Shuttersparks

Welcome to my musings on whatever topic catches my eye, plus stories, recipes, handyman tips, welding, photography, and what have you. Oh, and analog/digital hardware design, and software. Please comment on the blog post so everyone who visits can see your comments.

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Understanding Whipped Cream

I use cream for cooking and also make whipped cream for desserts, a quart at a time, about once a day. Sometimes I make it several times a day. These are sweetened with sugar and flavored with vanilla, sometimes banana, lemon, or chocolate.

Doing this for years with a hand mixer, I’ve noticed big differences between brands and types of cream. My favorite that I use the most is Glenville Farms Heavy Cream. It whips fast, becomes very stiff, and is stable. You can quickly ice a cake with it and it stays put. It never creeps or sags. This cannot be said of any other brandsI’ve tried, and I’ve tried all kinds.

If you make things with whipped cream, you might like to know why Glenville is the best I’ve found and what to look for. Cream is cream, right? It’s the stuff at the top of raw milk. Not exactly. It varies.

What varies is the fat content. The higher the fat, the faster it will whip and the more stiff and stable it will be. Fat is expressed as a percentage. Finding out the percentage can be challenging because it’s usually not printed on the carton or bottle.

The minimum fat content needed for it to whip is 30 percent. The result will be okay for some purposes but will be soft, light, less stable. This is often labeled “whipping cream”. A much better result occurs with fat content of 37 to 38 percent and this often labeled “heavy cream”. Glenville has 40 percent and its superiority is evident in the result.

I was going to publish a list comparing different brands, but accurate info is difficult to get hold of, so I decided not to, for now.

However, I did notice something to beware of if you are a dieter or paying close attention to your nutrition. I found that several nutrition sites on the web do not show accurate information. Some sites allow you to search products by brand and type. I found that the information they publish for all brands and types of cream is identical. They just copy-pasted the exact same information on every brand and type — the same calories per tablespoon, the same grams of fat per 15 ml. We know that’s not true.

Those Tiny Bubbles When You Boil Eggs

If you’ve ever boiled eggs, you’ve surely noticed tiny streams of microscopic bubbles coming from various points on the eggs as the water heats up. I always figured this was dissolved air in the water and there were certain “flaws” on the shell that formed nucleation sites for the bubbles. This is a nice explanation but totally wrong. I’m an engineer, not a zoologist. The correct answer is quite amazing, even mind-blowing to an engineer. It’s also obvious once you know.

The truth is that bird egg shells are fabricated with microscopic breathing holes so the chick can breathe while it breaks its way out of the shell. Those tiny bubbles are air trapped inside the egg that expands when heated and streams out of the breathing holes. For me, learning this was a real “duh” kind of moment because long ago I wondered how the chick manages without air while it’s alive and breaking the shell. Magic? Nope, just Mother Nature’s engineering.

Chai Flavored Iced Tea

My friend and I drink a lot of iced tea, so I make about a gallon a day. I keep two one gallon jugs in the refrigerator and one is always full.

I joke that I make iced tea on a semi-industrial scale so it has to be quick and cheap. While I like plain black tea, I prefer a chai-like flavor and slightly sweet. I use 1/3 to 1/6 the amount of sugar in Southern sweet tea. There are chai tea bags but I can’t always find them and they are more expensive than generic black tea you can get at grocery stores and Walmart for next to nothing. So, I decided to try to get close enough to the flavor of chai by using my own spices. I found a way that’s stupid simple.

You need a 2 quart saucepan. I prefer heavy stainless. You need a 1 cup measuring cup, measuring spoons, allspice, and black pepper. I use tagless bags or rip the tags off of regular bags.

Fill the saucepan with water and bring to a boil. When it reaches a boil, I turn off the fire and toss in six or eight bags of black tea, or the equivalent. On an electric stove, you should move the pot to a cold burner. I let it steep for 3 minutes or slightly more.

While the tea is steeping, I measure one cup of sugar. On top of the sugar I place 1/4 tsp of allspice and 1/8 tsp of black pepper. Use more as you wish. You can use black or white pepper.

When the steeping time is over, I remove the bags and squeeze them out. (I know you’re not supposed to do that.) Then dump in the contents of the measuring cup and stir. I put a lid on it to prevent contamination and set it aside for several hours to cool.

Lastly, I take a gallon jug, stir the pot one more time and pour it into the jug. Add plain water to fill the jug and place in the refrigerator. Done. I’ve done this so many times, I can do it in my sleep.

Try it and please let me know what you think.

Does Salt Raise the Boiling Point of Water?

I love cooking, I love eating, I hang around with foodies, and I work as a sous chef at a local restaurant. As a result, I’m tired of hearing that salt raises the boiling point of water.

Technically, yes. If you’re in a chemistry lab with precision instruments for measuring temperature, there is a small measurable effect. Any liquid’s boiling point will be affected by molecules dissolved in that liquid. In the case of salt and water in the kitchen, the effect is microscopic — smaller than the effect from changing your elevation above sea level by a couple hundred feet.

If you add a half pound of salt to a quart of water, you’ll raise its boiling point by 2 degrees C. If you add one tablespoon of salt to one quart of water, you raise the boiling point by 0.16 degrees.

Will that have any effect on cooking? No. So, please, just stop. Thanks.  😉

Robocall Observation

My mobile number has been on the National Don’t Call Registry since forever. When I first registered my number, spam calls stopped completely for years. It was great. I recommended it to others and it worked well.

Around the middle of 2018, I started getting spam calls again, despite the registry. Most of the calls were from my own area code. It got worse and worse until I decided to install a whitelist/blacklist call blocker. This is completely effective. I put my contacts in the whitelist, my own number on the blacklist, and no more unwanted calls.

The call blocker maintains a log file. It was interesting and satisfying to see the calls that were blocked. Some spam callers would hit my phone six times in 30 seconds trying to get through. I wanted the blocker to play the sound of raucous laughter each time it blocked a call, but, alas, it doesn’t have that capability.

The weird thing is that the spam calls continued for about two weeks and then abruptly stopped. I haven’t logged a spam call now in two months. What’s going on here? It makes me wonder if these robocall operations are a lot more organized than I thought. Maybe they share information — share lists of numbers to avoid because it wastes their time. If that’s true, there might be a larger organization that could more easily be prosecuted for conspiracy than lots of small operators. I dunno.

Some Favorite TV Channels Will Stop Working

But don’t be alarmed.

The title sounds like click-bait but it’s true. All around the USA, during 2019, some TV channels will stop working. This is because the FCC has ordered them to change to a different frequency. In my area, there are four channels, including PBS that will be changing frequency. This may happen several times during the year in your area since different TV stations have different dates for implementing the change.

Fortunately, it’s no big deal nowadays. When your favorite channel “disappears”, just tell your TV to rescan for channels. It will find the new frequency and everything will be fine.

The change is something of a hassle for the transmitters themselves. It requires changes and adjustments to their equipment and modification or replacement of their antenna(s). But this doesn’t affect you.

The NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) has a web site here http://www.tvanswers.org/ to help with your questions. You can enter your zip code and get a list of coming changes in your area by station and date.

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