this cake.

Time required: 2 hours

Yields: 12 slices

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $45

Cost per slice: $3.75

Kitchen implements I used:

  • KitchenAid mixer
  • two 9″ round pans

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites
  • ½ C white sugar
  • 2¼ C cake flour
  • 1 C white sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ⅓ C vegetable oil
  • 1 C milk
  • 1½ tsp vanilla
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 5 TBSP pure strawberry or raspberry jam

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 176°C / 350°F. Grease and flour two 9″ rounds.

2. Separate the eggs, put the whites into the mixing bowl and put the yolks into a small bowl for later.

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Beat the whites until soft peaks form (when you remove the beater they’ll sink down).

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3. Gradually add ½ C sugar, beating until very stiff peaks form (you remove the beater and see little mountains of foam that stay upright).

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4. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Having a second mixing bowl saves you a lot of time.

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5. Add: vegetable oil, vanilla, and half the milk to the dry ingredients. Beat 1 min on Medium, scrap sides 3 times. (If I had a DeLorean, I’d have used the bowl with higher sides, since this led to a face full of wet cake and that is as vile as it sounds.)

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6. Add remaining milk and yolks. Beat 1 min, scrape sides 3 times.

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I always enjoy watching one of these in action. I realize they all do exactly the same thing but I will just happily observe for awhile.

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7. Unless you made a colossal error you should have two bowls like so:

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Gently fold the egg white mixture into 2nd bowl, turn the bowl and use a down, up, over motion

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You don’t want to stir it like crazy.

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You want it to look like this.

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8. Divide batter into pans, bake 25 min.

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9. Ask Spousal Unit to remove the cake from the oven and test. Believe that toothpick test was successful. Cool in pan 10 min before removing from pan and transferring to wire rack. Well damn. That’s not supposed to happen.

“Did you test the middle?”

“Yup, it came out clean.”

“Why is the middle raw then?”

“I don’t know.”

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Throw back in for another 5 min and pray.

10. Cool one hour.

11. Speed to birthday party. Position one cake so that the rounded side is facing down and you have a flat surface. That was the plan anyway. This cake has no true flat surface.

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12. Place a few tablespoons of jam in a glass bowl and microwave 40 seconds, spread warm jam over the flat cake surface.

13. Place the second cake on top (again round side down) so you have a flat surface to frost. What the hell went wrong here??

14. Cram frost with vanilla buttercream. I didn’t get a picture of the completed cake but the frosting hid the majority of the gaps. This picture is not the most appetizing but it was good. The centre of the cake was… not ideal, but the outer edge was bang on. See how much frosting is in the centre as opposed to the edge? Oh well. Good thing I love buttercream frosting.

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Verdict:

Never trust someone else to take your cake out of the oven. That’s what I learned from this experience. At least Mom was happy and that’s what counts. Next time I’ll try lining the pans with parchment paper.

Playlist:

Buckethead – White Wash

Homemade mascarpone

Apparently making mascarpone is really easy. I was all excited to do it. You may have clinked on this link hoping to see how to make mascarpone. You would be mistaken.

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“Some magician. You couldn’t turn cream into cheese!”

I let it sit overnight in the fridge but the centre is still liquid, I cooked it for the right time but lowered the temperature to avoid burning it and I think that was the problem, it’s supposed to cook at 190°F for the entire time. It wasn’t a total failure, you can see where part of it held it’s shape, will try again after work tonight.

Sing along in your best GLaDOS voice.

This was no triumph.
I’m making a note here;
HUGE SCREW-UP
It’s hard to understate my aggravation

Ganache gone wild – WTF just happened

Ugh. On Sunday I spent 2.5 hours making a perfectly emulsified ganache for an experiment. I let it chill overnight, and it solidified. I am so steamed.

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Ganache is typically equal parts scalded cream to chopped chocolate, in this case Toblerone.  To achieve a proper ganache that doesn’t crack or separate, you need to emulsify it.  Emulsification is the process of combining two or more liquids, which normally don’t combine, into one. (Basically you stir and rest, stir and rest, chill, pass Go, collect two hundred dollars.) It was all going so well…

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I poured the heated cream onto the chocolate and let it sit for bit, and then stirred every 15 minutes, for 2 hours.

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The hell with stirring by hand. I’ll let Nemo do the work for me. After all that is what I have a stand mixer for, who wants to stand there the entire time? I have video games to play.

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After 2 hours, it had lightened considerably, and had a smooth texture. All okay so far.

So I covered it with saran, and stupidly forgot to press it down to the surface, so the surface hardened.

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I intended to use it on Monday but I was busy. I took it out of the fridge today, and lo and behold.

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What. Is. This? I tried to save it by reheating but the fat started to separate. Wuah! This is no good.

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I figured it might be salvageable if I could stir heated cream into it, and miracle of miracles, it seemed to recover.

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Alright, we’re cooking with gas now. As to what I made this for, well, just stay right there and find out. Next year.

Born to dye

Experiments with natural dyes have run amok. Using spinach, turmeric, and beets, I was able to produce pots of bright dye, but adding them to the fillings did not accomplish much.

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Have you ever had an idea that seemed really great in your head? When I was little, I decided I would carve a wooden deer for my dad on Father’s Day. I had no source of income, ergo my consumer purchasing power was nil. So I decided to carve! Mind you I had no experience with carving, but I did have a stack of firewood and Dad’s set of carving tools. Several hours later, I had a mangled piece of wood and some splinters for my pain, no deer; that’s what homemade dye brings to mind.

The concept of dying my chocolate fillings seemed solid.  Making a pot of dye is fairly simple, simmer about 4 cups of water with ½ C of puréed vegetable or spice, and voila! But after the dye is made, adding it to the filling did not change the colour. Oh, woe.

Notes from the drawing board:

This base yields enough filling for 30 centres x 4 flavours, 120 pieces total.

Combine: 2 C icing sugar, 1½ TBSP unsalted butter, ¼ tsp vanilla, 2 TBSP evaporated milk.  Divide into 4 bowls.

Add flavouring oils to 3 bowls (none for the butter creams)

Peppermint oil = extremely potent, no more than 3 small drops. Several drops of spinach dye, no discernible difference. Cannot taste spinach.

Raspberry cream oil = very potent, 3 small drops quite strong also.  Adding 8 drops of beat juice sweetened it, yields soft pink colour.

Orange cream oil = weak, lost count after 30 drops, flavour is mild and weak bouquet, wtf. Several drops of turmeric dye, no change. Cannot taste spice.

mario

I like the idea of dying my chocolate fillings for two reasons:

  1. I am a 2-bite chocolate person. I like to look at the centre before it’s gone, so I want to see a pink raspberry cream or an orange filling
  2. It’s difficult to keep 4 bowls of fillings straight, after awhile your sense of smell and taste goes numb and you sit there, “Is this the orange cream or the butter cream??” The different colours would make it easy.

I don’t want to give up and use artificial dye. After all, my chocolate packaging hails them as containing “dairy, nuts, and all-natural vegetable dyes”. It’s either figure it out or give up on dye. It tooks days to get the letter spacing just so, no way in hell am I redrawing the chocolate map.

Boyfriend asked me, “Why do you want to dye peppermint patties green anyway? Aren’t they white??”

I think it was that I wanted 4 distinct colours since we had 4 flavoured cream fillings, and I thought peppermint leaves are green, raspberries are pink, butter is yellow, and orange is orange.

My problem is I don’t experiment before I need the dye, I just assume I will do XZY on Chocolate Shoppe Day and it will work. Clearly I need to try substituting more of the evaporated milk with the dye to balance out the liquid, and add enough to see the colour, yet not taste the base of the dye, perhaps more icing sugar to stiffen it up.

Playlist: Halo 2 – Mjölnir Mix

“Give it to us raw, Precious!”

My latest attempt at banana bread resulted in something that fooled the senses at first. It smelled done, it felt done, and the toothpick test (in 5 places) indicated it was cooked through, so I served it.

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The first slice was fine.  The second slice was fine. Sometime later, I noticed it was a bit… juicy. I dissected the loaf and the centre was jiggly. It was so raw, I became rather disgusted and put the camera down. It couldn’t, shouldn’t, be photo-documented any further. I confided to my bestie about what happened.

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“That’s amazing. You and loaves of anything don’t mix.”

It’s true! My ginger loaf and banana breads always come out of the oven screwed up.  Maybe I need more practice. In the Year of Pie and the Trials and Tribulations of Fudge, it didn’t take too long to get it right. I just made it all the time for awhile (my guts are recoiling in memory) until I got it right.

So; practice. The worst part of making banana bread is letting the bananas ripen.  There is a fine line between over-ripe fruit and putrefied fruit, turn your back for a few hours and suddenly instead of squashing mushy bananas, you are splitting the skin with a knife and watching the clear fluid burst out like a floater fished from the river. Zombie fruit on the counter isn’t my idea of a good time. Experiments in cellular degeneration gone awry.

Oh well. Time to get back to The Rotting Bread.

Chocolate fudge fail

Blast. I was really looking forward to this. How disappointing.

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This recipe comes from Old Tyme Fudge. I love that website. I’m pretty sure it’s a great recipe and I screwed up. Phooey.

I wrote up this post last night after I put the fudge sludge in the pan. So, just pretend it set and follow along.

Before you get started: Have you read my fudge guide? I have done this successfully before, I swear.

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Time required: 8.5 hours (about 1 hour of actual doing stuff)

Yields: about 30 pieces

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $34.

Cost per piece: $1.14

Kitchen implements I used:

  • KitchenAid mixer
  • 8″ square pan
  • tin foil
  • heavy-bottomed sauce pan (2.2 qt size is not big enough)
  • silicon spatula
  • lots of extra spoons

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate (I used Callebaut Belgian chocolate)
  • 3 C sugar
  • 2 TBSP corn syrup
  • 1¼ C milk
  • 4 TBSP butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions:

1. Line the square pan with foil and grease it. Also grease the entire inside of the sauce pan, all the way up the sides. Grease the flat beater of the mixer too.

2. Chop the chocolate and melt on Low heat until smooth.

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3. Combine everything in the sauce pan except the butter and the vanilla.  Heat on Medium, stirring constantly.

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And definitely using a bigger pot next time.

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4. Once mixture boils, reduce heat to Med-Low and STOP STIRRING. Insert candy thermometer.

Yikes. This is almost disaster territory. Perhaps this was a portent of things to come.

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5. Once mixture reaches 238°F / 114°C, remove from heat.

6. Carefully place pot into cold water bath. Add butter but DO NOT STIR.

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7. Let it cool (it only took 30 min this time) until temp falls to 120°F / 49°C.

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Once the mixture has cooled to this stage, there will be a skim on top, just ignore it. Transfer to mixing bowl and pour in the vanilla.

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8. Beat it. How long? Who knows.

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I planned to do 28 minutes on speed 2 which worked great for my penuche batch, but after 13 minutes it has acquired “that frosting look” which I’ve read about before.

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9. Pour into prepared pan and smooth, let sit at least 4 hours.

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10. Lift out of pan and score the top with a knife, then slice into squares.

What’s this what’s this?!

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Argh!!

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God, no! That is never a good sign. Fudge shouldn’t rise with the knife.

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Verdict: It tastes delicious but is a failure. Supposedly fudge is ready to be poured once it looks like frosting. Whoever said that can go directly to hell and not pass go. I will freeze this until I figure out what to do with it. I’ll try this again soon, stay tuned.

Playlist: 46 albums of Sailor Moon music!

The Devil’s rejects

Sometimes substituting ingredients can lead to rapturous results. Other times, not so much. Like tonight, when I decided to make devil’s chocolate cupcakes, without buttermilk. But looks can be deceiving, will these devil’s wannabes live up to my expectations?

I haven’t baked in … yikes! I hemmed and hawed this afternoon over what I could make, and cupcakes kept coming up. I rummaged through the fridge and found 2% milk and heavy cream. No buttermilk. Think think think. Cupcakes with…heavy cream? This could be a prelude to a heart attack.

I’m game.

I dusted off Nemo and got to work, creaming the butter and sugar together.

Mixed the dry ingredients together.

Added dry and cream to mixing bowl in alternating pours.

Stared at batter in bemused silence. It seems… foamy?

Houston, we don’t have doming. This can’t be good.

Flat tops with two leavening agents? Ugh. Decided to mix up frosting and hope for the best. (Best thing about having two bowls for your mixer is not having to clean the bowl in between stuff. Go Nemo go!)

Sampled frosting and…. woah. That is some sweet, sweet icing. Also much too light in colour. Not quite what I had in mind.

Verdict:

No wonder the devil rejected them, back to the drawing board on this one. It turns out that the only acceptable substitute for buttermilk is milk and vinegar, but even then it’s not nearly as good.

Well, I tried. It didn’t really work out but they were still palatable, just not my best. They were slightly overdone, oddly dense, and with overly sweet frosting. Boyfriend enjoyed them despite those flaws, bless him!

The search for the perfect chocolate buttercream continues. Stay tuned!

Playlist: various Final Fantasy tracks

Eggnog

For reasons I cannot fathom, Boyfriend loves eggnog. I do not, and when someone offers me a glass of eggnog, I have terrible flashbacks to a night involving a childhood illness and my father’s questionable decision that eggnog was what the doctor ordered. Ugh. To this day the thought of drinking eggnog makes me queasy.

A few days ago Boyfriend bought some eggnog, but he drank it all and has been moping around.

“Sigh.”

“Why are you sighing?”

“We’re out of eggnog.”

“You mean you’re out of eggnog.”

In a burst of Christmas generosity I was moved to make homemade eggnog for him. I googled around until I found something that looked promising. I made a few changes to the recipe.

Time required: 1 hour

Yields: 3-4 large glasses

Cost per glass: $4.00

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $25.00

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • Nemo the KitchenAid

Ingredients:

  • 2 C milk
  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1 TSP nutmeg
  • 4 egg yolks, 4 egg whites
  • ⅓ C sugar + 1 TBSP

Instructions:

1. Separate yolks and whites. Place yolks in mixing bowl, set whites aside for later.

 

2. Beat yolks until colour lightens.

3. Gradually add ⅓ C of sugar to the yolks, beat until thoroughly dissolved.

4. In a sauce pan, add milk, cream, nutmeg, and vanilla bean. Scald mixture, then remove from heat.

5. Strain and temper hot cream into yolks, adding about one third at a time.

Once the cream and yolks have been mixed, return to sauce pot and heat to 160°F / 71.1°C. (I switched to a fresh pot for this.)

Don’t forget to stir. I forgot to stir, and I got a scrambled eggs on the bottom. Oops.

6. Remove from heat, transfer to mixing bowl, and chill.

7. Meanwhile, in another mixing bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. (I used the 3rd setting for 2-3 min.)

8. Add 1 TBSP of sugar to whites, beating until stiff peaks form. (Took 2-3 min on 4th setting.)

9. Whisk whites into chilled mixture.

Whisking got boring so I used the wire-whip attachment in the mixer to do this for me.

10. Chill and… drink I guess.

Verdict:

Boyfriend assures me it was delicious. I’ll have to trust his judgement, I have no intentions of drinking that swill. After he drained the glass I confessed that I didn’t stir it enough and found eggy mixture in the bottom.

“Oh. I thought I felt something kinda solid in there.”

“But it was okay, yeah?”

“Yeah. It was really good, despite the eggs. Best homemade nog I’ve ever had!”

“I’ll take your word on that.”

Playlist: The Vision of Escaflowne OST