June 28, 2013

Gearing up for A line dresses + graffiti muslins

After my last sewing project, the 6 gore silk-lined woolen skirt with inverted pleats and suspenders, I wanted to do some simpler projects to try and up the product/effort ratio in my sewing life, and give me a feeling of having more garments to my name. About the simplest thing I could think of would be some summer A line dresses for girls.

June 20, 2013

Signal Acquisition & Filtering on Simple Embedded Systems

I've been working on an embedded system at my job, and recently had the opportunity to design some low pass digital filters in Octave for that project. I thought I would put up some notes on what I did, both for my future reference and on the off chance that they might help someone else. I'll present only items that are very generic to any electrical engineering/software project, nothing proprietary.

June 14, 2013

Flour face off: two flours for Fresh Pasta

A while ago I bought some Semolina flour from KAF to try out for fresh pasta. I had made a few batches using part semolina and part all purpose and they turned out nicely. This time however, to gain more experience with the unique characters of each flour I decided to do two batches: one from pure semolina and another from pure all purpose.

For each recipe we used:

  • 200g flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1tsp olive oil

Child 1 helped me measure the ingredients for the two batches.  We mixed them in the Kitchen Aid, then kneaded for about 5 minutes with the bread hook. 

Child 1 wanted to eat a lot of raw pasta dough.

The two doughs then went into the fridge for a few hours since we had something else we needed to do. The semolina dough was much stiffer, dryer, and yellower in color (semolina on the right below)

In the late afternoon, we set up the kitchen aid for pasta rolling and got to it. First roll, then fold in half, repeat about 20 times at the widest setting. This has the effect of stretching and homogenizing the sheet of pasta, making it smooth and beautiful, and ready for thinning out.

Next, one time through each at progressively narrower openings. I think we took these to setting 5 or 6. Then the cutter was installed and the sheet was cut into noodles. 

Each batch was quickly cooked for a couple minutes in boiling water with salt and oil added 

then drained

We dressed the pasta simply, in order to not mask the innate flavors of the pasta itself. Just some olive oil and salt.

On to the taste testing.

There was actually quite a difference between the pastas. The semolina was very resiliant, with a pronounced sort of al-dente, toothsome texture, and a nice flavor. The all purpose was much softer, to the point of it seeming almost mushy compared to the semolina, but it was more delicate than the semolina. I've made many a batch of pasta from all purpose flour, and it is wonderful and always far better than dry pasta, so it was a a little surprising to experience it this way. 

Both were excellent, but I think perhaps a 50/50 blend could be the best way to combine the good attributes of both flours. 

On another note, I knew the attachment port on the KA was partly broken, but I was hoping the pasta rolling wouldn't put enough torque on it to cause the gearbox to skip. This hope proved unfounded. It didn't make as horrendous a noise as when it broke originally (when grinding einkorn sprouts), but it was clear that it wouldn't be rolling much more pasta before destroying itself. So I've got to figure out a good alternative. I'm thinking a vintage heavy duty handcrank roller, or else I could build a stand to accept the kitchen aid roller but allow it to be cranked manually.

June 7, 2013

Wool & Silk Skirt, with Braces of same

I've been working on and off on a pair of high waisted pants for myself, to be held up with braces. During this process, Violet expressed a keen desire for a skirt made of the same material to go with the white shirt I made her last year, also to be hung on suspenders. I had enough of the wool/cashmere blend fabric that has been in my stash for years (probably from Fabric.com, but I'm not sure) to make a skirt for a 6 year old, so I told her I'd be happy to make her such a skirt.

June 5, 2013

Apricot Jam

We are nearly out of the latest shipment of my mom's jam, and apricots are showing up at the market, so it seemed an auspicious time to cook up a batch of apricot jam.

The apricot jam I have made in years past is low sugar and quite tart. I started making it when I found myself being driven to penury by a penchant for a similar jam from Hi Rise bakery in Cambridge. Their jam (like everything in the shop) is delicious, but expensive if you eat it frequently.

June 3, 2013

Chinese bakery style strawberry cream cake

Becky's birthday was about a month ago, and she diverted me to the chinese bakery in Lexington on my way home from work to pick up some cake. We were all reminded how amazing chinese bakery cake can be; light and fluffy, not too sweet, with whipped cream frosting and fresh fruit. It is nice cake for any weather, but is especially good in the summer. Another notable virtue of this type of cake is that you can eat several slices at once without passing out. I do love a good butter cake with buttercream frosting, but it can only really be eaten in small doses.

The Mystery
After we all enjoyed chinese bakery cake, Becky said I should make that type of cake more often, such as for the kids' birthdays. I started snooping around online, and was surprised to find that apparently no one has the straight dope on chinese bakery cake. Maybe I would have more luck if I googled in Chinese! Some sources report that the chinese bakeries use chinese sponge cake mix, which makes a lot of sense, but which is useless for my purposes. Several sources report that this cake is closest to biscuit de savoie or genoise (european style sponge cake, leavened solely with egg foam, and tenderized with syrup). My efforts at genoise and biscuit have not been stellar, so I pursued other avenues.