brainwagon "There is much pleasure in useless knowledge." — Bertrand Russell


No-Knead Bread from the New York Times

Frequent readers of this blog might be shocked to learn that I'm not entirely consumed by the usual geeky topics that I post about. Among other things, I also like to cook, and as the holidays approach, I like to try to find a few new recipes and techniques. This week's experiment was one of the most basic: breadmaking.

While I'm not exactly inexperienced in the kitchen, I don't do a lot of baking, and have never really done any serious incursions into breadmaking. We have a breadmaker, but frankly, the bread it makes was just not very exciting. It's been unused for a few years. If I want bread, I go to a bakery and buy it. I just figured that bread was too hard and complex for a guy of average skill and equipment to master.

But then I read a recipe which seemed simplicity itself: Jim Lahey's recipe for No Knead Bread. Flour. Yeast. Salt. Water. And time. Simplicity itself. It is cooked inside a cast iron Dutch oven. It doesn't require kneading or working. How good could it possibly be?

Recipe: No-Knead Bread - New York Times

Well, here's the loaf as it comes from the oven:

After it was cooled a bit, I sliced in with a good bread knife:

My first attempt wasn't perfect, but was very promising. The crust is awesome: crusty, but not too thick. Carmelized, pretty, and beautiful. The inside was just a trifle too moist to be called perfect, but still is much better than any bread you'd get off the shelf at the megamart. I think I could have done a bit better job integrating the yeast during the first mix, and it probably should have left the bread in the oven for 30 minutes covered and 30 uncovered (I only did 15 uncovered). I was concerned about the bread sticking to my cast iron Dutch oven, but it just flips out. I won't worry next time.

I'll be trying this bread again shortly. I got some unbleached bread flour for next time instead of the ordinary all purpose flour I used. If you haven't given it a try before, check it out! For the price of three cups of flour and a pinch of yeast (only one quarter teaspoon) it's even economical.

If you try this, let me know how it works out.


Carmen makes an Arduino Stoplight

Today, Carmen decided that she wanted to give Arduino programming a try. She's an experienced programmer, but had never tried any of this small embedded stuff, and knows relatively little about electronics, but with a little direction from me, she got the Arduino development environment installed, and we did a bit of playing around. I showed how we could blink an LED, and then showed her how to read switches and even drive a servo motor. She then walked through some of Lady Ada's tutorials and ended up scavenging a red, green, and yellow LED from some old throwies we had, and coding up a little stop light application:

Here's the code:

// Stoplight 
// Introductory Arduino program - Carmen & Mark VandeWettering 12/11/11
// with thanks to :
int redPin = 12;                  // Red LED connected to digital pin 12
int greenPin = 11;                // Green LED connected to digital pin 11
int yellowPin = 13;               // Yellow LED connected to digital pin 13
int delayTime = 1000;             // initiate a delaytime amount here

void setup()                      // run once, when the sketch starts
  pinMode(redPin, OUTPUT);        // sets the digital pin as output
  pinMode(greenPin, OUTPUT);      // sets the digital pin as output
  pinMode(yellowPin, OUTPUT);     // sets the digital pin as output

void loop()                       // run over and over again
  digitalWrite(redPin, HIGH);     // sets the Red LED on
  delay(delayTime);               // waits the delayTime 
  digitalWrite(redPin, LOW);      // sets the Red LED off
  digitalWrite(greenPin, HIGH);   // sets the Green LED on
  delay(delayTime*5);             // waits the delayTime * 5
  digitalWrite(yellowPin, HIGH);  // sets the Yellow LED on
  digitalWrite(greenPin, LOW);    // sets the Green LED off
  delay(delayTime);               // waits the delayTime
  digitalWrite(yellowPin, LOW);   // sets the Yellow LED off (and continue the loop)

If you have any experience with programming at all, the Arduino should be pretty easy. If you don't, it will take a bit more work, but it's still doable. Give it a try!