The Quest For Perfect Croissants Via A DIY Dough Sheeter

Baking is a wonderful pastime, as much an art as a science. [Alex] pursues the craft with plenty of vigor, and had built his very own dough sheeter to assist in his work. Unfortunately, the design had several flaws, and came out of a recent move rather the worse for wear. Growing tired of having to deal with dough of inconsistent thickness, he went back to the drawing board to whip up a new version (Youtube link, embedded below).

The new model improves significantly over the predecessor, by directly addressing the engineering pitfalls of the first design.

The core of the machine is a moving platform combined with a rolling pin, that can be set to a desired height to roll the dough into a set thickness. This is key to baking top-notch croissants, which [Alex] takes very seriously. His initial model used a table leg for a rolling pin, fitted with a threaded rod down the centre. This had significant issues with both runout, and uneven diameter across its length. Additionally, its frame had not held up after a recent move, and [Alex] was keen to start again.

The new model starts with attention paid to the basic engineering issues. The table leg is replaced with a professional-grade rolling pin, fitted with 3D-printed gears that accurately align the axis of rotation to the centre of the pin. A rack and pinion drive is also added to move the dough platform. Finally, a locking pin system is used to set the desired height of the dough.

It’s a useful project for the keen baker, and one that leans heavily on additive manufacturing methods. Producing such a tool in the years before 3D printers would have required significant effort to produce the required gears and mating components, so it’s impressive to see how easily something like this can come together these days. A hacker mindset can always be handy for baking – don’t forget, you can improve your bread crusts with steam! Video after the break.

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A Laser Cut Gingerbread Cathedral

One of the more disappointing news stories of 2019 was the fire at the Notre Dame cathedral. Widely considered a building of great historical importance and architectural merit, it was heavily damaged and will take significant time and resources to repair. Fundamentally though, if you’re reading this, that’s probably someone else’s job. Instead, why not just build your own Notre Dame out of gingerbread at home? [Scott Hasse] did just that.

The stained glass windows are the real party piece of the build.

The project began by using an existing papercraft model. This had to be heavily modified to account for the thickness of gingerbread and the fact that it can’t easily be folded around corners. The modified geometry was then lasercut at the Sector 67 hackerspace, as they’re experienced with the material.

With parts cut out, royal frosting was used as a mortar to help stick parts together during assembly. Significant development time was also spent in perfecting the stained glass windows, made from colored sugar. After much experimentation, a process involving melting the sugar on silicone sheets proved to be most successful. To complete the look, a series of RGB LEDs were also installed during the construction process.

The final results are nothing short of stunning. The build is instantly recognisable as the famous French cathedral, and the back-lit stained glass is absolutely breathtaking. We wouldn’t want to be going up against [Scott]’s family at the county fair baking contest, that’s for sure!

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3D Printering: The Quest For Printable Food

A video has been making the rounds on social media recently that shows a 3D printed “steak” developed by a company called NovaMeat. In the short clip, a machine can be seen extruding a paste made of ingredients such as peas and seaweed into a shape not entirely unlike that of a boot sole, which gets briefly fried in a pan. Slices of this futuristic foodstuff are then fed to passerby in an effort to prove it’s actually edible. Nobody spits it out while the cameras are rolling, but the look on their faces could perhaps best be interpreted as resigned politeness. Yes, you can eat it. But you could eat a real boot sole too if you cooked it long enough.

To be fair, the goals of NovaMeat are certainly noble. Founder and CEO Giuseppe Scionti says that we need to develop new sustainable food sources to combat the environmental cost of our current livestock system, and he believes meat alternatives like his 3D printed steak could be the answer. Indeed, finding ways to reduce the consumption of meat would be a net positive for the environment, but it seems his team has a long way to go before the average meat-eater would be tempted by the objects extruded from his machine.

But the NovaMeat team aren’t the first to attempt coaxing food out of a modified 3D printer, not by a long shot. They’re simply the most recent addition to a surprisingly long list of individuals and entities, not least of which the United States military, that have looked into the concept. Ultimately, they’ve been after the same thing that convinced many hackers and makers to buy their own desktop 3D printer: the ability to produce something to the maker’s exacting specifications. A machine that could produce food with the precise flavors and textures specified would in essence be the ultimate chef, but of course, it’s far easier said than done.

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Automate Your Comfort Food Prep With An IoT Grilled Cheese Robot

What exactly qualifies as comfort food is very much in the palate of the comfortee. Grilled cheese may not work for everyone under every circumstance, but we’ll risk a bet that the gooey delicacy is pretty close to universal, especially when you’re under the weather.

But if you’re too sick to grill up your own and don’t have anyone to do it for you, this grilled cheese sandwich-making robot might be the perfect kitchen accessory. Dubbed “The Cheeseborg” and built as a semester project by [Taylor Tabb], [Mitchell Riek], and [Evan Hill] at Carnegie-Mellon University, the bot takes a few shortcuts that might rankle the grilled cheese purist. Chief among these is the use of a sandwich press rather than a plain griddle. We understand that this greatly simplifies the flipping problem, but to us the flipping, especially the final high arcing double backflip onto the sandwich plate, is all part of the experience. Yes, a fair number of sandwiches end up going to the dog that way, but that’s beside the point.

As realized, Cheeseborg feeds bread and cheese from stacks using a vacuum arm, sprays the grill with butter, and uses a motorized arm to push the uncooked sandwich into the press. At the peak of grilled perfection, the press opens and ejects the sandwich to a waiting plate. As an added bonus, the whole thing is Google Assistant enabled so you can beseech Cheeseborg to fix you a sandwich from your sick bed. See it in action below.

This is far from the first culinary robot to grace our pages. There was the recent CNC sausage bot, we’ve seen plenty of pancake bots, and even [Ben Krasnow] once automated cookie making.

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Breakfast Bot Does Eggs To Perfection

Breakfast is a meal fraught with paradoxes. It’s important to start the day with a hearty meal full of energy and nutrition, but it’s also difficult to cook when you’re still bleary-eyed and half asleep. As with many problems in life, automation is the answer. [James Bruton] has the rig that will boil your egg and get your day off to a good start.

The basic apparatus uses a thermostatically controlled hotplate to heat a pot of water. [James] then employs an encoder-controlled linear actuator from a previous project to raise and lower a mesh colander into the pot, carrying the egg. An Arduino is used to measure the water temperature, only beginning the cooking process once the temperature is over 90 degrees Celsius. At this point, a 6-minute timer starts, with the egg being removed from the water and dumped out by a servo-controlled twist mechanism.

Future work will include servo control of the hotplate’s knob and building a chute to catch the egg to further reduce the need for human intervention. While there’s some danger in having an automated hotplate on in the house, this could be synchronized with an RTC to ensure your boiled egg is ready on time, every day.

Breakfast machines are a grand tradition around these parts, and we’ve seen a few in our time. Video after the break.

[Thanks to Baldpower for the tip!]

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Stove Alarm Keeps The Kitchen Safe

Gas cooktops have several benefits, being able to deliver heat near-instantly, while also being highly responsive when changing temperature. However, there are risks involved with both open flames and the potential of leaving the gas on with the burner unlit. After a couple of close calls, [Bob] developed a simple solution to this safety issue.

The round PCB sits neatly behind the knobs, affixed with double-sided tape.

Most commercial products in this space work by detecting the heat from the cooktop, however this does not help in the case of an unlit burner being left on. [Bob]’s solution was to develop a small round PCB that sits behind the oven knobs. Magnets are placed on the knobs, which hold a reed switch open when the knob is in the off position. When the knob is turned on, the reed switch closes, powering a small microcontroller which beeps at regular intervals to indicate the burner is on.

It’s a tidy solution to a common problem, which could help many people – especially the elderly or the forgetful. It integrates neatly into existing cooktops without requiring major modification, and [Bob] has made the plans available if you wish to roll your own.

On the other end of the scale, you might want an alarm on your freezer, too.

SauceBot Uses G-Code To Apply Condiments With Precision

You just can’t please some people. Take a 3D-printer disguised as a condiment dispenser to a public event and next thing you know people actually expect you to build a 3D-condiment dispenser for the next time. How can you help but oblige?

We have to admit to more than a little alarm when [ShaneR] sent us this tip, as on first reading it seemed to endorse the culinary sin of putting ketchup on barbecue. But then we watched the video below and realized this dispenser is only applying ketchup and mustard to hot dogs, and while some purists would quibble with the ketchup, we’ll let that slide. The applicator, dubbed SauceBot by the crew at Connected Community HackerSpace in Melbourne, appears to be purpose-built entirely from laser-cut acrylic, including the twin peristaltic pumps for extruding the ketchup and mustard. We’re not sure the Z-axis is entirely necessary for dispensing onto hot dogs, but since this was a community outreach event, it makes sense to go all in. The video below shows it in use at a fundraiser, and while the novelty of it probably sold quite a few dogs, it’s safe to say the food service industry won’t be alarmed that this particular robot will be stealing jobs anytime soon.

Seriously, if your hackerspace is going to have public events with food, something like this could really get the conversation started. Then again, so might a CD execution chamber.