Monday, February 24, 2014

Sourdough, sweet DOH!

This wasn't the post I'd initially planned to put up today but a couple of things were said yesterday that got me thinking.

One of the things I have been working on is sourdough recipes. When I say working on I don't just mean go on the internet and find a couple, I've actually been doing enough that I am now combining and modifying recipes to get the specific result I want.

One of the specific things I'm working on is sourdough pancakes. I started with a recipe that I found, but they turned out more like crepes than the thick fluffy ones I used to have a recipe for and I wanted fluffy ones (and so did Lisa). So, I dug through a book and found another one that worked better and Lisa liked better but still wasn't what I wanted.

One of the biggest problems was they didn't brown fast enough on the one side so they were almost completely set on the second side before the first side was browned enough to flip... and they still weren't fluffy and thick enough.  So I start thinking. Could I boost the leavening? Probably, but I also realized I was loosing leavening power because they took so long to brown on the one side I was failing to capture gas bubbles that were cooking out. That pointed to the slow browning problem.

Ok, I know a couple of things about of the main forms of browning is a thing called the Maillard reaction which creates good flavors and comes from heat effects on surface sugars. Hmm no sugar in the recipe except the natural occurring ones in flour and milk. Solution add two tablespoons of brown sugar. Why two tablespoons? because that is how much was in a couple of biscuit recipes I liked. Why brown sugar? I know (from watching way too much Food TV) that brown sugar contains molasses which is slightly acidic. Slightly acidic is also good for the Maillard reaction and gives any baking soda I decide to add later a little more acid to work with. While we are on biscuits, those recipes have a temperature range of 400-450 that's hotter than I've been working with the pancakes. So I crank the  griddle to it's max (400).

Between the two it worked! The first side browns faster and I can flip and trap more of the gas generated by the mix. Lisa and I both agree this is the best of the recipes so far. But I'm still not done because they aren't there yet, fluffy wise, so I'll be pulling out more tricks. And I want to experiment with additives like apples, berries, nuts and so on. But, this one is the best so far. I'm including the recipe at the end of the post but we have other things to talk about first.

What does this all have to do with comments on Sunday? Well, I realized that some of my experience with pancakes also applies to people. We all have things within us that can enlarge us, make us grow and be better. This is important. All of us have the capability to be more than we are!

Any person who considers him or her self to be a Christian would agree that Jesus Christ was (and is!) the best of us. I know Jews and Muslims that consider him to have been a prophet so again he is in the best of us class. I know a couple of Buddhists that could be reading this and I know stories from that religion of people transcending what they are to become something better.  Ok, so no arguments that we can be more than we are.

We know from scripture that Jesus Christ grew:
Luke 2:52
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

By my understanding and belief, the best of us got better. A true part of his message is that the rest of us can be better too.

Proverbs 9:9
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.

But, someone has to do something for us to get better. Who? Us!

Isaiah 54:1-3
1 Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord.
2 Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes;
3 For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.

We have to do something for ourselves to be better than we are. And sometimes we have to do things for others too.

2nd Corinthians 6:11
O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged.

When we take hold of the good that we have, when we use it, act on it, share it with others. We are enlarged. When we seek after good we can obtain it, and again we are enlarged.

In saying these things I am in no way denying the atonement of my Savior Jesus Christ. I have sought for truth and understanding about this with my heart, mind, and science and have obtained some true knowledge of what our Savior did for us.

So, the Savior, the best of us, made an atonement for us with which we can be saved and without which we could not. So, why can't he just fix us??? I can make my pancakes brown faster and be flipped sooner to make them fluffier, I can add other things to them. So why can't Jesus Christ just fix us?

Simple (sort of!) answer... pancakes can't choose anything, we can.

Moses 7:32
The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency

2nd Nephi 2: 16,27
Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

What this means is that while I can make the pancakes more fluffy, by adding things and changing conditions, that doesn't always work with us. The pancake can't reject the apples, or baking soda, or changes in temperature, but we can choose to act according to that which we know or believe is right and good, or we can choose to do otherwise.

Deity can change conditions, or place things in our lives; and the consequences that must come from our actions will come. But we get to choose what we will do and how we react to the results. If you decide to jump off a bridge you fall; period end of sentence. That is not God, or anyone else, smiting you, that's a consequence of what you decided to do. On the other hand if you decide to donate part of your hard earned income to help someone, there are consequences of that too (positive ones) which you may accept or reject as you will. (Actually as I was writing this I realized I was 45 minutes late pulling my sourdough starter out of the fridge so it can warm up for tonight's biscuits so either I wait 45 minutes more to cook them or they might not raise as well See: actions, choices, consequences!)

It is our job as people, human beings, sons and daughters of God, beings who can be more than we are, (insert your own term here) to think about who and what we are; decide what we want to be and act accordingly. We have the ability to choose to be better, more loving, more capable, greater, richer, (again insert your own term here), or anything else we want to be. We can also choose not to be those things and waste our efforts on things that aren't real or don't last.

No, I am not preaching to be LDS, like me, or anything else. My point is that we can be more than we are and that we get to choose what we want to become and move that way. Think, choose, think, act, and become that's it!

Here's another scripture on that one straight from the old testament:

Joshua 24:15
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

So sorry if this seems like a bit of a rant, but I just needed some time and space to celebrate the fact that we can choose and become more than we are (and some good pancakes!).

Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life (2nd Nephi 10:23), and to have breakfast (me).

And as far as breakfast goes here's that recipe:

Slightly More Fluffier Sourdough Pancakes by Patrick

The night before cooking mix up
2 Cups flour
2 Cups milk
1 Cup sour dough starter

Use a fairly large bowl 1) you'll be adding more to the bowl and 2) if its warm enough, your starter is strong enough, and the bowl small enough it will try to take over you kitchen! Let it stand over night at room temperature (I like to cover it with a towel to help control it's environment and prevent ideas of world (or kitchen) domination (I hate competition especially from single celled organisms!))

When you're about ready to cook heat up your pan or griddle to 400F.

When the cook surface is just about ready mix into your batter 2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder (actually the original called for baking soda but I misread it, I'm trying baking soda next time (see the note below))
1 teaspoon salt

Butter your griddle/pan
I use 1/3 cup portions and it makes 12 pancakes that way, but use your own initiative on size of cake and when to flip

Note: this is a race against time to get them on and cooked you want to cook them before the leavening mojo runs out. If your cooking space is limited you might want to mix up a half batch at a time (just split the original batter add half the additional ingredients to one half and then do the other half when you've finished cooking the first. This will be particularly true if you are using baking soda...baking soda does it's gas thing when it contacts acid (like the acid in the sourdough and the brown sugar's molasses...) where as baking powder reacts more slowly unless you add heat.

Monday, February 17, 2014

cold air falls, warm air goes sideways???

Ok, so, yeah, um... the Mark II is a completely different animal than the Mark I rocket stove from the last post.

First the physical features:

 As you can see below the Mark II is a cinder block design.

 Actually that would be an (almost) whole 8x16; a 8x8 half cinder block, and a 2x4x8 brick in the same material.
As you can see the brick constrains the size of the hole in the one side of the cinder block while the half cinder block raises the height of the other hole. And between them...
some maniac (i.e. me) has bashed half to two thirds of the divider out with a hammer and chisel.

There are also two pavers for a floor but those are optional.

Now for the theory:
same basic idea as the Mark I in that we're burning in an insulated space that will intensify the fire's heat and increase burn efficiency. But, in the Mark II instead of air coming in under the fire it is dropping in on top of it.  Er um but wait! the air is coming in on top? but it has to go out the top because heat rises... sure it does but today it's going sideways then rising. Folks like my dad and the blacksmiths he associates with up in Maine are familiar with the idea of a side draft chimney for a forge, well this is doing the same thing. Because we are constraining the space on the first (lower chamber) the expanding warm air has to go some where and it can't all go straight up, so it goes into the second (taller) chamber and can easily go up from there. This pulls more air sideways and higher than the top of the first chamber allowing cold air to fall in. cold air comes in gets heated up and evacuated at a higher temperature and pressure once again we're at a jet effect.

Here is the Mark II with it's first official burn load:

This is the same load out I gave the Mark I on it's second and third runs:

And the burn tests:

Round one: tried matches. The second and third matches burned better than any of the ones in the Mark 1, but still didn't have quite what it takes so...

once again out comes the torch...

Round two: this one catches immediately and doesn't upchuck it's paper the way the Mark I did (I went for a 'non windy' day but a gust or two did show up.

As you can see (or not see) the Mark II doesn't put out a lot of smoke (that is what we call a good thing) and put out even less as it got going. And as for the warm air/fire...
Yes friends it does go sideways then turn the corner!!!

Now for the after effects:
It burned it's load pretty fast (definitely less than 10 minutes I'm guessing less than five but I wasn't doing a time test this time. And it burned pretty efficiently (again not being uber sciency, this time)

you can see the ash/residue in both chambers (nothing has been removed or added but I did stir it around) and that there wasn't much carbon on the side either... you can see some bits in the burn chamber are still glowing red.

Successful test!

Now we will start testing larger wood, other fuels and (oh yeah!!!) what can I actually DO with this thing. Hoping at minimum to have a shop warmer and water/soup in a cup heater and would really love it if I could get some metal melting or steel banging temps out of it (note DO NOT prepare food/drinks with the same cinder block that you melt or otherwise heat metal with!)

After the tests we made a run to 'the cowboy store' to pick up a couple things and get Lisa away from her computer, and I found a new starting option:
These things are a sort of combo match and kindling that is supposed to burn for seven minutes. If they work that's another problem solved (Now why wouldn't Lisa let me get the Magnesium fire starter...)

Yes I really am going to weigh in on the stamping thing (maybe next week), recipes will creep in  (now if I can keep from titling that one "sour DOH!"), and we get plastered (sorry party people it's not what you think).

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Stoking the fires...

Ok, so, new year new adventures. We haven't posted much on this for a while but that is going to change.
By way of catch up Lisa is just about done with classes for her doctorate and getting started on her dissertation process (Hmm probable future topic there) and doing lots of knitting, some quilting and music stuff for church. As for Patrick, ward clerk (Again!) and two weeks later I got two new assistant clerks and a whole new bishopric to deal with (fun!) and within the last month a new elders quorum  president, a new stake presidency, and new auxiliary sectaries (even more fun! (anybody want to guess what 'fun!' means?)). I'm also writing, and working on setting up our own business (fun!) and my workshop (fun! (yes that word can mean a couple of things and I mean at least three of them)).

So getting on to at least one definition of fun, and our adventure of the day... direct from my workshop rocket stoves!

Part of the shop is outside in an unheated (except for my collection of metal working torches) and unpowered (except for my portable generator) shed, so, I could use an additional heat source. They can also be useful for camping and power outages so I thought I'd give it a shot.

This is my Mark I Rocket Stove scrapped together from materials we had around the house. I have a few doubts about it, but it was essentially free except my labor and is pretty typical of most of the designs I've seen out there.

here's the top view and a second one showing the lining.

the lining helps with the efficiency (I'll explain in a minute) and provides a mass that will slowly release heat to heat the area.

This is the front view showing the fuel loading port and the air inlet.

 The theory is that with the air coming at the bottom and coming out the top provides a strong air flow. Once the lining of the chamber heats up the combination of the air and increased heat  results in better combustion meaning even higher temperatures, more efficient use of fuel and less smoke (all things that sound good to me!). The theory is pretty sound but will this thing work?

Here we are with a load of sticks.
This shows my number one concern. Loading from the side can be fiddly. I have to pay attention and push the sticks and other bio mass into the chamber. You need to watch your fire anyway, but as a work shop item I'd rather spend as much time as I can working and less fire tending. This could work for camping and cooking where paying attention to it and what is heating on it is the main point.

And the results of the first fire tests.

Test one: just sticks. Pain in the butt to start didn't really burn.

Test two: added some paper to the chamber to start. Three matches in and it still didn't want to run... so

Test three: this time I'm taking no chances in firing up! I broke out a serious fire starter
With a little help from my plumbers torch it caught and I got to see the start of how a rocket stove should really work. I got a good air flow coming in the bottom and out the top. You could really see the airflow in the fire and it started picking up. Then I met the next problem... between the rising air jet and a helpful burst of Idaho wind the paper ball I had put in jumped out and headed into the yard!

So the results of this test... It looks like it will really work, but I'm concerned about the fuel loading, there is a trick to lighting it, and I'd rather do the next test on a calm day...

To be continued...

Upcoming posts will include the test firing of the Mark II Rocket Stove which is heavier do to different materials, cost a whopping four bucks and addresses my fuel loading concerns (and maybe even some lighting issues!). A head to head Mark I v Mark II fire fest and the Mark 1.5 which is a Mark I modification I thought of today.

There will also be serious philosophical, technical and scientific questions such as: Is stamping a 'crafty' activity for the unskilled, a legitimate art form or serious shop craft?

and... what the heck does this have to do with it?????? (hint: if you can figure out what this is you know my side(s?) on the stamping debate...)

You can probably still expect some recipes and fiber arts stuff but there are many other adventures and "burning topics" ahead.