Amazon today decided to remind me about some of our past projects through book recommendations. We contributed a bunch of projects to The Hungry Scientist Handbook and were interviewed for Cooking for Geeks. Well targeted, Amazon— perhaps too well…
After a half-dozen cocktail robotics event over the past couple of years, we’ve had a chance to refit our famous bar-bot, Drink Making Unit 2.0, with a few well-earned upgrades. Read on for the gory details!
Here’s how to make a variant on our plum chutney, tailored for the creamy sweetness of peaches.
We’ve reduced the overall quantity of fruit and sugar to get a higher spice concentration. The cayenne and ginger are increased to make it even spicier. Pepper flakes are added both for flavor, and for pretty flecks of color against the pale peach pieces. We also added cloves for a little more depth of flavor.
The peaches are not peeled, both to get more peach flavor and for the color the skins add. Wash well or peel (blanching makes peeling easier) if the provenance of your peaches is unknown and you’re concerned about pesticides.
Put everything except the sugar into a sauce pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit starts to soften, about 10-15 minutes.
Add sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until it thickens to a consistency you like (20 minutes to an hour). Remove cinnamon stick after cooking.
You can also follow your favorite canning procedure for longer term storage. Makes about 3 pints.
The scone is a classic single-serving quick bread that is often served with breakfast or tea.
And, at the intersection of the two, we present something entirely new, delightfully educational, and remarkably tasty: Sconic Sections.
In what follows, we’ll show you how to bake cone-shaped scones, to slice them into plane geometric curves, and to highlight those curves by selective application of toppings. We’ll also discuss some of the methods that didn’t work so well, as we refined our methods for making these.
Onwards, towards parabolic preserves and hyperbolic Nutella!
Here’s how to make an exotic kaffir lime based variation on Limoncello. Limoncello is a sweet Italian liqueur made with lemon-peel infused vodka (or grain alcohol) and simple syrup. Our variation adds a exotic twist to a fantastic summer treat.
Kaffir lime leaves are one of the signature flavors of Thai food. They’re often available at asian grocery stores in small bunches, but the trees are also available at some nurseries. When they first leaf out, the young double-lobed leaves are purplish, tender, and very spicy. The flavor of kaffir lime is a distinct citrus flavor, as different from lime as lemon, orange, and grapefruit are from one another. The kaffir lime tree also produces fruit (wrinkly little spherical green lime), and the zest of that fruit contains the same flavor as the leaves. However, it’s generally easier to obtain the leaves, as they are found more commonly in Thai cooking.
As the leaves mature to green, they mellow in flavor and begin to toughen. We usually pick them when they’ve just turned bright green, but are still tender.
Making Limoncello is a straightforward (but slightly lengthy) process of adding lemon zest to vodka or other neutral strong spirits, waiting several weeks, and then adding simple syrup and waiting a bit more. Our favorite Limoncello recipe served as a starting point of this variation. We also found a forum discussing the idea of using Kaffir limes, which gave us a starting point in terms of the number of leaves to use.
Step 1: Add 20 washed and dried leaves in a one-liter bottle of good quality vodka. (Our favorites are Polish or Austrian potato vodkas like Monopolowa and Luksosawa.)
A common and traditional variation is to use straight grain alcohol that allows you to use a shorter infusing period. However, following the GIGO principle, we’ve generally found that starting with a drinkable input results in a more drinkable output.
Set the bottle it in the back of a cupboard and forget about it for about a month. If you happen to see it on occasion, shake it a bit and open it to see how it smells. You’ll want to make Thai food.
After a few weeks, the leaves will have leached their favor (and a hint of their color) into the vodka.
Step 2: Dissolve 1 3/4 cups sugar completely in 2 1/2 cups water. Microwaving it in a glass measuring cup for a couple of minutes will typically get it warm enough to dissolve.
Step 3: Thoroughly cool the simple syrup, to at least room temperature. (It’s okay to leave it in the fridge overnight.) If it is not fully cooled, it can result in an opaque final product.
Step 4: Pour the infused vodka and the simple syrup into a larger bottle (or multiple small ones), discarding the leaves.
Most variations on this kind of recipe suggest waiting a few days after making it “for it to mellow,” although you may not be able to resist trying it first.
George Hart sent us a link to his incredible Escher cookie roller project. The project ”provides a customizable method of producing cookies that are imprinted with an individual’s favorite frieze patterns and tessellations.”
He and co-consipirator Robert Hanson have provided software for generating STL files to produce 3D printed tessellated cookie or clay rollers, and they’ve even posted a few of their sample STL files.
The process of using an imprinted roller to create patterns on clay dates back to ancient times. Using modern tools including image processing software and 3D printers allows recreation of the ancient patterns, as well as the creation of completely new ones.
Miguel, the great guy behind PancakeBot, a CNC pancake printer made out of Lego, is running an Indiegogo campaign to help bring the whole family all the way from Norway to the Bay Area Maker Faire. We met Miguel at the New York Maker Faire last year, and got a chance to see PancakeBot in action.
Even if you can’t support the campaign, you should check out the video to see the machine in action, cheered on by enthusiastic young pancake aficionados. And come to Maker Faire in May, where we’ll hope to see Miguel and family with the awesome PancakeBot.
One of the finest cocktails that we have ever come across is the cucumber martini, a cocktail which– correctly executed–can be a bracingly refreshing blast of intense cucumber flavor, highlighting what is perhaps an under-appreciated member of the melon family.
Unfortunately, cucumber martinis often fail to live up to their potential, ending up as watery infusions that might be mistaken for scented mineral water. And that’s an injustice.
To set the record straight, here is how to make your own thoroughly-awesome cucumber martini. To go one step further, we present three distinct variations: the Sweet Vodka Cucumber Martini, the gin-based Savory Cucumber Martini, and the non-alcoholic Cucumber Fizzy. Continue reading