Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Cast Aluminium Wok with Gas Burner: a 10.5 kW cooking arrangement

With frequent trips to Asia (almost half-time living there at the moment), I don’t really get sick of Asian food. Even more so, if we can all it European style food, cooked in a wok. All fresh vegetables, some meet, some fried rice, cooking limited to a few minutes, and not a lot of dishes to wash up afterwards.

This is the arrangement. The wok, from Thailand, is cast aluminium, and very good for all kinds of wok cooking styles, including stir fry, fried rice, deep fry, steam cooking, and so on.

wok arrangement

The real key to wok cooking is not so much the wok itself, which comes in various types of materials (never take anything that is coated, either black steel, cast iron, or aluminium give the best result). The real key is the burner, and its power. Unless, if you have a really strong custom build induction coil heater… more about his later.

The burner, it is propane fired, and comes in an easy to assemble set of parts, for about EUR 40, delivered. Great value.

wok burner

See the data. The power is pretty good, and can be regulated down a bit if needed. But most times, I use this thing full power, along with a 5 kg propane bottle, which seems to last for a while.

wok burner1

Before you use a new wok, be sure to clean it properly, and then burn-in by using some vegetable oil (heat resistant, don’t use olive oil). With some paper towel, and a wooden stick, wipe the wok inner surface, while it is really hot, and until some brown layer is forming. This should all be done on outside, and only use a small amount of oil, and never hold your head anywhere close to the wok, because the fumes may catch fire any time. At my end, everything worked out nicely and quietly, but not without the smell or burning hot vegetable oil.

wok burn in

After cool down, time for some first dish. This is not a cooking block, sure you will find your own recipes.

work 1st dish

Cleaning is easily accomplished with hot water and a very minor amount of a mild cleaning agent. If at all possible, just wipe out and clean with water, no cleaning agent, and use daily, to preserve the anti-stick properties of the surface.

Really Hot: Brick Oven Pizza at Home

To prepare a brick oven pizza, no doubt, the most suitable apparatus would be a brick oven, wood fired. However, it is hard to come by at your home, and not quite viable to heat up such massive equipment just for one or two pizzas.
Time to try out a present received for xmas, a brick, which fits my oven very well. The material is Schamotte, a Mullite-type Si-Al-Oxide material. Make sure to get a food grade stone, because many refractory bricks intended for industrial use contain heavy metals, and this is not what we want for the pizza.

pizza schamotte stein

For the dough, there are a few things to consider. It can’t be too soft, otherwise, it will be difficult to handle. Some good recipes:

Basic Recipe

500 g wheat flour (unbleached, German type 405)
–> can be substituted by a mixture of 150 g of whole wheat flour, and 350 g of wheat flour.
15 g of salt
3 spoons of vegetable oil
1 spoon of sugar
270 ml warm water
10 g of yeast, or sufficient active dry yeast

To prepare the dough, dissolve yeast and sugar in water, and add salt, oil, and about 3/4 of the flour. Mix thoroughly, add remaining flour, mix, and knead with your hands until the dough is nice and firm.
Let rise for 1-2 hours, or longer, depending on temperature.

Form into round pieces, about 100 g each for small size pizza, and let these pieces rest for about 35-45 minutes.

pizza dough

Above, this is what it should look like.

Then, roll out the pieces, without any further kneading, and use some flour and semolina as an anti-stick agent.

Make sure the stone is pre-heated at full power, 250°C temperature.

pizza before

Put the pizza on a wooden panel of appropriate size to move it around, and slide it on the stone. Don’t add too much sauce, otherwise, the pizza might get stuck to the stone.

pizza after

MMMMMMHHhhhh delicious!

pizza breads

Needless to say, there are many uses for the pizza stone, like, baking bread rolls, onion breads, or flat breads. A great opportunity for some experimentation!

Phillips Senseo Coffee Brewing System: the serious consequences of a broken wire

With close to 40 million sets sold, the Phillips Senseo coffee makers are in widespread use in various parts of the world, predominantly, Europe. Also at my workshop, this machine provides the essential supply of coffee. However, recently, this supply came to a sudden and unexpected hold, leaving me in a serious situation – stuck without coffee.

The defect was not related to any of the electronic or electric parts, but to the closing mechanism of the head part. It just would not close properly.

First we need to have a look inside. Using a screwdriver, the lid can be easily disassembled, by prying out the inner part with a screwdriver (needs to be done left and right).

senseo-head-dissassembly2

Inside, a broken wire spring, which is 1.5 mm in diameter, and made from some rather stiff stainless steel spring wire.

senseo-broken-wire

Where to get a spare wire? No 1.5 mm spring wire around here, but an old egg beater (maybe you can use some steel wires of an old umbrella?). So I decided to sacrifice one of its wires to the coffee machine repair.

senseo-wire

Here, you can see the wire installed. It is not quite 1.5 mm thick, but still, it works.

senseo-wire-mounted

After this quick fix, coffee again!

senseo-coffee-again

1″x30″ Belt Sander: re-wiring a capacitor motor from 115 VAC to 230 VAC

The world could be a better place if all people would agree to use the same measure, voltage, frequency, etc., but this is not going to happen soon. For me, constantly moving forth and back and living on various continents, this causes additional hardship. In the US, I own a 1″x30″ belt sander, which is available from Harbor Freight, at about USD 50. That’s a remarkable price, because the unit is actually quite well-build, has roller bearings, polyamide rollers, a motor, a cast-aluminum case, a base plate, and so on. No idea how the Chinese make this for less than USD 50 – the 4 6202RS bearings alone are more than $10, if not more.

beltsander hf

Moving back to Germany soon, this nice litte machine will be a heavy doorstop – because there ain’t no 115 V power in Germany. What about the motor?

belt sander motor

As it turns out, it is a capacitor motor, more precisely, a permanent split capacitor motor – the capacitor remains permanently connected to one of these windings. Such motors don’t have massive torque at start-up, and are typically used for fans, pumps, and the like. While some of these motors can be easily re-wired to 230 V, the belt sander motor only has 4 wires coming out.

So, we need to have a look inside. Make sure not to damage any of the windings!

beltsander 115v wiring

A quick schematic – there are two main coils, and one started coil. Great! This means, we can rewire it…

beltsander schematic

Be sure you know what you are doing – this is all mains voltage, and the wires need to be properly wrapped and insulated (especially, the now exposed connection point inside of the motor).

beltsander rewired

Still puzzling how such a nice machine can be made for so little money… the motor alone – just rewiring it takes the better part of 1 hour…. all nicely wrapped.

beltsander wire wrap

The capacitor, a CBB60 grade, 250 V, PP metallized capacitor. 12 µF.

beltsander ccb60 12uf capacitor

Finally, the belt sander assembled again – and ready for 230 VAC.

beltsander assembled

Some consideration of belt speed – the sander has a 95 mm diameter drive roll. A 60 Hz 2 pole induction cage capacitor motor will have about 3300-3400 RPM at full speed – that’s about 16 m/s grinding speed – OK for most materials (you might want to go a little faster on steel, and slower for touch-up and last steps of sharpening of knives, and similar objects).
Running at 50 Hz will reduce the speed to 13-14 m/s, fair enough.

Ordinary Wheat Bread: well-proven US recipe

This is a good, fast and simple wheat bread. Optimized for baking in gas-fired ovens.

1600 g wheat flour (1:1 mix of ordinary and bread flour; up to about 300 g wholewheat flour is OK)
30 g salt
1 package dry yeast

Dry-mix thoroughly.

Add 1200 mL of warm water.

Mix/knead. Let rise thoroughly. Knead again – add some flour as needed.

Form elongated shape breads. Let rise.

Bake in pre-heated oven to 425 F. For best result, add water in tray at start of baking.

ordinary wheat bread

Some (good old German) baking recipes: strudel, marble cake, Gugelhupf

Gugelhupf

500 g Weizenmehl Type 405
1 Msp. Salz
1 Würfel Hefe
150 g Butter
100 g Zucker
3 Eier
225 mL Milch

Hefeteig zubereiten. Gehen lassen.

100 g Rosinen (abbrühen und durchsehen – schlechte aussortieren) unterkneten.

In Gugelhupfform geben, gehen lassen

180 Grad Unter-/Oberhitze, 50 min backen – etwas in Form auskühlen lassen, dann stürzen. Puderzucker aufbringen wenn kalt. Fertig!!

gugelhupf

Marmorkuchen

250 g Butter
260 g Zucker
6 Eier
1 Msp. Salz
Gründlich schaumig schlagen.
400 g Mehl mit 1 Pck. Backpulver mischen und durchsieben.
170 mL Milch

Rührteig zubereiten.

Hälfte davon in Gugelhupfform.

Zum Rest: 100 g geriebene Bitterschokolade und 40 g Kakao. Gründlich durchrühren.
In die Form geben und mit Messer durchmischen (marmorieren)

Backen: 160 Grad Umluft, 50-55 Minuten (mit Holzstab prüfen)
In Form etwas abkühlen lassen, dann stürzen. Puderzucker drauf oder Glasur (nach Geschmack). Fertig!!

Strudel (Quark- und/oder Kirsch)

Strudelteig zubereiten aus
500 g Weizenmehl Type 405
1 TL Salz
1/4 L lauwarmes Wasser
80 g geschmackloses Öl (Sonnenblume, Raps)

30-60 Minuten ruhen lassen!!

Füllung:
500 g Magerquark
200 g 40% Fett Quark
4 Eier
120 g Zucker
40 g Gries
Alles gut mit Schneebesen durchrühren.

150 g Mandeln gemahlen (auf Füllmasse aufbringen)
1 Glas Kirschen (gründlich abtropfen, für Kirschstrudel), oder 200 g Rosinen (gut wässern und aussortieren), fuer Quarkstrudel

Zweckmässig 3 Strudel formen auf bekannte Art (Teig dünn ausziehen, Quarkmasse aufbringen, gemahlene Mandeln aufbringen, Kirschen oder Rosinen aufbringen, Strudel zusammenrollen)

100 g geschmolzene Butter – Form gut ausstreichen, Strudel gut streichen.

Evtl. Vanillesauce dazu.

175 Grad Umluft, 45 Minuten backen. Fertig!!

strudel

quarkstrudel

kirschstrudel

Dell Optiplex FX160 – 2 GB – Spinpoint M9T 2 TB: Ubuntu server economizer

Most of my data, manuals, pictures, web sites, databases etc are hosted on a Dell PowerEdge SC1425 (Dual 2.6 GHz Xeon, 2x 3 TB RAID1), which is a great and affordable machine, but has some shortcomings – massive noise, and considerable power consumption; see earlier post PowerEdge SC1425.

Also, it is just one machine, and in case of some severe failure, all data could be lost in case of some unforseeable event like a big thunderstorm hitting the power line… not a frequent issue, but bad enough, if you have to go back to 6-12 months old partial backups.

Therefore, I decided to try a different approach – still use the PowerEdge as the main system, but run a more energy efficient and silent machine for the actual business. After review of various options, a Dell Optiplex FX160 appeared to be a good option. This runs on an Intel Atom 230 @1.6 Ghz CPU, and included 2 GB RAM. The price is right, USD 40 for the unit, including a 2 GB SATA flash drive, and completely fan-less, and noise-less.

fx160 board

For the storage, 2 GB ain’t enough. First, considering some flash drives, but these still come at a hefty price, for 2 TB storage…. A Samsung/Seagate M9T series will be good enough. These are small, silent, efficient 9.5 mm form factor drives.

fx160 spinpoint m9t

A quick test of the read/write speeds:

fx160 read write speed

Read/Write speeds are quite OK, >100 MB/s, plenty to saturate my internet connection, and mirroring the main Poweredge server won’t be an issue anyway – this is all done with the system life, and only by incremental update – not so many files will change from update to update.

Network performance during mirroring from the PowerEdge Server (aka arctur).

fx160  server nload

Quite a lot of power – in such a nice case; “acrux” refers to a star, and is the host name for this unit.
All is run on Ubuntu Server 14.04.3 LTS, including SAMBA (to work as a NAS for various Microsoft Windows based systems, SSH, Apache/2.4.7, and eventually, a printer server).

fx160 acrux

Xmas Bakery: ginger cookies

As some of you may know, ginger is not only praised for its taste, but also improves your health. Especially, with all the heavy xmas foods, why not prepare some ginger cookies that are delicious and help digest the fatty items.

Here is the recipe:
250 g unsalted butter
125 g sugar
200 g ground almonds
300 g wheat flour
1 egg
small amount of salt
1/2 teespoon baking powder
2 pck vanillin powder or some vanilla essence
250 g candied ginger, cut into small bits.

First, prepare a dough with all ingredients, except, the ginger. Once dough has reached uniform texture, add ginger, and knead until it is well mixed in.

Then form rolls, about 1″ in diameter, wrap in aluminum foil and put into the fridge over night.
Take out one roll after the other, and cut into about 1/4″ thick slices. Should look about like this (note the space between the cookies, don’t place them too closely on the tray).

ginger cookies before baking

Bake at 165-170°C in a air-convection oven. Sure, other types of ovens can be used, at medium heat. Bake until slighly brown at the edges. This will take 10 to 12 minutes. Handle with care after baking – let them cool down before any major handling.

ginger cookies baked

These cookies are ready to eat right after preparation, so no need to start with xmas baking in November.

ginger cookies pile

Xmas Bakery: double-choc chocolate trees

These are very delicious and chocolate-rich cookies. Enjoy in moderation.

For the dough, take
200 g ground hazel nuts
300 g wheat flour
200 g sugar
1/2 teespoon baking powder
some salt
2 pck vanillin sugar or some vanilla essence
2 eggs
250 g unsalted butter

Prepare a firm dough and let rest overnight in the fridge.
Take out small portions at a time, roll to about 1/8″ thickness, and punch tree-shapes, or other shapes as you prefer. Dough is not too easy to work with, so add some flower and only roll a small portion at a time, not the whole quantity.

Bake at 170°C, in convection oven. Or similar oven, medium heat. Baking time about 10 minutes.

Once cooled, melt some nougat (Viennese nougat, brown, finely ground nougat; alternatively, some nougat chocolate or hazelnut chocolate, finely ground) and assemble 2 cookies with some of the molten nougat. Keep temperature of the nougat in the proper range to ensure medium-firm consistency, otherwise, it will be hard to assemble the cookies. Total quantity of nougat needed will vary with thickness of application, but 200-250 g should be enough.

Let the assembled cookies rest overnight, in a cool but dry place.

Then, dip in molten dark chocolate (about 300 g needed), using a fork, one cookie at a time.

Place on some parchment paper and let the chocolate solidify.

Package in a box, layer by layer, with parchment in between the layers.
Don’t stack more than 4-5 layers to keep the surface of the chocolate nice and free of defects.

Special Ginger Honey Liquor: Elixir No. 4

To maintain good health and long life, the not-so-secret recipe:

500 g candied ginger, preferably, fresh and strong flavor

ginger candied

500 mL of 40% plain spirit (vodka or similar)
Mix in blender
Store overnight

Filter through a cotton kitchen towel, or similar thin sheet. This is quite laborious; considerable force is needed to get the liquid out but it will work just fine with some patience.

Take filter residue, and mix with another 500 mL of 40% spirit. Let soak for some time (30 minutes), and filter again.

Take filter residue, mix with 300 mL of hot water, and filter/squeeze until all liquid has been removed. Some semi-dry fibrous residue will remain (discard).

This operation should yield about 1.4-1.5 L of ginger extract.

In a steel pot, heat
640 g of plain sugar
10 g of citric acid
240 g water
to 90°C for 2 hours (need to measure with thermometer, keep within 90-95°C)
This will give about 850 g – 600 mL of sirup.

Finally, in a large container, mix the sirup, the extract, and 100 g of honey.

Add 20 drops of orange peel oil (essential oil).

ginger citrus aurantium var. dulcis essential oil

As a result of all these efforts you will obtain about 2 L of very healthy ginger liquor that is ideal for gifts, and sure enough, also to maintain your own health.

ginger liquor

To enjoy, either drink pure, 3 tablespoons per serve. Or, even better, mix 3 tablespoons with a cut of hot water (really hot), and enjoy while still hot and inhale the vapors.