Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Squeaky Stairs

This house is 28 years old, and the interior stairs squeak. (Use wood glue and screws instead of nails!) For the past 9 years, I've been trying to figure out the pattern ("step here, then there") to squeak the least. But in the past few months, I discovered that I've been following the wrong approach. This isn't a position-dependent problem, but time-dependent! The faster I go (within reason: falling down the stairs at night would be very loud too), the less squeaking. The only exception is the third step from the top: it always squeaks.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

VNC Server on Mac OS X 10.3

I didn't want to get more hardware right now, so I wanted to use the keyboard and mouse that was on my older PPC Mac, still running OS X 10.3. It doesn't do Remote Desktop's Screen Sharing as easily as newer OS X, so I wanted to use Vine VNC for a VNC server. I downloaded version 3.12, but the disk image wouldn't mount under 10.3. So, back to my newer Mac, mount, copy the application off, and (not wanting to hit further problems, although I did not test if this were still necessary) I also deleted Tiger.bundle before copying it to the older Mac. VoilĂ ! it works!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cocoa Powder

I've been making chocolate cupcakes for Karston's lunch. He knows he has to finish his lunch (two cheese sticks) first, but then he loves the treat and packs in more calories. So I was wondering about cocoa powder, specifically if I should use dutch-processed (alkalized) cocoa powder instead.
And, across the board, the two Dutched cocoas beat out the two natural cocoas in terms of both flavor and texture. So does the home cook need both Dutched and natural cocoas? Not based on our findings. But buyer beware, too much “dutching” is not a good thing. Our tasters found that while moderate Dutching helps alleviate harsh notes, the overzealously Dutched cocoa we tasted took on a taste and consistency reminiscent of talcum powder.
This suggests I should stick with Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder since it is partially dutched. Plus, I've been looking, and alkalized cocoa powder is hard to find in my local stores. But Hershey's Special Dark? Easy to find, and Yum!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cake Faults

This week's small batch of chocolate cupcakes turned out nicely. The previous two weeks, using a different recipe scaled down, did not. I read about cake faults to note that
Fault — cake sinking in the center


1. Too much aeration. This may be caused by:
(a) Too much sugar used in the recipe. This can be detected by excessive crust color and a sticky seam running in the shape of a U.
(b) Too much baking powder. Difficult to detect because it can be confused with (c).
(c) Overbeating of fat/sugar/egg batter prior to adding flour.

2. Undercooked. This can easily be detected by the presence of a wet seam just below the surface of the top crust.

3. Knocking in oven prior to cakes being set. If during cooking when all the ingredients are in a fluid state, a cake gets a knock or disturbance (such as a draught of cold air) some collapse may take place which will result in the center of the cake caving in.

4. Too much liquid. This is easy to detect because, firstly the sides will tend to cave in as well as the top, and if the cake is cut a seam will be discovered immediately above the bottom crust. Cakes containing too much liquid do not show this fault until they are removed from the oven. During baking, the excess moisture is in the form of steam and actually contributes to the aeration of the cake. On cooling, this steam condenses into water which sinks to the bottom of the cake, collapsing the texture by so doing.
I didn't see the behavior described for #4, so that's not it. I was careful not to knock them, so not #3 either. I really doubt #2 as well, just based on the clean toothpick. The cupcakes rose, and then fell, so I think it's #1. I don't think it's a because the cupcakes weren't as sweet as most. I didn't use any egg in the scaled down version, so either I did too much with the butter and sugar (by hand? really?), or too much baking soda (no baking powder in that recipe either). Or maybe it was leaving out the egg? Maybe more protein would hold the risen shape and not collapse?

Since the first recipe didn't scale down well, and I'm enjoying testing recipes designed for small batches, I don't think it matters. But it's nice to know what causes this sort of problem too.