March 23, 2010

The one thing I really want from my iPad

So yeah, I was one of those guys who pre-ordered an iPad (c'mon, it was shiny! How could I not?) and I'm actually looking forward to trading out the laptop and lightening up the backpack a bit. That'll be nice. While I'm waiting for it, I realized the one thing I really want it to do.

No, not tethering. That involves AT&T and money. I'll stay well away from the hungry dinosaur, thanks.

Not a back-facing camera. The pad's a bloody 10" diagonal thing. You want me to hold up something the size of a three ring binder to take a picture? Yeah, right. I was a dork in high school and I'm not looking to relive the glory days.

Not a front-facing camera. I'm going to use this thing in my lap most of the time, and a front camera's just going to be staring up my nose. I'm sure the boyfriend would love that.

USB port? For what? Think I'm going to plug my camera in it? If I'm not using the camera in my phone I'm going to be using the standalone and for that I plug the SD card into my laptop. (And with 700+ shots in a card, and cards being cheap, it's not like I really care if I have to swap it out) And there's no way in hell I'd plug a disk drive into the iPad.

What I really want in the iPad is pairing. Proper pairing. I have a camera and GPS in my iPhone. I don't need another in the iPad -- just connect to my phone and use those. The phone's a far better gadget to be waving around to take pictures anyway. Hell, use the save games and storage on it too. I'm on my third go-round in Plants vs Zombies and I don't really want to start a second sequence. Share those.

While we're at it, pair with my laptop to sync. I'd be happy if the only time I had to plug the pad in was to charge or to upgrade the OS. Connect to the Airport Express I have at home and use those speakers to play audio. And if I really need to print, well, there's a printer hanging off the 'Extreme just waiting to be used.

That's what I want. Connect to the gadgetry I already have and use the resources in them. That'd make things ever so much nicer.

It's not going to happen, of course, but I can always dream.

Posted by Dan at 07:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2010

Collapsing cream puffs

I made a batch of eclairs today, and I finally realized why cream puffs and eclairs that come out of the oven looking perfect end up a flattened, squished-up mess. Figured I'd write it down so I wouldn't forget, and maybe it'll be useful for other folks in the same circumstances.

When I make cream puffs I use the recipe from Rose Beranbaum's The Pie and Pastry Bible. Page 530, for the curious. It's a handy book and a really nice recipe -- it uses whole eggs and a food processor for the final mix-in of the eggs, which is great. I can make a batch without killing my forearms and they come out really well.

The only problem I ever have is that the puffs, once they're out of the oven, seem to end up flat. Not all of 'em mind, they start out fine but by the time I get to the end of a set (I normally get three dozen puffs out of a recipe) the pastry's pretty much useless. Flat and unpleasant, and even once they're finished drying the insides are a bit gummy. You can forget about filling them too, as there's no room inside for filling and they don't expand.

Well, I finally figured out why and, more importantly, I figured out what to do about it.

The problem here is air pressure. (Which, as I used to watch Beakman's World all the time, you'd think I'd have realized, but alas not) Puffs puff because the water inside turns to steam and pushes the pastry apart. You get great big bubbles inside ready for pastry cream or whipped ganache or mousse or whatever -- the dough inflates like a balloon with the steam.

You have to take the pastry out of the oven to poke a hole in them to let the steam out, otherwise the inside gets all gummy. That balloon inside, though, is still sealed, which is where the collapse comes in. If the insides cool down the gas inside the pastry shrinks (PV=nRT and all that) and the resulting semi-vacuum makes the puffs collapse. The insides are still damp from the condensing steam so that collapsed cavity basically glues itself together and becomes un-inflatable.

The reason the initial puffs are fine is that you put a hole in them before the gasses inside cool, shrink, and possibly condense. That hole lets the cooler outside air in, allows the pressure to equalize, and that means no collapsing puffs and things are much, much better. (And tastier)

Every cookbook I have says the point of the hole is to let the steam out and keep the insides from getting gummy, but I dunno if that's actually true. The 'not collapsing because of pressure changes' seems more likely. Anyway, it doesn't matter which explanation's the right one here, just that the hole is your friend.

The secret, then, to a full batch of non-collapsing puffs is to put the hole in fast, and to keep the puffs you aren't working on yet as hot as you can. If a batch makes only a single sheet pan of puffs (like eclairs do) then make two sheets and keep the one you aren't working on still in the oven. If you've made two full pans (because you made cream puffs) then make the holes as fast as you can, preferably with the pans still in the oven. Pull the rack out and jab really fast with your knife or thermometer (instant-read thermometers make good cream puff holers) and you'll have yourself a set of nice, un-collapsed cream puffs.

Posted by Dan at 11:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 16, 2010

Hot fudge sauce to die for

Just made some really, really good hot fudge sauce. Here's the recipe:

5 oz unsweetened chocolate
1C sugar
2T butter
1C heavy cream
1/8t salt
1/4C Bailey's Irish Cream
1/3C Berry puree (just pulverized berries, strained to get rid of the seeds)

Put the chocolate, cream, sugar, and salt into a bowl. Melt in the microwave. (~4 minutes, but heat for a minute, stir, and repeat until everything's just barely melted) Add the butter. Re-nuke a bit if need be to get the butter melted.

You'll have about 2 2/3C of sauce at this point. Split the base sauce into two parts. In one part add the 1/4C of Baileys. In the other part add the 1/3C berry puree.

Nice 'n simple, but very, very tasty.

Posted by Dan at 12:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack