dxmachina: (Chemistry01)
I made twelve kinds of truffles this year, and I decided to update my recipes and notes for easy reference.

Read more... )
dxmachina: (Christmas)
It's truffle time again at Casa Machina! I've put up 16 dozen or so truffle centers so far, and should finish off the last four batches of centers (about 9 dozen) today. Then it's time to dip.

There was a short snag when I went to look up my truffle recipes. I store them here on Livejournal so that I won't lose them, but LJ was down, and past experience has shown that they could be MIA for days. Now I have the basic mix committed to memory, so I tried to soldier through and make a batch of mocha truffles from memory. Turns out my memory of the details was faulty, as I discovered a couple of hours later when LJ came back. Fortunately, no harm was done. I used incorrect settings whilst melting the chocolate in the microwave, but my habit of checking the progress a lot caught the mistake before I scorched the chocolate. And mixing up tsps of coffee powder with tbsps yielded deep chocolate rather than mocha truffles, which were on the list anyway.

I saved a copy of the recipes to a text file so that I won't have this issue again. The irony here is that normally I am totally against storing info in the cloud, yet I have this huge blind spot when it comes to my recipes, all of which are here in LJ and occasional scraps of hard to find paper.

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Some observations of the universe... )

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I baked bread today, or rather, I took a bread recipe and made hard rolls with it, just to see how they'd work out. Just came out of the oven, so we shall see shortly.


dxmachina: (Garden01)
So, this morning I pruned juniper #2 with extreme prejudice, then lopped the carcass into manageable portions and fed it to the evil thicket. The arbor vitae will live till next year, at least, but I still need to trim them back some. Soon.

After a much needed shower, I spent the afternoon and evening making truffles for the Tiptree bake sale at Readercon. Tomorrow I'll make some triple chocolate cookies, as well.
dxmachina: (DX-Opus)
So, after two weeks of misery, the Worst Cold Ever (™) seems to be abating at last, and I'm feeling mostly human.

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I rode my bike yesterday. I wasn't sure I was up to it, but it was sunny and 50°, and forecast is for colder temps the rest of the weekend, so I bundled up and went. It was chilly, but I was warm enough, and the wind wasn't nasty for a change. Even better, no lungs were hacked up in the process. It was the first time I felt close to normal in two weeks. It was a short ride, 12 mi., just enough to nudge me over 1750 for the year.

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Afterwards I took a ride up to the big box stores in Coventry to lay in my truffle making supplies. I took the back roads up to avoid the misery that is the interchange between Rt 4 and I-95. To wit, there is no interchange between 4 N and 95 S. One has to exit 4, negotiate the three traffic lights on Division Road as it passes between a shopping center and a multiplex, and then north on Rt 2 to the 95 S entrance ramp. Another of RI DOT's many hall of fame designs. I try to avoid the area as much as possible, but it was the best way to get to the big box complex off 95 from where I live.

That is, apart from Hopkins Hill Road, which runs straight down through Rhody's backwoods from Coventry to Exeter not far from my house. I often came home that way, because the return through Division Road is even worse. The only problem with the whole scheme was that when Hopkins Hill hit the Exeter town line, it turned into a dirt road.

Now, I like dirt roads. I enjoy the nostalgia of a simpler time. I think they're neat, so I don't mind occasionally driving on them. Hopkins Hill was kept up pretty well by the town, so it was bumpy, but not atrocious. But they're no fun at all in lousy weather, and they take a toll on the shocks. So I didn't use Hopkins Hill all the time.

Then, last September, they paved it. Now it is wonderful, sailing through the woods and past the farms smooth as silk. Of course it is dark as pitch at night, but that's what high beams are for.

I'll miss the dirt road a little. It was the only one I drove on with any regularity. There are a few other still in Exeter, so I can still indulge occasionally. Although there is another one I'd love for them to pave, Ten Rod Road from where it stops being Rt 102 to where it intersects with Rt 3. That would be so useful.
dxmachina: (Bike)
So, I am in scenic Burlington, MA, enjoying my annual summer vacation weekend, aka, Readercon. Been fun so far. I'll talk about panels attended next time.

The weather has been about as good as one could expect given the time of year. Friday was warm and a little humid, but there were some largish clouds for shade and a breeze, so it was really quite pleasant outside. Today was quite hot, but not especially humid, which made things bearable. Slept in this morning*, then headed over to Bedford to ride the Minuteman bike path, aka, Rt. 128 for bicycles. Actually, that's probably a slur against Rt.128. I ride the path every year when I'm up here for Readercon, but I don't recall it being quite so bumpy as it was this morning. The problem is roots that have been frost-heaved up through the pavement, creating multitudes of sudden and, because you occasionally have to look away from the constantly shifting pavement to see if there are pedestrians plodding along ahead so you avoid mowing them down**, often unexpected speed bumps.

* By which I mean I got up at 6 AM instead of my usual 5:10. We're doing summer hours at work this year, which means that I work 6:30 to 5 Monday through Thursday, and have Fridays off. Very handy, except that I seem to be spending a good part of Friday napping to catch up.

** In Rhody, pedestrians on bike paths are told to walk on the left, facing oncoming traffic, just as if they were walking along a road. In Massachusetts, pedestrians are told to walk on the right with their backs to the oncoming traffic. This seems inherently unsafe to me.


I usually turn around at Arlington Center because there is a not very well thought out gap in the path before it resumes towards Alewife on the other side of the green. The gap requires riding along Mass Avenue for a block in the space between traffic and parked cars, always a thrilling experience. Worse, the return trip requires that you either ride on a sidewalk (not recommended or legal), or on the wrong side of the street, i.e., facing oncoming traffic (spectacularly unsafe and also illegal), to get from one piece of the path to the other. There has to be a better way. Still, I have negotiated it before, and there was way less traffic early on a Saturday morning than the last time I did it (noonish on a weekday), so I took the plunge. It's really not worth the terror. It's only another mile or so to Alewife, and although you do go by Spy Pond, the rest of the mile ain't all that scenic. In future I think that if I want to extend my ride by a couple of miles, I'll explore some of the other trails at the Bedford end of the path***.

*** Three bike path/trails start within spitting distance of each other and the Bedford bicycle shop. It's almost like a wormhole junction. The Minuteman you know about. Last year I explored part of the Narrow Gauge trail, one that starts out paved then transitions to gravel. There is also the Reformatory Branch trail, which apparently runs through a heavily wooded conservation area towards Concord. I drove by the entrance this morning, and it looked very narrow, and very overgrown. I may need to bring the Univega with it's fatter tires next year**** to better negotiate that trail.

**** Which is what I said last year...


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I made truffles for the Tiptree bake sale. It's the first time I've tried making them when it wasn't the dead of winter. Dipping chocolate when it's 80° with 80% humidity turns out to be a very different experience from doing it when it's 68 and the humidity is more like 20%. I had a hard time getting the chocolate to stick to the centers. Next time I need to let the centers equilibrate to room temperature and then blot off any condensation before dipping. Or maybe do them in a dessicated glove box.

I also made some of Cook's Illustrated "best" chocolate chip cookies, which were quite good. I love Cook's Illustrated, but they often make some very optimistic assumptions about the equipment inventories of their readers' kitchen. The recipe calls for a #24 cookie scoop. This is apparently a largish one, which they say holds about 3 tbsps of dough. The cookie scoop I bought for one of their other recipes only holds about 1 tbsp. Bother. I did have an unmarked ice cream scoop, and when I spooned 3 tbsps of water into it they all fit, so I used that. It made for some humongous cookies. I wound up with 13 cookies. The recipe quotes the yield as 16, so the ice cream scoop wasn't all that far off. Anyhow, now I know what to get the next time Bed, Bath & Beyond sends me a coupon. Come to think of it, that's what I did for the last time I bought a cookie scoop.
dxmachina: (Chemistry02)
I made a couple of important* discoveries this weekend in my research into truffle making which show the value of both the scientific method and serendipity in the pursuit of knowledge.

* To me, anyway....

Science and Serendipity... )
 
dxmachina: (Bike Snow)
I'm sitting here with my coffee while waiting for the feeling to return to my toes. I rode my bike this morning, even though it was below freezing outside. It wasn't really my choice. I had to drop my truck off at the shop for some work (the heater stopped working this week, natch, among other things), and rather than hang around the waiting room for hours and hours, I figured I could tough out the ride back and forth.

It wasn't awful. I dressed properly, and apart from my toes (and around my eyes, early on) it was warm enough. Being early Saturday morning, there wasn't much traffic, and had it been warmer it would've been a pleasant ride.

The bike was less happy about things. It stays in the back of the truck when not in use, so it was very cold when I hauled it out. The biggest issue was that the rear derailleur wasn't moving at all, so I couldn't do any shifting with it, at least at first. The front derailleur worked, so I was able to use that to do very rough changes, and fortunately the first part of the ride was mostly flat. After a mile or so, the rear hub warmed up some, and the derailleur started working again. Sort of. There were still a few unannounced gear changes along the way. Anyway, I made it home (5½ mi), and the ride back should be a little warmer as it's supposed to get up into the forties today. As long as it's before sunset.

This morning's ride was the first time I'd been on the bike in almost a month. It's been too cold for comfort. I haven't been on the stationary bike much, either, which I need to change going forward.

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Yikes! Just got a call from the shop. Repairs are going to be close to a grand (new radiator, new wheel bearing, new differential cover). Merry frelling Christmas!

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Speaking of Christmas, I started in on my annual trufflemania. I had yesterday off, so since Thursday night I've managed to make 7 types of centers already, and I should be able to finish off the rest today, barring another unfortunate drop-the-cream-cheese-on-the-floor incident*. I may even start coating tomorrow. That's way ahead of where I usually am this time of year. On the other hand, I haven't even thought of a design for a Christmas card yet, much less begun production of same, so there's that.

* For family members who may happen to read this, no, I did not attempt to wipe it off and use it anyway. Even if it would've been fine, which it was when I had some of it on my toast this morning.

Also, with regards to truffles, I added one more flavor last year, but apparently never bothered to write it down, so here it is (the base recipe is here, and some additional flavors are here):

vanilla centers -

chips: white chocolate chips**
flavoring: 1½ tsp of French vanilla extract***

coating: milk chocolate

** A careful reading of the ingredient list for Nestle's Premier White Morsels (note the missing word) informs me that they do not, in fact, contain any chocolate or cocoa butter whatsoever.

*** For the record, French vanilla should not be a flavor. It's a style of vanilla ice cream made in the French manner, i.e., from an egg custard. That's why it's richer and yellower than normal vanilla ice cream, not from anything having to do with the vanilla itself. It really ought to apply only to ice cream. <Takes an ironic sip from his cup of French vanilla flavored coffee...>

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Other stuff. I caught a bad cold the day before Thanksgiving, so I missed the family dinner for the first time in my life. That sucked. Took about ten days to finally shake the cold, too.

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Toes have warmed up. Time to make some more truffles.
dxmachina: (Chemistry01)
So, it's time to start making some Christmas truffles. When I was out and about at various stores this morning I was thinking about laying in some raw materials, but I also remembered that I still had some of the materials left over from last year. I also wasn't exactly sure how many batches I would need to make. Still, I knew that I had none of one essential ingredient, cream cheese, in the house, and by happy coincidence Stop and Shop is running a buy one get one free special on Philly. That works out to a buck a package, so I picked up four. I also got a bag of shredded coconut and couple of bags of white chocolate chips at Wal-Mart. Now to figure out how much I actually need.

Planny Stuff... )

Of course the other thing that must needs be done before anything else is cleaning the kitchen. Sigh...
dxmachina: (Chemistry02)
Previously on The Trouble with Truffles, things went swimmingly. Thus enabled, I decided to try some more experiments this time out. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? *

* I say this after reading an article about amateur scientists who are experimenting with genetic manipulation in their basement laboratories. At least the worst I ever did with my chemistry set was clear the house out with hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg gas). I wasn't trying to make no frankenbugs. **

** By coincidence, Bloom County is rerunning the set of strips wherein Oliver's dad gives him a chemistry set and hilarity ensues.



Anyway, back to the truffles. I tried three new flavors, maple, butterscotch, and caramel, using my usual recipe.

Lab notebook... )


dxmachina: (Cooking01)
It's truffle time at Casa Machina. I picked up most of my supplies Friday night. It's apparently my lucky week for making them, as Walmart had Hershey chips for $1.50 a bag, AC Moore has candy melts for a $1.69 a bag, and Dave's has Philly cream cheese buy one (@ $2.49) get one free! For the bean counters amongst you, that's basically $3 per 1 lb batch, plus flavorings. I get off cheap there, too, because I still have plenty of extracts leftover from last year. I only had to spring for a bag of shredded coconut ($1.50) and a bottle of mapleine ($2.49), this year's experimental flavor.

I'm going to make a couple of batches of cookies, as well, Marnie's chocolate chips and ATK's triple chocolates.

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AC Moore also has some 50% off coupons up on their site, one of which I may use to buy an air brush.

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For the past thirty years or so, my dad has been my easiest gift. He loves cheese and beef stick and candy, so every year I've given him a food basket based on those items, heavy on the cheeses. This was good, because otherwise he would probably be the hardest person to buy for. However, at Thanksgiving he mentioned to me that now that he's had that double bypass, perhaps it would be better if I stuck to low fat cheeses. I have since discovered that this turns out to be harder than it sounds. I always include some Jarlsberg, and that's available in a lower fat version, but after that there don't seem to be a lot of choices unless I decide to wander over to the Cracker Barrel aisle. Dave's had some no fat cheese from Vermont, but I'm leery.

Of course, a risk assessment might say that if it took him 83 years of eating regular cheese to develop the original blockage, chances are good that a nice wedge of cheddar is unlikely to keep him from reaching 166. Right?

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It was lightly warmer today, 40 instead of 32, but windier, so it felt about the same as I rode. Broke 1700 miles for the year. Not too shabby. Afterward I made beef stew in the pressure cooker. Today I also cleaned the bathroom and most of the kitchen, and did laundry. Next I'm going to make some truffle centers. I feel very accomplished.
dxmachina: (Hobbes)
Done! The truffles are dipped and packed into eight tins, each containing about a pound of truffles. Yikes!

Dipping is still annoying. I am getting better at it. One thing that helped was adding a little shortening to the dipping mixture to thin it a little. To counteract that, the entire set of cheap plastic dipping tools that I bought last year broke. I wasn't exactly stressing them, either, which is what really made it annoying. I will especially miss the two-tined dipping fork that I'd finally managed to do some good work with before it broke. I also finally got the hang of drizzling accent coatings on the truffles (so's you can tell one type from another) on the last batch dipped. Sigh.

Details, details... )

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I made one other candy concoction. When I was done with the milk chocolate dip, I dumped the remainder onto a piece of wax paper on a cookie sheet, and spread it out with a silicone spatula. Then I poured some roughly crushed malted milk pieces (available at A.C. Moore) on top of it, lightly pressed it into the chocolate, and put it in the fridge to set. Then I cut it into pieces, and bagged 'em to add to the food baskets. Instant malted milk bark!

Now my kitchen looks like someone set off a bomb at the Wonka factory...


dxmachina: (Warp Speed!)
Managed to sleep in this morning, i.e., 7 o'clock. Go me with the luxurating. Went to Dunkies again for breakfast, and then across the street to the supermarket to pick up a few things.

Truffle centers are all done, and I got the mint centers dipped last night. Dipping is the worst. I've got the double boiler firing up now to do the milk chocolate dips (milk chocolate, coconut, and orange centers). I also made a teensy batch of sugar-free chocolate centers for my mom. They seemed to come out pretty well. Those I rolled in cocoa powder.

I need to go into work later to use one of the color lasers to print out some photos. If I'd been on the ball I could've done it during the week. Of course, if I'd really been on the ball, I would have my Canon printer all set up and ready to go, but I haven't used that in a couple three years, and god knows what the ink situation is.

Gotta go check on the melting chocolate.

Snowfall

Dec. 16th, 2007 05:46 pm
dxmachina: (Snow)
So, we had our second snowstorm in four days, and thus I've been able to play with my midjit snowblower. It was quite a lot of fun Friday morning, when the snow was all fluffy, but less so this evening with about three inches of slushy mix on the ground. Still, it worked adequately even on that. It can't throw it very far to either side, but dead ahead works like a charm. It's all a matter of picking your angles.

I feel like I haven't accomplished much this weekend, but I've made four batches of truffle centers (raspberry, orange, mint, and coconut). Three more batches to go (dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and mocha), and maybe even some sugar-free for my mother if I can find sugar-free chocolate chips. Then I have to dip them all, but that's next weekend.

I also replaced the lamp cover in the range hood over the stove. There's never been one there as long as I've lived here, so the metal screen that's supposed to trap any grease in the smoke rising from the stove never did, since all the airflow just went through the opening where the cover should be. I assume it got broken one time, and the previous owner never bothered replacing it. It's the kind of thing that's easy to drop to the bottom of the priority list. It's out of sight and out of mind. I have occasionally looked for a replacement part at the Depot, but while they have replacement screens, they don't seem to carry the covers. It's just a piece of flat glass, so I picked up a piece of acrylic sheet, and cut it to fit the opening. Easy peasy. Seems to work fine. Should of thought of it years ago.

I still have some presents to put together, framed photos for various family members. I even had several candidate photos to convert into a Christmas card, but never got up the will to fiddle with that. I did put my wreath up, and brought down the electric candles for the windows, although they're still in their boxes. Still not feeling all that Christmassy.

Now I'm doing laundry, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on TV (very timely because I started rereading The Hobbit last weekend), working on some notes for a murder mystery, and thinking about making dinner.
dxmachina: (Opus)
The truffles were a hit once again, so this is just to record some notes on the ones I made in case I ever decide to make them again.

Just call me Willy Wonka... )
dxmachina: (Hobbes)
Lordy, do I suck at dipping candies, even worse than I suck at wrapping presents. I've been making truffles based on a recipe someone (Beathen, I think) posted at b.org a couple of years ago. I made the exact recipe (for mocha truffles) last year, and they were well received, so I decided to experiment with different flavors this year. I have mocha, dark chocolate, peppermint, and coconut. The centers are all done, and I just finished dipping the mocha and peppermint in dark chocolate. I even bought dipping tools at A.C. Moore. The dipping went well enough, but I put them on a wire rack to set up, and most got stuck to the wires as the molten chocolate dripped down through the grid and hardened. Almost every one I picked up wound up losing a little grid-shaped patch of coating from the bottom. I redipped that side, but they look lousy. Eventually I got smart, and just turned the rack upside down and pushed them out of the grid. I'll do the rest (they get milk chocolate outside) in the morning.

I watched my tapes of A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Wish for Wings That Work while getting most of my non-food wrapping done. Have had to change two presents at the last minute. It turns out I still need to get something for evil niece, because I can't find the present I thought I had for her. I'd bought it a couple of years ago for a different niece, who then requested something specific, so I saved the original present for a rainy day. Now it's raining out, and I have no idea where it is. Bother. I'll get something tomorrow.

The other misfit present is a copy of Terry Pratchett's Where's My Cow? that I bought for cutie patootie niece thinking it would be a nice story about making animal noises. It only arrived from Amazon yesterday, so I flipped through it last night, and while it's a perfectly wonderful book, halfway through the key question changes from "Where's my cow?" to "Where's my daddy?" and given that cutie patootie niece's mommy and daddy have split up, I think I'll save that one for someone else. Or keep it for myself, given that if I put it aside, I probably won't be able to find it ever again. My niece will get the wooden pull-train with blocks on it that I found when I was out today. It's a lot like a toy I've been meaning to make for one or the other of my nieces or nephews since forever, so it's a fine substitute.

Pratchett featured in another oddball present this year. I came home the other day, and found a package in the middle of my front yard, as though the letter carrier had just flung it there like a newspaper, which is very unlike my usual letter carrier who always leaves packages on my stoop. Anyway, the package was from an Amazon associate seller, and I knew I'd bought what ever it was for myself, because I recognized the seller's name, but for the life of me, I couldn't remember what I'd bought. My short term memory really has been spotty lately. I was watching TV last night, and someone said something that made me want to look something up on Wikipedia. A click later, the wikipedia main page opened, and I'd totally forgotten what it was I wanted to look up. Still don't remember. Anyway, my surprise Christmas present to myself turned out to be a hard bound copy of Pratchett and Gaiman's Good Omens. Cool!

Still to do tomorrow morning: 1) Dip rest of truffles, 2) prepare food baskets, 3) install Nero on the computer so I can 4) burn some Christmas music to listen to on the 5) drive to Jersey.
dxmachina: (Calvinball)
The reaction to the Johnny Damon signing has been hella amusing. I listened to WFAN, the NY sportstalk station, on my drive home last night, and for awhile I wondered if I'd tuned to the wrong station. The usual drive time hosts were on vacation, and the show was instead being hosted by the two beat reporters for the Yankees and Mets, so most of the conversation was about baseball, which was fine by me. The odd thing was how much it sounded like the station had up and moved to Boston. When I tuned in, they were in the middle of an interview with Terry Francona, the Sox manager, who is, of course, sad to see Damon go. I can't help but feel for Francona, an amiable guy whose incumbent centerfielder is now the redoubtable Adam Stern, who got on base at a robust .188 clip in 15 at bats last season. On the plus side, Francona just had his knee replaced, so he expects to be a bit spryer on his walks from the dugout to the pitching mound next season.

After Francona hung up the calls started to sound like Red Sox Suicide Hotline. There was Marv from Boston on the line to lament the loss of Damon. Why would a Sox fan from Boston feel the need to dial in to a New York talk show to discuss the matter? No doubt the lines to WEEI were swamped, but still. After Marv, there was another Sox fan, and then another. The really funny thing was that when they finally got to a call from a Yankee fan, that guy was totally irate about the signing.

Which is another aspect of the Damon infanity. A lot of (really ignorant) Yankee fans are really unhappy about the trade. They'd rather see the rapidly declining Bernie Williams (who re-signed with the Yanks yesterday) or even Bubba "I got it, Sheff!" Crosby play center than a guy who played for the Sox, especially a guy who was the face of the Sox during the worst debacle in recent Yankee history. There's a great post at Mike's Baseball Rants about the phenomenon. Mike likens the situation unto the scene in Citizen Kane when the entire staff of the Chronicle are hired to work for the Enquirer. He also points out the the Yanks and Sox have a long history of players moving back and forth between the two clubs. Good stuff, as usual.

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Last night I started making chocolate truffles for presents. What an incredible mess I made, and I still have to coat the things in milk chocolate. I had the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol on in the background. God bless us, everyone!

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ETA: It's now being reported that Flanders has picked up a stocking stuffer for the Dodgers, signing Brett Tomko to a two year deal. Not a great pitcher, but he is an innings eater and a better option than handing DJ Houlton the ball every fifth day. Unfortunately, he's more likely to be used as a replacement for handing the ball to Jeff Weaver every fifth day. We still need a real pitcher.

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