Mon, 27 May 2019

Triberry Pie

— SjG @ 11:43 am

Made another pie along the lines of the Starberry. This time, though, I used a three berry blend: raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries — including a few berries from the garden!

Some of the garden’s bounty

I also revisited the crust recipe. After scouring the internet and reading a few dozen recipes, I decided to go with this cream-cheese crust recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen. Instead of heavy cream, I used half & half. It’s still a very rich recipe, and easy to make (the dough was a little too wet when making the crusts, so next time I’ll use less half & half). The wetness led to some crimping failure, but nothing too severe.

I was pleased with the way the pie came out. It was easier than my previous attempt, and had excellent flavor.

Baked triberry pie
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Mon, 13 May 2019

Starberry Pie

— SjG @ 8:12 pm

This is a recipe that I’ve cobbled together from various sources. Over time, I’ve adjusted it until I’m very happy with the flavor, although I have a long way to go to be proficient at good crusts or making it look acceptably attractive. But I think it’s a mighty tasty pie.

Ingredients (one 9-10 inch pie):

The Crust
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup shortening (e.g., Crisco)
1/2 teaspoon salt
~5 tablespoons ice water

Mix the dry ingredients, and cut in the shortening. Mix until it’s all a crumbly mixture.
One tablespoon at a time, mix in the cold water. Manipulate as little as possible, until you can ball up the dough. Shape into a flat disk, and refrigerate at least an hour.
Roll out the dough, and slump into your pie dish. Pinch around the edges. Optionally save a scrap, roll it out, and cut decorations for the top of the pie.
Refrigerate another 15 minutes, load with pie weights, bake 15 minutes at 400°F then another 15 minutes at 375°F.
Remove and let cool.

The Filling
1/2 cup white baker’s sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
24-38 oz mixed berries (you can get a bag of frozen “O Organics Mixed Berries” at many supermarkets, which contains strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries, or you can make your own fresh blend.)
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoonccorn starch (especially if using frozen berries)

Mix the dry ingredients, and blend with the wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly. If using frozen fruit, let it thaw enough that moisture comes off the berries and the mixture is wet.
Pour into crust, add decorations (if any).
Bake in pre-heated oven at 425ºF for 45 minutes, then 350ºF for another half hour or thereabouts.
Place on cooling rack. Eat at room temperature.

Crust’s a little too dry, but I rolled it out anyway
Cracking’s visible while rolling
Slumped into the pie tin and edged
Lined with aluminum foil and filled with pie weights
A few decorations from the trimmings
Disaster! Crust cracked in the pre-bake!
Cracks spackled with a mix of flour and water as an emergency repair
Filling ready to deploy
Filled and decorated pies, ready for the bake
Good god, did that come out ugly. But it was tasty nonetheless.
Bonus video: Click on the pie to see the happy burbling!
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Tue, 7 May 2019

The Maccabeam™

— SjG @ 5:43 pm

Back in 2017, I laser-cut a menorah out of poplar. When the family showed up for Hanukkah, I mentioned my “laser menorah.” My nephew’s eyes lit up with excitement, but I could see his disappointment upon presentation of the actual product.

Subsequently, I’ve been building something closer to what he probably envisioned in the first place.

I’m slow at building things, and have lots of other commitments taking up time. I spend maybe an hour or two a week on the project, and tend to forget a lot of important details between sessions. There is a whole lot of learning and re-learning. However, I thought that documenting the various processes here would be good for me (my external memory), and may be of interest to others.

The first step of any project, of course, is to give it a good name and maybe a logo. Since it’s a laser menorah, I’m calling it the Maccabeam™, and my initial version of the logo looks like this:

The Official Maccabeam™ logo

So there are a lot of things to talk about here. I’ll post a lot of circuit design ideas, physical design ideas, and details on the software that drives it. I’ll also probably post some ambivalent thoughts on the whole holiday of Hanukkah1. But for now, I’ll start with the list the requirements I’ve been using for the project:

  1. Instead of candles, I’ll be using lasers!
  2. The lasers will probably be illuminating vials of olive oil rather than shining on the ceiling.
  3. There will be more lights, too. Color LEDs! NeoPixels!
  4. The whole thing will be driven by an embedded controller I can program. Since I like the Teensy and Paul & Robin seem like the kind of people I want to support, I’ll go with a Teensy LC. Update: I have ended up using a Teensy 3.2 because I needed more memory.
  5. Since I have a microcontroller, it should take advantage of the smarts, and not just rely on an on/off switch.
  6. Hey, if it’s gonna be smart, it should use a GPS receiver to figure out the location and date, and automatically run itself on Hanukkah.
  7. It will need some kind of display so you can tell what it’s doing, what time it is, how long until Hanukkah, etc.
  8. It’ll be cool if it could play some music too.
  9. OK, maybe I don’t want an on/off switch, but I do need a switch to trigger a simulation mode. That way, I can show it off to people at any time of year.
  10. [update 13 May 2019] Oh, I forgot an important one. The Maccabeam™ wants to be stand-alone. It doesn’t want any dependencies on the Interet, wireless networks, or the like. It should only depend on a source of electricity and a constellation of 20-some-odd highly sophisticated satellites and their ground support network.

So with that set of requirements, I got started. I hope to write something here about each of those requirements as I complete the build.

Update 1: The Flickering Candles.
Update 2: Some Physical Structure
Update 3: When Exactly is Hanukkah?
Update 4: A Typical Code Problem
Update 5: Oil and Lasers
Update 6: Final Product Gallery

1 I mean, it’s celebrating the victory of a family of intolerant religious fanatics over both their foreign imperial enemies and their more moderate coreligionists. Their victory established the shaky Hasmonean dynasty whose infighting and collapse resulted in Herod’s rise to power in the region, etc.