Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Beer Bread

WhitneyIconBeer Bread. It's easy, quick, tasty and no-fail bread. Make it.
I slapped it together so it looks pretty messy, but it's going to taste awesome.

My great grandma used to make this for me when I was a little girl. :)

The recipe I'm using today is as follows:

384g sifted all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
50g sugar
340ml beer
113g melted unsalted butter

Mix all dry ingredients then add the can of beer. Mix.
Pour into loaf pan. I butter my pan and coat it with corn meal.
Pour the melted butter over the bread.
Bake @375 °F/191 °C for 1 hour.

The result: a slightly sweet, crunchy crusted delicious bread. Mmmmm.

I also decided I wanted some honey butter to go with my bread. I blended 2 sticks of unsalted butter, a generous amount of honey, a tablespoon of cream cheese, and some vanilla scraped from a pod.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


KorganIconEvery urban homesteader should be able to make bread and after 5,000 failed attempts, I've finally figured it out.

240g warm water*
16g/2 tbsp oil
28g/2 tbsp honey
26g/2 tbsp brown sugar
10g/1 tbsp milk
6g/1 tsp salt

360g strong white bread flour
2 tsp instant/easy bake yeast

Some butter for greasing the tray.

*yeast works optimally at 30-37 °C (86-98.6 °F), above 37 °C they become stressed, according to Wikipedia.

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir.
Add flour and yeast, and knead until it's mixed up well and that's all.
Place dough in an oily bowl, turning once to grease the top.
Cover with a clean towel and put in a warm place, let rise until size doubles.
Punch dough down. Knead a little and form into loaf shape.
Grease a baking tray with butter, put the loaf on it, and let rise in a warm place again until it doubles in size again.
Preheat oven to 190 °C (374 °F). Bake for 35 minutes on a low shelf.
Remove loaf from oven, allow to rest on a wire rack. When cool, slice it up, eat.

Greasing the tray with butter works much better than oil.
You don't have to knead the dough. Let the yeast do all the work.
Getting the water to the right temperature makes a huge difference.

I don't use loaf pans but you might want to try it. In previous experiments, I've found that the middle doesn't cook well with a loaf pan and there's still alcohol left over. With this method, there's a lot more surface area for the alcohol to escape from, the taste of which indicates a less than successful bread.

Other people who write about breadmaking always say they could never go back to store-bought bread and I've always thought they were aloof for saying so. But I'm feeling the same. After you make and eat this stuff, store bread looks and tastes like shit in comparison, like they're tried to make something as bread-like as possible without actually being bread.

Friday, 4 December 2009


KorganIconThis is a dull and geeky update to my last post about pistons. I posted some diagrams for different ways to connect a rotor to a piston, like this:

The part labelled c1 is the connection from the rotor to the piston. I knew that the length of c1 had to be longer than the radius of the rotor, otherwise the machine would completely fail. To be safe, I noted on the diagrams to make c1 twice the radius at least. This is a good value, but I wanted to figure out the optimal length for c1.

The optimal length of c1 is about 1.5333r. This makes the optimal angle about 49.29°, not 45°. This is the point where you get the most angle increase for c1's length increase. This has nothing to do with the amount of force transferred, and if it does it's a coincidence. But I do think it's more efficient the greater the angle. Ideally the angle would be 90° at all times but obviously that's impossible. So, the longer c1 is the greater the angle, but 49.29° is the optimum trade between c1's length and the angle.

Here's a more accurate sketch:

Now you can sleep at night, eh?

Here's the working, if you're interested.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Pulleys and Pistons

KorganIconI have a fetish for pulleys. I find pulleys and rope very interesting. Anything involving rope usually interests me. No idea why. I know about 40 different types of knot, and I know how to bind and suspend a woman securely from the ceiling.

Last week I started to sketch out some ideas for good-looking configurations of pulleys and rope. No real use for it, just to play.
(click on any image for larger image)

This is one way you can rig pulleys to allow a small helium balloon to lift a 1 lb weight (assuming the ropes and pulleys weighed nothing). The second sketch is two equivalent pulley systems joined together. The left side uses fixed pulleys to give a 1:4 advantage; the right side uses a movable pulley to give a 1:2² advantage. So they balance.

So I started reading about pulleys, and then I read about simple machines. I decided I wanted to design a wind-powered water pump that fits onto a standard 55 gallon food-grade barrel. This barrel is a rain barrel. The idea is that the water will be pumped to a filter, and then drain back into the barrel. With the wind powering it, the barrel will be self-cleaning. The filter will be easily removed, cleaned and replaced to continue filtering. Not only will this filter the water with no effort, it should also look awesome.

So that's where I started. I watched some videos, read about simple machines and sketched a few ideas. Then I really got into it. I figured four ways to get a fan to pump a piston.





I also figured out something that took me a while to understand. A yaw. A yaw on a wind turbine is the big wing at the back of a wind turbine that turns the turbine around so that the blades always face upwind. I couldn't figure out how to connect the turbine to a piston pump while at the same time allowing the turbine to rotate 360°. I figured it out today and did a sketch.


The yaw wind turbine sketch isn't to scale but everything is there. I don't know the proper symbols used on professional technical drawings but hopefully it's clear. The thing in the centre that looks like a box of marbles is a type of joint that allows the piston connection to rotate above the 'box of marbles', but not below it. The other 'box of marbles' above it is to allow the entire top part of the machine to rotate. Hope that makes sense.

All these wind turbine sketches are a simple one turbine, one pump setup. I had other ideas for water pumps that pump in both directions, a couple of different ways to connect 2 pumps to one wheel, and combining those ideas together to get two double pumps connected to one wheel. I haven't sketched them yet though.

I haven't included in the sketches the valves you require for the piston to become a water pump. There should be two one-way valves (or check valves) attached to the piston at the base, one that only allows water in from the water supply, and one that only allows water out to where it's to be pumped. I was going to make these but I think bought ones would be more reliable, and their reliability is crucial.

I think this level of mechanics was probably taught in many schools to young children, but I never did this at school, so it's new. Learning a new mechanical technique is like finding a different type of Lego block, and it introduces an asston of new permutations.