Category Archives: Dessert

Chocolate Ice Cream

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For Mother’s Day, my children got me an ice cream maker. How very nice of them! With the gift, I also got an ice cream mix. According to the directions, I just add half and half and cream and process.  Twenty-five minutes later– Chocolate Ice Cream. Well, yeah, it was chocolate ice cream. But gritty. Definitely not Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk. So, I researched how to make chocolate ice cream and avoid the horrid grittiness. Recipes included ingredients that varied from heavy cream to half and half to whole milk to cream cheese. Sugar was always in the mix with eggs or cornstarch offered as thickeners. But what explained the “gritty” texture?

According to various experts, the heart of the problem lies with water. There’s water in the milk or half and half. The more water, the grittier the ice cream. Some bloggers use sweetened condensed milk or cream cheese to avoid the use of liquid milk products and their dreaded water. With every substitution, there is usually a downside.  So, what’s the downside of using cream cheese or sweetened condensed milk? Some reviews criticized these recipes as not really “feeling” like ice cream in their mouths. Or not really melting. Say what now? Ice cream pretty much has to melt.

So, I ran across David Lebovitz’s recipe on Brown Eyed Baker for chocolate ice cream and he pretty much followed the standard 5 egg yolk recipe, but added admonitions to keep the water to a minimum.  In other words, simmer the milk base and let the water evaporate.  Cover the ice cream base after it’s cooled off, then watch for condensation and wipe it off so that it doesn’t end up back in the ice cream. Little steps that add up to some completely wonderful ice cream. I made only a few minor alterations. This recipe produces a very rich and intensely chocolate ice cream.  Truly amazing.

First, some warnings. Making your own ice cream isn’t something you do because it’s cheaper. It’s really not. It’s fun, sure! You can make your own combinations.  But cheaper? No. However, you control the ingredients. You can make it GMO free or organic.You can use pastured dairy products, which taste amazing!! Additionally, you can omit ingredients that may not be particularly good for you, like emulsifiers. Emulsifiers are added to make commercial mouthfeel “creamier”. You’ve seen them in the best of ice creams: polysorbate 80, soy lecithin, guar gum, and carrageenan are but a few. Recent studies have indicated that these emulsifiers may play a part in metabolic syndrome and increase inflammation by interacting with gut flora. (http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science/Food-emulsifiers-linked-to-gut-bacteria-changes-and-obesity) Lovely, I know. Who doesn’t love a good “gut flora” discussion while making ice cream? The emulsifiers are needed to keep the ice cream smooth during its trip from the factory to the store and your house when temperatures are so variable and melting and refreezing occurs. When you make your own ice cream, there is no travel time, so no need for emulsifiers!!

Get out your ice cream maker and give this a go.  I promise, you won’t be disappointed and you’ll be making ice cream on your terms.

Chocolate Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart

2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used regular cocoa powder)
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Ghiradelli bitterwseet)
1 cup whole milk
¾ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon chocolate extract

1. Warm 1 cup of the cream and the cocoa powder in a medium saucepan, over moderate heat, whisking constantly to incorporate the cocoa into the cream. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer at a very low boil for 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat. Add the chopped chocolate to the cream mixture, stirring until smooth. Add the remaining cream and stir well. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, scraping the saucepan as thoroughly as possible, and set a mesh strainer on top of the bowl.

2. Using the same saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, and salt and place over medium low heat. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the 5 egg yolks. Temper the yolks by slowly pouring the warm milk into the egg yolks, while whisking constantly. Once the egg yolks are warmed, pour them back into the saucepan.

3. Stir the custard mixture constantly over the medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula (170°F on an instant-read thermometer). Pour the custard through the strainer. Make sure to squish (technical term) all the yolk mixture through the strainer and scrape the bottom of the strainer into the chocolate mixture. Once the custard is through the strainer, stir it into the chocolate mixture until smooth. As the mixture cools, the stir in the vanilla and chocolate extracts. Cool completely and place, covered, in the refrigerator. Check periodically for condensation and wipe off the lid and sides of the storage container.

4. Chill the mixture thoroughly (up to 8 hours), then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (If the cold mixture is too thick to pour into your machine, whisk it vigorously to thin it out.)

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Peanut Butter Cream Pie (Redux)

Peanut Butter Cream PieI’ve done a Peanut Butter Cream Pie in a previous blog post.  You can see it here.  Why do it again?  One:  it’s Peanut Butter Cream Pie.  The question is why not do it again.  The previous pie was a dense, sinful confection.  This version is whisper light and airy, but don’t be fooled.  This pie contains a whopping 4 cups of whipping cream.  You read that correctly.  2 cups in the pie, 2 cups on top.  YUM!  Add to that 8 ounces of cream cheese and some peanut butter and you have a calorie extravaganza.

On the plus side, making this pie is incredibly easy.  It’s seriously no bake, and it doesn’t have to sit in the fridge for hours.  The pie is perfect for a pot luck, or a thrown together dessert just because.  The recipe is very novice cook friendly, and definitely within the abilities of younger budding chefs, provided they can use a mixer safely.

I had this pie at one of Emeril Legasse’s restaurants in New Orleans.  Before he became a mega start and the BAM! guy,  I actually met him.  Granted, he was on Food Network, when they actually cooked on that network.  But, not many cable companies had the channel (mine didn’t!).  He very nicely came out to my table to autograph a cookbook my father and I bought for my mother.    The food was spectacular that night, but meeting and conversing with him was tremendous.  Despite the passage of time, the memories of the pie stuck with me.    Light, airy, yet rich and creamy all at the same time.  Truly the perfect ending to a summer cookout.  When I was recently invited to a cookout, I brought this pie.

I made just a few changes to this recipe in the margins, but there’s no denying my inspiration was Emeril’s pie.  For the original recipe, click here.  Some general notes, though. I love natural peanut butter because mostly I hate transfat.  However, you need the “no stir” natural peanut butter for this recipe to really work.  Also, I always use Philadelphia brand Cream Cheese.

Peanut Butter Cream Pie

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 cups (minus the two tablespoons used above) heavy cream, whipped until thick
1 Oreo Pie Crust (store bought, may use any crumb crust, though)
1/2 cup chocolate shavings

In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar and peanut butter. Mix until light and creamy. Add the heavy cream and mix well. Fold in half of the whipped cream. Whip the ingredients together with whip attachment on the mixer to thoroughly combine.

Spread peanut butter mixture into pie shell. Refrigerate for at least an hour, until set. Top with remaining whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Peanut Butter Cream Pie

Peanut Butter Cream Pie

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Peanut Butter Cream Pie

 

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread

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One year.  My little blog is one year old!  Hard to believe.  So, for my one year anniversary, I decided to write a blog about my secret most favorite obsession.  I have never confessed this to anyone, but my favorite cookie, bar none (Ha! I see what I did there…), is shortbread.  Delightfully simple.  Crumbly, buttery, and just simply fantastic.  I tried Walker’s Scottish Shortbread years ago and was simply enchanted, despite the fact that it lacked my most favorite ingredient:  Chocolate.

Shortbread, said to be the favorite cookie of Mary, Queen of Scots, first appeared in cookbooks in 1736.  Interestingly, it started as a yeast recipe.  But the mid-1800s, it morphed into the more modern familiar butter-flour-sugar based recipe.

Finding a recipe was rather easy, but there seems to be a bit of a divide.  Some recipes are very purist:  flour, sugar, and butter.  But there is some discussion about adding either cornstarch or rice starch to the mix.  The recipe I used called for confectioner’s sugar, which is essentially sugar mixed with cornstarch.   Why cornstarch or rice starch or rice flour?  These items contribute bulk without toughness because there is no protein or gluten.  Fun fact I learned making these cookies!

“Short” in baking vernacular is not a description of the size of final product, but that something was used to shorten the gluten strands that form when you use flour.  So, shortbread will be a crumbly cookie, because it lacks long strands of gluten.  The butter playing the part of “shortening” the gluten strands.

I added the chocolate not for my own amusement, but my daughter thought the cookies would be better with chocolate.  I did not, I thought they were perfect plain.  Of course, she won out!

I found the recipe in James Beard’s American Cookery and added the chocolate!

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread

1 1/2 cups butter (some recommend 1/2 salted/1/2 unsalted)
1 cup powdered sugar (may also use plain sugar)
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon butter

Cream the butter until almost like whipped cream. Gradually cream in the sugar and continue beating until very light. Stir in the flour, then turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured board or counter and knead the mixture until it is very smooth and will break slightly when the thumb is run from the center to the edge of the ball of dough.
Side note: This is not “dough” in the traditional sense. This is a pile of crumbs. Seriously. See photo below:
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You can still kind of knead it and see that it does change consistency after several minutes. I seriously wasn’t expecting it to be a pile of sand. Now, if you omit the confectioner’s sugar and just use regular sugar, I doubt your dough would look like this.

Traditionally, this dough is pressed into shallow pie pans, the dough being about a 1/2 inch thick. The edges are fluted as on a pie crust, and the serving portions are stippled across the dough with a fork so that the shortbread can be broken easily into small pieces. Prick the dough with a fork in even the smallest pans, or it is apt to blister in the enter.

Bake in a 275-300 degree oven until the dough turns a pale brown around the edges. Time of baking depends on size of pan and thickness of the dough.

Remove from the pan, cool on a rack, and store in an airtight container.

For the chocolate dipping sauce: place chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Using 50% power, in small bursts of time, microwave the chocolate and butter until just melted through. I do this in 2 minute increments and stir between times. Slather on cookies, let dry.

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Dark and White Chocolate Bread Pudding

http://dawnoffood.comThere are lots of people who claim not to be able to bake.  This dessert is so simple, anyone can make it.  Honest.  If you have never made dessert before because you don’t think you can bake, bread puddings can be your “thing”.  It is E.A.S.Y.  Not “easy as pie” easy, because those aren’t.  Like crazy easy.   So easy, my children (both under 12 years old)  have made it.  Why is bread pudding so simple?  Someone else has done the work!  Specifically, whoever made the bread.  You are just adding some milk and cream, sugar, and eggs, at the basic level.   If you can cut bread into squares and mix together a few ingredients, you can make a spectacular dessert.

And, unless they read this blog, no one will know how easy it is.

This dessert is my Christmas Eve dessert.  It serves a large crowd and requires little prep time or mess.    It can be an Irish dessert for St. Patrick’s Day if you flavor it with Bailey’s.  It can really be a great dessert for any occasion. The sauce can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

The  recipe below is inspired by this recipe at epicurious.com.

Dark and White Chocolate Bread Pudding With Cream Sauce
Serves:  A crowd
Prep Time: 5 minutes and 30 minutes of soaking
Cook Time: 60 minutes

Sauce
2 cups whipping cream
3 tablespoons Frangelico liqueur (may substitute Irish Cream Sauce or any similar liqueur)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons water

Bread pudding
12 ounces of Challah or Brioche Bread, cut in 1 inch cubes
6 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 ounces imported white chocolate, chopped
4 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups heavy whipping cream, separated (1 1/2 cups and a 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup whole milk

For the sauce:
In a heavy saucepan, bring the first four ingredients to a slow boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. In a small cup, mix together the cornstarch and water well. Whisk into the cream mixture. Stir constantly until the mixture slightly thickens. About 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Cover and refrigerate. Can be made up to 2 days ahead of time.

For the bread pudding:
Stir together the bread and chocolates in a large mixing bowl, set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons of the sugar, vanilla, 1 1/2 cups of cream and the milk. Add the cream mixture to the bread mixture and soak for about 30 minutes.

While the bread is soaking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 13x9x2 baking pan (or any similarly sized vessel).

If during the soaking, you notice that the bread is dry-ish and there’s no more liquid in the bowl, add some additional milk or cream. You want your bread to be rather moist, not dry.

Add the bread and cream mixture to the baking pan. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of cream to the pan, distributing the cream evenly. Sprinkle the top of the pudding evenly with the two tablespoons of sugar.

Bake for about 60 minutes, or until the edges of the pudding are golden and the mixture is set in the center. For me, usually between 50-60 minutes.  Top with the cream mixture and serve.

It’s really that easy!

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Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

I’m on a roll with recipes that aren’t really good for you. I had blueberries and cream cheese that needed to be used and thought: what can I do with these items? Around the same time, my son asked for a hiatus from waffles for breakfast. So, despite having the brownies, I figured I would venture into coffee cake land. I love coffee cake, it’s an acceptable cake to eat for breakfast! What made this cake appealing was really the fantastic chunks of cream cheese dotted throughout. The cream cheese adds a sweetness and texture that is so unique and incredibly good to contrast with the tart blueberries.

As always, this recipe is very easy and straightforward. No surprises. I saw this recipe on tasteofhome.com and thought I would give it a go. I added lemon zest and lemon juice for a bit of a bright pop.

My son loved this recipe and my husband said it was amazing! So overall, this was a really big hit.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: about 40 minutes

1/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, cubed

TOPPING:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cold butter

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8 inch square baking dish.

For batter, in a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and
fluffy. Beat in egg, lemon zest and lemon juice. Combine 1 cup flour, baking powder and salt;
gradually add to creamed mixture alternately with milk.

Toss blueberries with remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. Stir blueberries and cream
cheese into creamed mixture (batter will be thick). Transfer to the greased dish.

For topping, in a small bowl, combine flour and sugar. Cut in butter
until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter.

Bake at 375° for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Brownies

Yes, my New Year’s Resolution is fading fast. I have kids and they want snacks. Pineapple, apples and blueberries aren’t cutting it anymore!

Brownies. I joke that there’s no point in cutting brownies because they just end up getting slivered to death in my house. A literal death by 1,000 cuts. It’s no secret that I eat the most. I do. I hide them from my husband and children. I am shameless. Truly. Note in the picture the lack of actual brownies. There’s might be seven there. Couldn’t make it to the picture stage.

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In addition to being a brownie addict, I am a bit of a brownie snob.  There is only one type of brownie: fudgey. Take your cakey brownie and go. Don’t try to cover the listless dryness with frosting, it’s a lost cause. People have made their entire careers off of one spectacular brownie recipe (see Maida Heatter). For the longest time I thought the only good brownie came from a mix. Recipe after recipe lead me to the dry, unsatisfactory cake-like brownies I despise. I was partially convinced by Alton Brown that super chemicals unavailable to a lowly home cook made the mix brownies deliciously moist. I held that belief until I came across Maida Heatter and James Beard. Maida’s Palm Beach Brownies are the stuff of legends, and rightly they should be. Crinkly top, moist middle and all over CHOCOLATE. James Beard held little affection for the lowly brownie, but pointed me to an issue I had not considered: eggs. In one sentence, he cleared up the cake vs. fudge issue I had been having. If you spot a brownie recipe with more than 2 eggs, they will be cakey. If not, fudgey. It’s just that simple, most of the time.

Maida Heatter’s recipe teaches that brownies are pretty much eggs, sugar and chocolate. Small amounts of flour for binding and extracts for flavor amp things up a bit, as does a shot of expresso. But, was really sets Heatter’s recipe apart is the amount of sugar. 3 ¾ cups! Holy Crap!   Which might explain how she gets away with 5 eggs and not having a cakey brownie.  But, then I thought of fudge, and pretty much, same thing. Sugar. Lots and lots of it.

So, for me, the perfect recipe will have lots of sugar, 2 eggs and lots of chocolate.  I can’t do so much sugar in a brownie.  I’m by no means a nutrition drill sergeant, I’m doing a blog on brownies, but I have to draw the line somewhere.  3 ¾ cups in 1 pan of brownies is my line.  The recipe is good, trust me.  Really, really good.  But it’s a tad much.

My mom used to make black bottom cupcakes when I was a kid and I loved them.  I’m not that big of a cupcake fan now (read: can’t sliver them and mentally eating a whole cupcake instead of slivers of that amount to the same mass seems gluttonous.).  So, I wanted to recreate the recipe with brownies.    You can make the brownies without the cheesecake topping and they are wonderful.  The cheesecake topping is great, if you like that.  Allegedly, my husband didn’t, but a suspicious number of brownies (whole, not slivered) are missing, indicating otherwise.

Brownies are a rather new invention, probably around the 1900s.   General thought has the creation coinciding with the rise in food science and ready availability of chocolate, refined flour and sugar.    Of course, there is the legend of the Palmer House Brownies, created when a patron asked for a dessert that could be packed up and taken to the Chicago Exposition.  Either way, the brownie is an easily made and transportable dessert.

This recipe was inspired by recipes on Epicurious.com

Black Bottom Brownies

Cream Cheese Topping:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 egg
⅓ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
⅛ teaspoon salt
6 ounces chocolate chips

Brownie Layer:

6 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease and flour a 8×8 or 9×9 baking pan. Set aside.

Put the cream cheese, egg, sugar, vanilla, and salt together in a mixing bowl. Mix together until well blended. Add the chocolate chips and set aside.

Over medium low heat, melt together the bittersweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate and butter. The chocolate mixture will be glossy. Remove from heat and whisk in the sugar and vanilla. One by one, whisk in the eggs. After the eggs are incorporated, stir in the salt and flour until completely incorporated. Finally, stir in the flour.

Spread the brownie mix evenly into the baking pan. Top with the cream cheese topping. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a pan comes out with only a few moist crumbs, 35-45 minutes.

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Hot Cocoa

Hot Cocoa

Hot Cocoa.  For my chocolate milk loving daughter, this is her favorite drink.  The temperature could be 65 degrees at night in July and that would be cold enough to inspire her to declare that “this would be a perfect night for hot cocoa”.   She needs very little in the way of excuses to ask for the rich, chocolatey drink.

There are two phrases that are used interchangeably:  hot chocolate and hot cocoa.  Technically, hot chocolate is literally chocolate that is melted and added to warmed milk.    Hot cocoa is a warm milk drink made with cocoa powder and sugar.   Both drinks are particularly delicious, but would you consider killing someone for access to such a drink?  In Chiapas, Mexico, during the 1600s, the ladies of Chiapas drank hot chocolate during mass.  According to Thomas Gage, the bishop (rumored to be Bishop Bernardino de Salazar y Frias) threatened to excommunicate the women if they continued to disrupt services with their chocolate drinking.  The ladies found other places to worship, but shortly thereafter, the bishop perished, allegedly from poisoned hot chocolate, but not before uttering:  “Beware the Chocolate of Chiapas!”

Hot chocolate is a very old drink.  Brought over to Europe from Mexico by explorers, it was praised for its medicinal qualities.   It was also a handy medium for poisoning, as show above.  Hot chocolate was rumored to be used to attempt to poison everyone from Napoleon to Frederick the Great.  Chocolate was heavily spiced and frequently considered medicinal, so it wouldn’t taste the same every time it was served.  Very handy quality for a poisoning medium. What an ugly side to such a truly enjoyable drink!!!

Today, when most people make hot cocoa, they use a packet of cocoa mix.   Many years ago,  I used the ubiquitous packet.  I don’t have the original list of ingredients, but here is the modern day list of ingredients for Swiss Miss (source):

Ingredients

Sugar, Corn Syrup, Modified Whey, Cocoa (Processed with Alkali), Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Nonfat Milk, Calcium Carbonate, Less than 2% of: Salt, Dipotassium Phosphate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Carrageenan Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose, Artificial Flavor.

I really wouldn’t have expected to see the milk so far down the list.  I also wouldn’t expect to see Splenda in what is packaged as a “regular” packet of hot cocoa.   Overall, another scary rendition of a processed food item.

Also, I’m not really sure I’m getting my money’s worth here.  Sugar, whey, and corn syrup aren’t exactly high dollar items.  The cocoa isn’t likely high quality cocoa, as it needs to be boosted by “artificial flavor”.

But, when you just throw cocoa into milk, you just get a clumpy, powdery mess.  Many of those unpronounceable ingredients are designed to encourage a smoother incorporation of the dry ingredients into the liquid.    If we are going to make our own hot cocoa, we need to overcome this particularly nettlesome issue.

When I mix cornstarch or flour into something liquid, I have to make a paste with water first.  So, I used this particular logic and made a paste by adding water to my homemade cocoa mix.  I then added the paste to warmed milk and miraculously had smooth, hot cocoa.  No chemicals needed to keep the cocoa from lumping!  As a bonus, the paste is amazing on its own.  Sort of like a raw brownie.

Hot Cocoa
Serves 1

6 ounces whole milk
3 tablespoons high quality unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of cinnamon (optional)
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of water (may need more)
Marshmallows (optional)

Heat milk in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium low heat. Stir occasionally to avoid burning.

In a small bowl, combine the cocoa, sugar, cinnamon (if used), and salt. Slowly stir in water until the cocoa mixture is thoroughly moistened. There should be no dry cocoa remaining. Add more water, if needed.  Whisk the cocoa mixture into the warming milk. Heat the milk to the desired drinking temperature. Pour into mug, top with a marshmallow, and enjoy!

Hot Cocoa

Hot Cocoa

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