Archive for September, 2006


Apple after the rain

Apple after the rain

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Precious Summerly Fluids

Grain alcohol and blackberries, no rainwater required.

Following this rough guide, we started the blackberry liqueur in 4 pint mason jars, then added 4 more the next day once we had the quantities aorted out. Each one was loosely packed with berries. A 750ML bottle of strong spirits was enough to cover 4 berry jars. This should work out to roughly 3/8 vodka and 5/8 berries. This batch is using 105 proof grain spirits, so I’m expecting that the raw proof number should be in the realm of 35 or so. That of course will vary by how much gets lost in the much that will get strained out, evaporated, or otherwise messed with.

Blackberries, high Proof

In a month or so, I should do the straining process, then temper with sugar (simple syrup with a touch of honey) and let it mellow till about new years or so. At some point, I’ll need to bottle this into something that’s a little more airtight than the mason jars, but I’m not sure of that timing. I’ll have to see if I can find some 1/2 or 1/4 sized wine bottles and appropriate corks by then.

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Pretty sure that I’ve documented this before, but Google’s letting me down. Where last weekend was berry centered, this weekend was a having dinner with friends type of thing. This pizza iteration turned out really well. It’s somewhere on the spectrum of what I’ve been making for a while, but it all came together and worked well in the new (to me) oven.

No offense to Chicago types, but my ultimate pizza is a thin crust, with a nice bready rim that could be artisan bread. The center can’t be cracker like, but should be stiff enough that the toppings don’t end up in your lap if there’s an unsupported inch or two. Pagliacci’s is the closest I’ve come on the West coast to that ideal, and they tend to do it a little better than I do. (I’d welcome a recipe should they wish to share.)


4+ hour lead time or so. Makes three squarish crusts that are about 15×11″ (the rough size of parchment paper and the stone). Rule of thumb, 1 pizza is about 90% of the mess that 3 are, and about 1/3 as good.

  • 5 1/2 c Flour total, 1 whole wheat pastry, 1.5 bread, the rest all purpose.
  • 1 meduim potato, cubed, boiled, and mashed with enough water to make a moist cup or so of mashed potato
  • 2 tsp yeast, proofed in 1c warm water + dash sugar
  • Total of just less than 2 c water, including proofing liquid
  • 1/4 cup oil or so, unmeasured

Add flour, potato, and oil in the kitchenaid mixer, while running slowly drizzle in proofed yeast and water till it’s a moist dough that’s making wet sounds. Keep it kneading in the mixer for a few minutes, it tightened up a bit to a nice smooth dough that was a little sticky. Inside of the bowl was clean, all the ingredients were in the ball of dough, which was kneading as well as I’ve seen it knead before.

After 5 minutes or so, pull it out and knead by hand for a few minutes. then pop back in the mixer and mix in 1 tsp salt, then form into a ball and let rise in a covered, greased bowl for a while. Make sure to oil/grease the surface of the dough so it doesn’t dry out. Spary canola oil is good.

Let it rise in a warmish place for an hour or so, then turn it and let it rise again. Divide into three balls, knead a couple times then form into small thick rectangles. Place in three oiled bowls (I used the mixer bowl here as one, so they don’t need to be wide) and oil the surface again.

An hour or so ahead, take one rack out of the oven, other on the second slot from the bottom with a pizza stone. Heat the oven to 475*. This needs to be done ahead of time to make the stone nice and hot. Feel free to make apple pies or whatever in the time before this. The oven is going to be hot for a while.

*This doesn’t need to be precise, but does need to be really hot. I’ve done it anywhere between 450 and 550, but this is where things were on this oven this time. I’ve also done it hot, then lowered the temp 50 degrees on adding the pizza so that the stone was hotter than the rest of the oven. I’m not sure how much it helped, and it’s hard to do reliably when doing more than one pizza.

When ready to make one pizza, have a piece of parchment paper ready and get one dough rectangle onto a floured surface. Gently stretch the dough to shape, making a thin topping area and a thicker crust. Lift and transfer onto the parchment paper. This is far easier if it’s done quickly and smoothly, without letting the dough get the idea that it can foul things up by not behaving. It’s much better if you don’t have to resort to balling it back up and rolling it out.

Parchment is key here. It’s easy to slide onto the peel and off onto the stone, and it keeps the soft dough from sticking to anything. It’s also easy to cleanup and doesn’t get in the way of the heat conduction.

Add toppings, being careful to control the water content. Seed tomatoes, drain artichoke hearts well, that sort of thing. Don’t overload with cheese, for this size pie, 3/4 lb cheese is overdoing it.

Slide onto the stone using a pizza peel, leaving the parchment paper underneath. It will keep the pizza from sticking even if there is a leak in the crust. Cook until the crust is golden and the cheeze is starting to show brown bits. I set the timer for 12 minutes, but I check before that and normally let it run a minute or so longer. There’s a cooking speed balance here between crust and cheese, the hot stone cooks by conduction far faster than you could cook if you had an air gap. This timing will not work if you don’t have a stone, the stone is cooler, or use a pan or pizza grate.

When it’s done, take it out, cut it, and let it cool for a few minutes to avoid scarring your mouth and tongue.


Rule #1, No tomato sauce. It’s just not necessary.
Rule #2, Don’t skimp.
Rule #3, Do what makes you happy, this is what works for me.

Pizza #1

  • Mushrooms, crimini, sliced, in two layers, one under the mozerella, one over.
  • Mozerella
  • Goat Cheese, 4-5 oz. Crumbled over the mozerella
  • Chipotle powder. To taste.

This is my favorite. It needs wall to wall mushrooms, some of them protected from drying by cheese, some dried a bit by the heat. And the smoky heat and goat cheese. mmmm.

Pizza #2

  • 1 Pear, thinly sliced. On the bottom of the stack.
  • Gorgonzola. Crumbled, don’t skimp.
  • Most of 2 Caramelized onions. (one red, one yellow this time)
  • Walnuts
  • Mozerella over everything.

This was everyone else’s favorite. Salty sweet and crunchy.

Pizza #3

  • 2 tomatoes, desedded and diced.
  • Fresh basil, 10 leaves or so, finely chopped.
  • Mozerella
  • Garlic, slowly (1hr+) cooked in olive oil till soft and brown. Whole cloves.

This wasn’t anyone’s favorite, but was still good. Probably better than what you can get at any of the island pizzerias. Perhaps it’s better to lead with this one so that I get more of the one with the mushrooms.

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Dear Apple

re: The Macbook.

I’m coming up on the 2:15 mark on hold on this call. That’s 2 hours, not 2 minutes.

I’m glad that I paid for applecare on this machine so that I could have the privilege of having the first repair not address the problem, and then have the second repair wait on a part for a week and a half. The machine has worked properly for 4 days since 8/14/06, where working is defined as a day where it didn’t randomly shutdown.

It’s not like the problem with this machine is uncommon.

As I survey the number of Macs that I’ve had (2 minis, tibook, ibook, sawtooth, G3, and assorted pre Gx machines back to 1990) and their repair history, I’m noticing that this Macbook is both the first one that was ordered anywhere near the introduction date and the first one since the 68k days that I’ve needed repaired.

All I really want at this point in the call is some info on what part is on order and an ETA.

But depending on the answer to that, perhaps you should just ship a new machine. You replaced the wrong half of the machine the last time, and I’d guess that whole machines are more commonly available than whatever part is on order.

At 2:39 into the call, some poor CSR answered the phone and:

  • It needs a heatsink. Not suprising really.
  • There are a lot of other units in awaiting the same part.
  • He ran a part search, which should put me on the priority list for getting it repaired
  • There’s no information available other than what’s on the website short of listing to the hold music for a while.
  • There probably won’t be information on the part search until Tuesday afternoon.
  • A replacement really isn’t an option.

Not amused. Not at all.

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Walking Away

Blackberry stained

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More Waves



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Miata Charging

The Miata has not been used a whole lot since we’ve moved to the island. I think the last time that I put gas in it was Mind Camp back in April — since then I’ve driven it 5 times, tops. Before that it wasn’t used a whole lot either, so it’s had a long time to sit and not a lot of alternator charging of the battery.

So of course, when I wanted to drive it it was dead. Jump started it, drove to Freeland and back, the long way, probably an hour. Two weeks later, dead again. So it was time for a new approach. I wanted to do a trickle charge, something that I could leave on and keep the battery topped up continously.

There are two problems with that option.

  1. I’m cheap, and I have a power supply that could do the charging, but isn’t exactly trickling.
  2. Attaching leads to the battery is a pain because it’s in the trunk and under the fender. The next best solution: the cigarette lighter.

Leads on the battery are a non-starter for this car, and there’s really no other good place to tie in. The cigarette lighter is the perfect option, but for one catch. The key needs to be at the accessory position for the socket to be active. Thankfully, that’s not too much of a problem in this neck of the woods, but not something that’s really a good idea for long term charging. I cannibalized a cord from a Rat Shack lighter extension, wired to the terminals of the power supply, and did some measuring.

This power supply is a 15V nominal, quite heavy, and was obtained from someone who just wanted it out of their garage. It powered my subwoofer crossover for a while, then got back to taking up space in a garage. It’s not fused, but the lighter cord and the lighter socket are, so I was pretty sure that nothing would get too fried.

The power supply turned out to be a bit high powered for a trickle charge, as it was kicking out a little more than one amp into 11 volts on a pretty much dead battery. That went to about .6A into 13.5 volts at the end. I’m guessing that there was an ohm or two of internal resistance in the system, and the rest of the voltage drop was the internal voltage of the car battery. The Miata has an interesting battery, it’s small, long life, and expensive. It’s a fiberglass mat lead acid cell, without the normal free flowing acid inside.

Since this battery is about 35 amp hours, the initial charge rate works out to about a .03C charge. (C is a measure of battery charge/discharge rate, and is the equivalent of rated capacity in one hour.) That rate is high for a trickle but perfectly reasonable for a slow charge. A fast charge can go up to .2C or so for a lead acid battery, but isn’t terribly good for it. (see http://batteryuniversity.com) So this isn’t a set and forget thing, but it’s something that I can run for a couple of days and end up with a charged battery.

After two days of charging, the car starts up very well and even seems to run a bit better. I’m wondering if the alternator hasn’t been working well over the past year or so, but I’m not inclined to put too much effort into that diagnosis until I see how long the charge lasts. At 150 miles in the last 4 months, it’s not like I’m likely to need it.


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Sheer Heart Attack

Or what to do when you need to gain some weight. Any recommendations here should be run by your doctor. Or not, because you probably won’t get to enjoy Goat Cheese and Pesto pasta. In cream sauce. With butter. And cream. Serves 2 and a half.

Start pasta water for bowtie pasta.

Make a Roux, couple tablespoons butter and a couple teaspoons of flour. When it’s slightly brown, add cream. Let’s say a cup or more. Stir, it should thicken. At this point, it will taste like shortbread. Then, either add the rest of the pint of cream or slowly add about a cup of milk. (Not sure on quantities, was just winging it)

Grab 9oz log of TJ’s goat cheese. Break into chunks, add about 6-8 oz to the cream sauce, eat one ounce (or not). Stir it in till it melts. This should make a nice, thick, goatcheezy sauce. Keep warm on low heat.

Drain the pasta, and add to the sauce. There should be enough sauce to nicely cover the pasta. Add several tablespoons of pesto, 2 or 3 per serving. Mix till things are mostly evenly green, then dish out and top with whatever goat cheese escaped eating while cooking.

Try to excercise tomorrow. You’ll need it.

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