Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Good Fucking Gluten Free Devil's Food Cake

In addition to the Witch's Skull I also made the Pretty One a similarly themed Skull Cake. The first cake I ever made and it was a gluten and almost dairy free cake. I can't bake. I mainly can't bake because I like to make up my own instructions for doing things based loosely on whatever actual instructions are in front of me. This serves me well in every other creative venture outside of baking. Baking, however, is a rigid bitch with too many rules and gluten free baking is a fascist headmistress who lures you with soft promises of succulent delight but leaves you an actuality of sand, gravel and crushed dreams.

There was hope. A little while back I had a cupcake made by a good friend who has Celiac Disease and, knowing they were gluten free, they were really freaking good. She let me know that they were made with Betty Crocker's Gluten Free Devil's Food Cake Mix. So, I figured, a Betty Crocker Mix was foolproof, let's give the bitch a try.

As I was reading reviews of the mix on Amazon they all solidly read "This cake mix is the greatest thing that ever happened to me since I went gluten free, goddamnit all that weight is going to come back". You always have to read gluten free food reviews with a grain of salt though, many of these are from people that are trying to grasp onto anything that could return to them that lost joy of deeply satisfying baked good whose abandonment has left their souls with a personal void so deep it draws madness. This loss can create a vacuous mind that may grasp onto any dry morsel and believe it to be a holy loaf of sacramental bread.

So, I dug a little deeper armed with the knowledge that having tasted cupcakes from this mix, even if my mind was skewed a bit, they were tasty. There must be someone out there who also made them luscious. With some quick Google-Fu katas I came across this and found my instructions beyond the regular instructions that I would also have to make up my own instructions for.
Betty Crocker’s Gluten-Free Mixes – almost as good as the original
That recipe was for an improvement on the Yellow Cake version so I figured I'd adapt it for the chocolate. You can see the full recipe I came up with, and mostly followed, here...
GFGFDF Cake (Good Fucking Gluten Free Devil's Food Cake)
The only differences to what I typed up and ended up with was that after I mixed all of the dry ingredients I split the dry mix in half to make a half batch with about half of the required wet ingredients. I also reserved some of the frosting before adding the melted chocolate to keep it white for drip-painting the skull on top of the chocolate frosting. I also cut back a little on the sugar in the frosting but it did end up thinner than I'd like, so I probably wouldn't do that again.

The flavor turned out very well, beautifully rich. It was a bit dense though, but that could have also been because it was immediately refrigerated and then packed in a cooler full of ice, never to return to room temperature until it was consumed. Last I heard, it was consumed with joy, Skull-Devilry joy.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Witch's Jawbone... Er, Skull

Every once in a while I feel romantic and want to make something special for the Pretty One. Some of you may remember the Blood of the Innocent cocktail and Child Skull Goblet I made for her before. I didn't quite know what I was doing and should I ever try to make another I'd probably do a few things differently but all in all I loved the way it turned out. It also gave me the experience to step up the next one a bit.

This is that next one,

The Witch's Skull...

As an avid reader of Proponomicon I saw a post a while back showing a prop from TheMonkeyRadio called The Witch's Jawbone and thought it would make a lovely present for The Pretty One. As I looked at it I thought to myself, I'm good at making stuff, why not give it a go myself and see what I can make. The Monkey radio mentioned that the prop was from an actual account of a witch burial so I did a quick search and found this...
A grisly end: 800-year-old remains of witch discovered in Italian graveyard… with seven nails driven through her jaw
As much as I liked the museum piece jawbone in its presentation box, I figured I'd do a trophy or altar worthy skull just to be different, I read through a few prop sites, read up on corpsing and came up with a plan.

I got a basic skull, shrinkwrap, latex primer, acrylic paints, some Elmer's and a terrible wig that I somehow salvaged to use. I still have these crappy nylon hairs all over my living room. Lastly I got some nails from an 18th century New England barn as I wanted it to look as old as possible. Maybe the skull of this girl wasn't from 12th century Italy but from a good old Puritanical American witch-hunt.

Because I actually had a plan, I drilled the 7 holes through the jawbone for the 7 nails. As fun and therapeutic it would be, I figured that actually hammering the nails in would just break the poor girl.

I liked the positioning so I set about fixing the jaw in as wide open a position as possible.

Next, I wrapped her with shrinkwrap to start the desiccated skin effect. The first time I tried it I only wrapped it around once or so which didn't leave me enough material after hitting it with a heat gun. Needed several layers to keep from vaporizing with the heat gun and leaving nice crusty flesh.

After some trimming a latex primer was added before painting the skin to match the skull. I wanted the flesh to match the same tones as the bone.

Now that the skin was all set, it was time to re-insert the nails through the old flesh and add a nice little carved warding.

Now she's starting to look pretty and she's as done as she'll be until I mount her to a base,

I got this piece of wood from ASPauljoy on Etsy. I probably could have easily sourced something more local but it was the perfect size and finish and only a few bucks. I did a light dremeling of the design before hitting it with some fire.

After the torching was done I added 13 nails around the circle of the pentagram. The article about the Italian gravesite mentioned that not only were 7 nails driven through the woman's jaw but her corpse was surrounded by 13 nails which I also wanted to incorporate into the presentation somehow. Another corpse had 17 or so bone dice around her but I felt like I wanted to keep it a little simple. Besides, it took me a while to find the write lettering style for "Malefica". It all turned out well, but it really needed more fire...
A couple of long woodscrews through the bottom of the base up into the skull and she was fairly secure. Most skulls I found online were hollow, even ones like this one I got specifically because it didn't have the removable top of the cranium, but this one was solid resin or plastic. I would have actually preferred to use a hollow skull as I'd feel more secure if it was mounted with a toggle bolt instead of being at the mercy of the material the skull to not crumble or tear out at some point.

I originally was going to mount the entire wig I got and braid the hair through the 13 nails on the board. Unfortunately the wig was really fucking ugly and a nightmare to do anything with so I snipped a few clumps of the white hairs off of it and attached them in locks with masking tape and Elmer's.

After that, it was just a little finishing paint up over the new hair and some other touch ups.  A quick hit for an acrylic finish spray and she was all done.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Week 24: Francois Guy [52 Whispers From The Muse]

Francois Guy
Overall Rating: 3.3
Appearance: 3.5
Louche: 3.0
Aroma: 3.5
Flavor/Mouthfeel: 3.0
Finish: 3.0
Overall: 3.5
Style: Verte
ABV: 45%
Country: France Distillery: Distillerie Pierre Guy
Appearance: Nice pale green, not bright but not dull, clean. Louche: Some quick and unexpected bright coloring going on as it fully louches, Not overly thick but nice and translucent. Aroma: Very Anise forward and... anise. That being said it's not overbearing at all. It's nice, simple and sweet. Flavor/Mouthfeel: Unassuming but full of Anise as expected from the aroma. Wormwood does follow through and the flavor did benefit from staying under a 2:1 water to Absinthe mix. Finish: Bitterness creeps in nicely as the Wormwood hangs around in the lingering aftertaste. Pleasant and fresh. Overall: Anise and Unassuming are the 2 characteristics to take away from this. It could easily be an introductory Absinthe to someone who knows they like Anise. It's not quite as well balanced as other Absinthes I've suggested as introductory brands (Mansinthe, Lucid, etc) but it would probably be a go-to brand for everyday drinking if it were more readily available here in the States.

This was one of a couple of brands that I got that I didn't have but were suggested as staples in any Absinthe collection (Vieux Pontarlier being another though I may just have to let that one be if it has the Emile Pernot curse). At under $60 USD for a whopping 1 liter bottle, Francois Guy is a fantastic deal.

I could easily see myself just sitting on the deck and pouring this into a collins glass of crushed ice with some lemon and sipping it next sunset. Actually, that may be a plan...

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Week 23: Amave [52 Whispers From The Muse]


Overall Rating: 4.4
Appearance: 4.5
Louche: 4.0
Aroma: 4.5
Flavor/Mouthfeel: 4.5
Finish: 4.0
Overall: 4.5

Style: Blanche/La Bleue
ABV: 53%
Country: Czech Republic
Distillery: Zufanek

Appearance: Crystal, crystal clear and flawlessly transparent.
Louche: Some hints of pale blue as the louche forms well defined trails that quickly fill out, Ends in a slightly translucent milk white.
Aroma: Sweet anise with a bright citrus hit your nose first. Fresh and crisp herbs follow.
Flavor/Mouthfeel: Much like the aroma, slightly sweet anise with that fresh crispness that levels to a slight but pleasant bitterness. Luxuriously smooth which calls you to drink more. Not overly complex but extremely nice.
Finish: Light and dry finish. Initially I over-diluted it forgetting it was only 53%. Seemed to work best for me at about 2-2.5:1 water to Amave.
Overall: A gorgeous simplicity without being simple. This La Bleue seems to have been made with a purpose to be exceptional and minimal without sacrificing flavor or quality. This is a very, very easy Absinthe to drink.

There was a point I could say that I preferred a French Verte as my favorite type/style of Absinthe. Jade and early Emile Pernot Absinthes had my heart and it took me quite some time to want to even try any Blanches or Bleues. It was probably when the Emile Pernot house brands went to hell that I decided to branch out. I'm glad I did since there are so many great non-vertes out there. This is definitely one of them.

 It's easy to say that Zufanek's first La Bleue is up to par with the whole Zufanek brand. To say that it's the best Czech Blanche isn't really a compliment at all but it is fair to say that Amave stands very well as a Swiss styled La Bleue regardless of where it was made. What I don't understand is how all of the Czech Crapsinthe brands stay in business.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Week 22: Jade Nouvelle Orleans [52 Whispers From The Muse]

Jade  Nouvelle Orleans

Overall Rating: 4.7
Appearance: 4.5
Louche: 5.0
Aroma: 4.5
Flavor/Mouthfeel: 4.5
Finish: 4.5
Overall: 5.0

Style: Verte        
ABV: 68%
Country: France       
Distillery: Jade Combier    

Appearance: A bright, near emerald green with a gem like luster.
Louche: Tendrils of clouds that build from the bottom to a full louche. Some light turquoise and yellows that blend into a mint green.
Aroma: Neat there is a full floral bouquet with a hint of earthiness. Anise and Fennel sit behind it all but are quite distinct.
Flavor/Mouthfeel: Very full flavored, sweet up front which rolls into the florals and ends with that characteristic Jade deep-one leafiness I described in the V.S. 1898, though not as pronounced. There is a complex cascade of flavors that washes over the tongue with a silky texture that is most pleasing.
Finish: The sweet florals stay with you a while with a hint of numbing tingle. This is one that you keep tasting new flavors even as you exhale.
Overall: Beautiful and dynamic, Nouvelle Orleans lends a unique flavor to the Jade line. Clearly a wonderful example of what can be done with a true, if not traditional Absinthe.

Nouvelle Orleans was the first Jade I ever tried and was the first Absinthe to completely blow my socks off in my early adventures in Absinthing. It definitely remains one of my favorites and I've gone through several bottle since it first became available. I do love all of the Jades but this one is the one on my desert island list.

I finally got around to using the Balancier I bought from iheartabsinthe.com. I love the way the Nouvelle Orleans dances back and forth as the water drips from side to side. Truly beautiful.