How To Bake Brownies With A Perfect Glossy Skin

If you’re anything at all like this writer, you don’t spend a lot of time inspecting brownies past the initial object identification phase, preferring to insert them directly into the mouth post-haste. But those with more of an aesthetic focus take great care to produce brownies with a glossy, attractive skin. [Adam Ragusea] decided to find out what it takes to get a perfect brownie skin, time after time.

After many, many trays of brownies, [Adam], with the assistance of [Dr. Pia Sörensen], determined that the key seems to be making a brownie mixture with very finely dissolved sugar, in sucrose form, with a carefully controlled amount of water in the mixture. This produces a thick mixture which can hold together against the gases bubbling out during the cooking process, and produces a nice glossy skin. Too much water, and the mixture isn’t viscous enough to hold up, leading to brownies full of pock marks, while alternative sugars like fructose and glucose likely disrupt the ordered structure of sucrose molecules necessary for a shiny surface.

Together, [Adam] and [Pia] do a great job of exploring the molecular chemistry behind the process, as well as ruling out several myths that have been perpetuated in the viciously insular brownie subculture. All they’re missing is a set of standardised reflectivity tests executed with an Arduino and some photodiodes, but we’ll assume that was just cut for time. We’ve seen other hacks in the realm of molecular gastronomy before, like this homebrew kitchen centrifuge. Video after the break.

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Never Forget To Turn On The Cooker Hood Again

The cooker hood is a wonderful invention for removing excess fumes and steam from the kitchen. But like all electrically-powered devices, it only works when it is turned on. This was the problem facing [Peter], whose family are enthusiastic cooks who frequently forget to hit that switch. His solution? An automatic cooker hood switch that comes on when the cooker is in use, and stays on long enough afterwards to fully dissipate the fumes.

At its heart is a current transformer on the 3-phase stove power line, and we’re treated to a lesson in reading from these devices with an Arduino. They have a shunt resistor across which to produce a voltage, and their AC output is placed upon a reference DC voltage to supply the microcontroller pin. The impedance is quite high, so when the sensor had to be placed a distance from the microcontroller it necessitated an op-amp buffer. The readings then cause the Arduino to trigger a pair of relays to switch on or off the cooker hood. We can imagine that the family kitchen is thus a much pleasanter environment for it.

Cookers can also provide quite a hazard when they are left on. To that end, we’ve also featured a cooker alarm in the past.

Header image: Pbroks13, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Building A Dishwasher From Scratch

[Billy] was no fan of doing the dishes, but also found commercial solutions lacking. The options on the market simply didn’t fit his cookware and flatware. Instead of compromising, he set out to build a dishwasher of his own design. 

The build consists of a whole heap of hardware all lumped in a sizeable plastic tub. A washing machine solenoid lets water into the system, and it’s heated by an element in the base of the tub. It’s then pumped through a garden sprinkler head to give the dishes a good all-over spraying. At the end of a wash cycle, the drain pump then dumps the water to let everything dry off. An ESP8266 and a bank of relays are in place to run the show, with the user selecting wash programs via buttons and a small screen.

It may have taken a couple of years to come together, but [Billy’s] dishwasher seems to get the job done. Files are on Github for those interested, however we’d caution against attempting such a build unless you’re familiar working with plumbing and mains electricity. The other benefit of building your own dishwasher is that you’re less likely to have to patch it against widespread exploits – the security is instead up to you. Video after the break.

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Beautiful Sourdough Bread At Home Thanks To Dynamic Recipe Parameterization

More people are making sourdough at home than ever before, and while it may not take a lot of effort to find a decent recipe, it’s quite another thing to try using recipes to figure out how and why bread actually works. Thankfully, [Makefast Workshop] has turned copious research and hundreds of trials into a dynamic sourdough (and semi-sourdough) bread recipe chock-full of of drop-down options to customize not just ingredients, but baking methods and other recipe elements as well. Want to adjust quantities or loaf styles? Play with hydration or flour type? It’s all right there, and they even have quick-set options for their personal favorites.

In order to do all this, [Makefast Workshop] needed to understand bread at a deeper level than is usually called for. During research, they observed that the format of recipes was often an obstacle to understanding how good bread actually gets made. The reason for this is simple: recipes are presented as standalone documents describing a fixed process; a set of specific steps that, when followed, yield a particular result. What they do not normally do is describe the interplay and balance between ingredients and processes, which makes it difficult to understand how and why exactly the recipe produces what it does. Without that knowledge, it’s impossible to know what elements can be adjusted, and how. The dynamic recipe changes all that.

[Makefast Workshop] performed hundreds of tests, dialing in parameters one by one, to gain the insights needed to populate their dynamic recipe. It’s got clear processes and drop-down options that dynamically update not just the recipe steps, but also the URL. This means that one can fiddle the recipe to one’s desire, then simply copy and paste the URL to keep track of what one has baked.

When it comes to thoughtful approaches to food, this certainly isn’t [Makefast Workshop]’s first rodeo. We covered their beautiful directions for creating delicious speculoos, complete with effective 3D printed molds for a modern twist on a Belgian classic.

Teardown: Quirky Egg Minder

Many of the biggest stars are hesitant to do sequels, believing that the magic captured the first time around is hard to reproduce in subsequent productions. As I’m known (at least around the former closet that now serves as my home office) as the “Meryl Streep of Teardowns”, I try to follow her example when it comes to repeat performances. But if they could get her to come back for another Mamma Mia film, I suppose I can take a look at a second Quirky product.

An elderly egg calls to inquire about euthanasia services.

This time around we’ll be looking at the Quirky Egg Minder, a smart device advertised as being able to tell you when your eggs are getting old. Apparently, this is a problem some people have. A problem that of course is best solved via the Internet of Things, because who wouldn’t pay $80 USD for a battery-powered WiFi device that lives in their refrigerator and communicates vital egg statistics to an online service?

As it turns out, the answer to that question is “most people”. The Egg Minder, like most of its Quirky peers, quickly became a seemingly permanent fixture of retailer’s clearance shelves. This particular unit, which I was able to pick up new from Amazon, only cost me $9.99. This is still more than I would have paid under normal circumstances, but such sacrifices are part and parcel with making sure the readers of Hackaday get their regular dose of unusual gadgetry.

You may recall that our last Quirky device, the “Refuel” propane tank monitor, ended up being a fantastically engineered and built piece of hardware. The actual utility of the product was far from certain, but nobody could deny that the money had been spent in all the right places.

What will the internals of the Egg Minder reveal? Will it have the same level of glorious over-engineering that took us by surprise with the Refuel? Will that zest for form over function ultimately become the legacy of these Quirky devices, or was it just a fluke? Let’s crack this egg and find out.

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Old Chainsaw Repurposed For Kitchen Use

There are many ways to keep critical appliances running during a power outage. Maybe a UPS for a computer, a set of solar panels to charge your phone, or even a generator to keep your refrigerator or air conditioning working. This modification to a standard blender will also let you ride through a power outage while still being able to make delicious beverages. It runs on gasoline.

The build uses an old chainsaw to power the blades of the blender. [Bob] was able to design and build an entirely new drivetrain to get this device to work, starting by removing the chainsaw chain and bar and attaching a sprocket to the main shaft of the motor. A chain connects it to a custom-made bracket holding part of an angle grinder, which supports the blender jar. Add in a chain guard for safety and you’ll have a blender with slightly more power than the average kitchen appliance.

The video of the build is worth watching, even if your boring, electric-powered blender suits your needs already. The shop that [Bob] works in has about every tool we could dream of, including welders, 3D printers, band saws, and even a CNC plasma cutter. It reminds us of [This Old Tony]’s shop.

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Preserved Lemons On A Hacker’s Budget

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” [Carl Sagan]. If you wish to make preserved lemons the same way as [Uri Tuchman], you have to start with that mentality. Video also below. The recipe for [Uri]’s preserved lemons involves two ingredients see sea salt, and sliced lemons, but we don’t expect you came here looking for a recipe and the food is less important than the journey.

Recipes take for granted that we have all the necessary utensils on hand, but what if you are missing one? What if you are missing all of them? Life’s lemons won’t get the best of us, and if we’re utensil-poor and tool-rich we will make those lemons regret trying to take a bite out of us. The first fixture for cutting lemons is a cutting board, then a knife, and finally an airtight container. We see him make all of them from stock material by hand. Does that seem like a lot of work? You forgot that if you’re going to eat up, you’ll need a serving platter and fork. If he ever opens a restaurant, don’t expect it to be fast food.

Maybe humans will only need one tool in the kitchen someday but at least one cat receives food from a single silicone-brained tool.

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