the Sweet Smell of Burning Fur (plonq) wrote,
the Sweet Smell of Burning Fur

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Weekend update

This was a surprisingly busy and productive weekend. On Saturday we stopped at Memory Express and picked up one of these for atara. Her older Dell laptop will perform rings around this thing, but this one is about half the size, and a fraction of the weight.

While we were there, I enquired about replacement fluid for my water cooling system (which should be arriving back from the manufacturer sometime this week) and discovered that although Memory Express sells the cooling units, they do not sell the replacement fluid. The salesman took down my name and phone number and promised to see if it could be brought in for me. Some research this morning has confirmed what I had already suspected; the replacement coolant is just a mix of propylene glycol and water, with some UV-sensitive dye for effect. Wait, where have I heard of that before? Isn't that the stuff that circulates in my car's radiator?

I am thinking that a 75/25 mix of distilled water to antifreeze would probably be and effective, and cheaper alternative to the factory coolant. Does this sound like a reasonable option, or is this a BAD IDEA? Will my cooling system explode if I put this mixture into it? (I don't want a situation like the one where Richard Pryor was badly burned when he mixed whole milk with skim and dipped in a cookie.)

On Sunday the weather was a bit unpleasant, so we kept ourselves amused indoors. atara took care of laundry, while I tackled the sugar pumpkin that we picked up at the farmers' market. I used to peel the pumpkins after cooking them, but I have since learned that it is much easier to peel them first. I am becoming better at this with each attempt. I peeled and cored the pumpkin, cut it into 32 pieces and laid it out in our roasting pan with enough water to coat the bottom. I baked it for about 20 minutes at 425F, then uncovered it and let it cook for another 10 minutes before finishing it with a few more minutes under the broiler to caramelize some of the sugars. I have found that this last step does some wonderful things for the flavour of the pies.

I have experimented with a variety of pumpkin pie recipes, but I think that I have finally settled on a favourite. This Canadian Winter Pumpkin Pie recipe is fairly forgiving, and produces results that are consistently good. I tend to take liberties with every recipe I meet, and this one is no exception. I up all of the spices a bit (with the exception of the nutmeg, which I double) and where it calls for "clove or allspice", I add both. I am sure that the unaltered recipe would produce perfectly acceptable pie, but to paraphrase Emeril, I like to kick things up a notch.

On Saturday I made butter, which turned out well after a couple of attempts. On my first try, I poured it into the food processor and it worked beautifully up to the stage where it reached its maximum thickness as whipped cream. At this point the processor threw the thick whipped cream against the sides of the mixing container while the blades spun fruitlessly in the middle. After stopping to scrape the sides several times, I finally decided to dump the mixture into our stand mixer to see if it would do any better. I had been reluctant to use the stand mixer from the outset because I was afraid that it would splash everywhere.

The mixture was almost the consistency of paste at this point, and I was beginning to think that I may have actually passed the butter stage in the food processor and ended up whipping the butter back into the buttermilk again, creating a substance of greater scientific than culinary interest. Suddenly, just as my expectations were at their lowest, butter! The transition was amazingly fast; one moment the mixer was stirring around a pasty mess, and the next moment there was a clump of butter clinging to the paddle, splashing around in a soup of buttermilk. I pressed the new butter into a strainer to clear as much buttermilk as I could, and then folded in some salt (squeezing out a bit more buttermilk in the process).

On Sunday I used the buttermilk to make a batch of pancakes. I was halfway through mixing the dry ingredients when something caught my eye. Why does this recipe call for baking soda instead of baking powder? In the back of my mind, this little pragmatic voice kept saying, "If the recipe calls for baking soda, use baking soda. There is probably a good reason for that." Fortunately I remembered the reason for it, and I quickly reached for the baking powder. Typically when you make butter you want to let the cream ripen at room temperature for half a day. Two things that this will do for you is give the butter a richer flavour, and significantly raise the acid content of the buttermilk. I had used un-ripened cream for the butter because I wanted a lighter flavour, so my buttermilk had a very low acid content. If I hadn't been paying attention I'd have ended up with flatjacks.
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