Brownie King

April 11, 2008 Posted by bob in Cooking - (Comments Off on Brownie King)

My last two pans of brownies have been my best ever. Modesty has no place in describing the awesomeness of these batches of cookie/cake goodness. If I had scaled up production, I could have created world peace.

The first batch was on Easter where we cellebrated the new . I was invited to an early Easter dinner on the morning of, and asked to bring dessert. By the time I got home, I had only an hour to make a dessert, clean myself, and drive 15 minutes over there. Frantically looking through my recipe books, I found that all of the desserts had 20 minutes or more of prep and 40 minutes or more of baking, with another hour or more for cooling. Fortunately, a butterscotch brownie recipe required only 10 minutes of prep and 30 minutes of cooking, which would have it coming out of the oven the minute I was leaving. I hurried through the recipe and poured it into a round cake pan and into the oven. I cleaned myself up and got dressed, then made a nice white vanilla glaze with butter and powdered sugar and vanilla. I already had a chocolate glaze from the cheesecake a few weeks before, but I wanted to have the black and white sauces to play with in the presentation, especially since the brownie was a very light brown (it didn’t have any chocolate in it because it was butterscotch), so the black, white, and light brown would work out well. A quick stop at the grocery store on the way for vanilla ice cream, and I arrived right on time. After dinner I went into the kitchen to plate the brownies. I put a slice of brownie (which was still warm from the oven) onto a plate, then put two round scoops of ice cream on the plate next to it. I heated the sauces in the microwave for a few seconds, then drizzled them over the brownie and ice cream. Here’s a photo:

It went over pretty well.

Last night I made the second pan. I had promised the group admin at work that I would bring in brownies this week for her. I wanted to make something besides regular brownies, so I found a recipe that had cream cheese filling and nuts. I made the brownie part, then I made the cream cheese part, which had cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. I poured part of the brownie mix into the pan, then the cream cheese mix on top of it, then finished with the rest of the brownie on top, careful to cover all the cream cheese mix with the brownie. I took it out of the oven at just the right time: when the toothpick doesn’t quite come out clean, so it’s still moist, but it’ll cook for a little bit longer after you’ve taken it out. I brought it in to work and offered it to coworkers, brought it in to meetings, and distributed it to all the admins and other people who might come in handy when I need a favor fast. It’s fun to cook, fun to see other people enjoy your food, and it’s saved my butt a few times when I needed paperwork handled or something done. It’s also good for getting people to remember you. Anyway, this batch of brownies went over really well. I got a few emails from people amazed at how good they were. I’m eating one now and I can say it’s way up there on the list of best things I’ve baked.

I apologize for the bragging, but I was very proud of my latest brownie attempts, and they were completely from scratch and weren’t your standard chocolate brownie. These were GOOD.

April Fools Cake

April 10, 2008 Posted by bob in Cooking - (Comments Off on April Fools Cake)

This year I played a prank on the whole building. It happened in two parts. The first part was more of an anti-prank in that it was actually not a prank at all but everybody thought it was one. Here’s what happened:

The night before, I made a cake. A nice white cake (from scratch) with frosting (also from scratch). I put lettering on top that said “Happy April Fools!” in bright blue.

I brought it in to work the next day and kept it in my office until mid-afternoon, when I figured people had returned from lunch and were in the mood for some cake. I sent an email to the entire building saying there was homemade cake in the kitchen to celebrate April first, then set the cake out there. I had saved a couple pieces for myself so that I could try it and so that the cake would have been started and everybody would continue to cut into it.

Surprisingly, it took all of 30 minutes for the cake to disappear. When I was putting it in the kitchen people were asking me what was in it, telling each other they didn’t trust me, wondering if it had toothpaste or some other unnatural cake ingredient. I didn’t say anything to them other than that they should have a piece. Back in my office people were messaging me asking if there really was cake in there (not wanting to be fooled into thinking there was a cake that didn’t exist), and asking me if there was anything wrong with the cake. There really wasn’t. It was a pretty tasty cake. But watching people’s suspicion was hilarious.

Once the cake had been consumed, I sent out a second email to the building. This was part two of the gag. It said that the first cake had been consumed and that the antidote cake was now in the kitchen, but it was half as big as the first, so they should hurry. I got a few replies back that it was funny, and a few people went to see if there really was a second cake. This time there wasn’t a cake, because there was no need for an antidote (and I was baking the first cake late at night and didn’t have time to do a second).

In all it was a pretty innocuous prank, but in an office environment playing a prank on an entire building without getting in serious trouble is very difficult. The cake was really good, and people appreciated it. I’m pretty happy with the way things went, and a lot of people got a good laugh out of it.

The Mobius Panorama

Posted by bob in Panoramas | Personal Projects - (Comments Off on The Mobius Panorama)

A few months ago I hit on the idea of the mobius panorama. I can’t remember exactly why I thought about it, but it was an interesting idea, and I spent the next few hours thinking about how it could be done. There are a few things about the panorama that have to be true for it to be mobius-able. There has to be a weird kind of symmetry; the bottom left of the image has to work with the top middle. Not very many images will work for this. The best way to go about it is to start with a reflection panorama, where the top half is real and the bottom half is its reflection in a lake. It doesn’t have to be symmetrical across the length the entire way, you could have a mountain/lake reflection, then a wide open scene for 180 degrees, then another mountain/lake reflection that also is continuous with the first mountain/lake reflection, then another wide open scene for the other 180 degrees. I didn’t have that image readily available. I think it’ll take me a while to find. In the meantime, here’s my start:

There are two things to note about this image. First, it is symmetrical along its horizontal axis thanks to the lake reflection. Second, the panorama is continuous and the edges wrap together. I did this in photoshop by moving the image over by half and wrapping the other half around, then blending the seam with a little bit of photoshop magic.

The next step is to make a copy of this image and turn it into a cylinder with the inside offest by half the image. This way you get a straight panorama with the outside being what you would see if you were looking in, and the inside what you would see if you were looking out. It’s a little hard to explain, but the image does a good job. Here’s an example:

Now we get to take our regular cylinder and cut it at one of the seams (it shouldn’t matter which one you cut, but there are 2 available seams). Flip one of the sides over and reconnect to make your mobius strip. Like this:

The neat thing about the mobius panorama is that at some point the ground turns into the sky, but you can’t tell where. It’s tricky to find an image that will work for this kind of thing, and the image you do choose will very likely need some photoshopping to get it to work just right. Even after you do get it, it’s not like you can show it off or put it in a book easily.

As far as I can tell, nobody has yet thought of this, so nobody has tried to get it to work. I’m probably not the first, but whoever was first did a good job of hiding. It’s not a very valuable piece of knowledge; just a little curious.

Sweet and Sour Pork

February 21, 2008 Posted by bob in Cooking - (Comments Off on Sweet and Sour Pork)

Last night I tried a new recipe: sweet and sour pork. The book said it would take 30 minutes, but it was my first time trying the recipe, so it took a little longer. Boy was it worth the effort, though. There are a few separate things that need to happen; preparing the batter, frying the pork, cutting the vegetables, making the sauce, and combining it all. In the end, I took a bite of the pork and thought “THIS is what it should taste like.” It was literally better than any sweet and sour pork I had ever had. It made my night.

The Tomato Rose

February 12, 2008 Posted by bob in Cooking - (Comments Off on The Tomato Rose)

There’s a garnish trick I’ve been wanting to try for a while, and I finally got around to doing it today. It worked fantastically well, and gave me a very attractive rose made out of tomato.

They’re actually surprisingly easy to make. Here’s the process, from left to right:

First, start with a tomato. I used cherry tomatoes in this experiment, but I imagine a full sized tomato would work as well. Starting at the top, use a sharp knife to cut around the entire sphere in one continuous peel. You should end up with a single long peel and a very juicy tomato inside. You don’t need the entire outside for it to work, but it should be as thin as possible and not very wide, either. Once you have separated your long skin from the tomato, roll it up. It won’t roll evenly, or even look right at first. Don’t despair. Turn it over. If it still looks odd, turn it over again. You want the outside roll to have the inside facing up like a rose does.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. My first try produced the best rose, but my second was mediocre. The third was good, and the fourth was intercepted by my mouth before it was finished.

A culinary cure

August 29, 2007 Posted by bob in Cooking - (Comments Off on A culinary cure)

Bummed from my disappointing week and feeling the effects from skipping too many meals and eating irregularly during the week, I devoted some time on Saturday evening to making a good dinner. I had a mango and two plantains that I had purchased for experimentation, and they were starting to get the point of either use or refuse. Examining the other contents of my fridge and freezer led me to my creation: mango salsa chicken, fried plantains, and a fresh spinach salad.

The fried plantains were the easiest. I just put some oil in a pan and fried the plantains until they looked done. The salad was easy, too. Salads just take a while to prepare each of the pieces. In this case it was mango, tomato, celery, spinach, and walnuts. In retrospect, it was all easy. The chicken was just topped with some regular salsa and large mango chunks and fried in a pan for a while. After cooking, I topped with some more salsa. That was it. I prepared two chicken breasts so that I would have lunch the next day, and it turned out to be a fantastic meal. The wine was a Chateau St. Michelle Riesling, which happens to be my current favorite for casual dinner meals.This food is also good for plantar fasciitis cure

An invention of mine

August 12, 2007 Posted by bob in Computers - (Comments Off on An invention of mine)

Here is a video of something I put together not too long ago. It’s me using a laser pointer to control a mouse on my projector. I have a projector that I hooked up to my computer. I also hooked up a webcam and wrote some software that analyzes the camera  image to pick out the bright red dot. Then I use it as an input device. It’s pretty simple, and works very well. I wrote a little paint program, and a dart game, and the game missile command, which makes a lot of sense in this kind of environment. Eventually I’ll put a few more games together try for multiple point recognition so I could do group activities and games with it.If everything goes as planned im thinking on building a website and then after its done buy traffic to it and see how it goes.

Mmmmm. Sushi.

July 23, 2007 Posted by bob in Cooking - (Comments Off on Mmmmm. Sushi.)

Last week I went to a new place called Sushiya with some friends. They had some pretty tasty sushi, and I felt inspired. This weekend I created some masterpieces at home. While I really love raw fish, it’s not easy to acquire and I don’t think I’m capable of handling it safely enough to not get in trouble. So the sushi I made didn’t have any raw fish in it, but I was still able to make a wide variety of rolls. Here’s a pic of most of the rolls. I didn’t have enough room on the plate for everything.

Starting from the lower right, we have shrimp. Next is a fat roll of krab, avocado, and cucumber. Next is smoked salmon from my aunt and uncle, followed by cucumber and cream cheese. I played around with the seasonal fruit on the next roll, which is peaches picked from a nearby tree. After that is an inside-out roll with krab, avocado, and cucumber. Finally, there’s a roll with krab and mayonnaise. There was also a roll with krab, cucumber, and cream cheese, but that didn’t make it onto my platter.

I mixed some wasabi and soy sauce and had a small plate of sesame seeds and watched a movie while I went to town on the sushi. It was a great night. In case you were wondering, the peach sushi was good, but not with the soy sauce.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

May 13, 2007 Posted by bob in Cooking - (Comments Off on Pineapple Upside Down Cake)
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 5-7 pineapple rings (or you could use tidbits artfully arranged)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 8 Tablespoons butter (they get used for different parts)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 Cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 400.

Get a cake pan and put it on the stove at medium low heat. Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter inside the pan. Then add the brown sugar until it’s melted. Turn off the burner and then mix in the pineapple juice until it’s an even mixture. Arrange the pineapple rings in the bottom of the pan in one layer.

Melt the 8 tablespoons of butter (about 1 minute in the microwave) in a bowl, stir in the milk and egg, and beat well.

In another bowl, add all the dry ingredients and stir. Combine the two bowls and stir until even.

Pour the mixture in the bowl over the pineapples in the cake pan and spread it evenly in the pan (it’ll be hard to do).

Bake for 35 minutes. Let it cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, maybe even longer. Gently separate the cake from the edges of the pan. The next part is the flipping, which can be tricky. The easiest way is to place a plate upside down on top of the pan. Pick up the two together, and flip it over so the plate is right side up, the cake pan is upside down, and the cake is sitting on the plate with the pineapples facing up.

 

Brownies

Posted by bob in Cooking - (Comments Off on Brownies)
  • 4 eggs, beaten until fluffy
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1 Cup flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 12 oz package of chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla

Melt together chocolate chips and butter (microwave for about 1 1/2 – 2 minutes). Beat eggs and add in everything else. Put in greased 8×12 (or 9×13 works, too) pan and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until everything but the center comes out clean with a toothpick (this way the last little bit will cook after you take it out of the oven and it will be soft and moist without being overdone).