Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I'm working on a post right now that is about cake decorating. There's so much to tell so it's going to take me a while before I post it.

In the meantime, some menial updates.

I have 25 days left in Calgary
These 25 days will be composed of 17 days working, 3 days in Kelowna, 1 day in Drumheller, 1 day at the zoo, 2 days packing and 1 day relaxing...hopefully.

Oh yes, and 25 days worrying about/procrastinating from/ and maybe even writing... my work-term report.

I don't feel it's appropriate at this time to give a review of my summer as there are still many things to come. It does however, feel like the end is very near. When I think of how fast August will go by I immediately think of how slowly May went by. It's kind of like when you have a full tank of gas. The top half lasts much longer than the bottom half. Is this actually true when it comes to your gas tank? It is completely false when it comes to number of days because May and August are the same size. Can anyone control how fast their day goes by? I know that if I'm busy at work my day will go by quicker, the opposite is true also. Then I think, this doesn't apply to Saturday because no matter what I do, Saturday goes by quickly! Is there any way to keep the feel of your day the same? I know that my gas tank will always act the same way, no matter what day it is. How can I have this control on my week? Be bored all morning and busy all afternoon?

I guess it's just a fact of life that any of the good times fall in the bottom half of my gas tank, and sitting in the dentists chair fills it to the top.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

OHHHH MMMAAAANNNN!!!!

So last night I made dinner and read the last half of Harry Potter 7.

IT WAS SSSOOOOO GOOOOOODDDDDD!!!!!!!
IT BLEW MY MIIINNNNNDDDDD!!!!

You have to go read it NOOOOWWWWW so I can talk about it. I don't want to spoil it for anyone.

WOW
It totally surpassed my expectations.

WWWOOOOOWWWW

Monday, July 16, 2007

Stampede Wrap-up

Living in Calgary this summer it was only natural that I enjoyed a few Stampede festivities.

And so the highlights of my attendance of The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth begins...

Thursday, July 5th, 2007
'Sneak-a-Peak night'
It was only $3 to get into the grounds (usually $13) so Emily and I decided to check out Nashville North before it got too busy. For those who are uneducated, Nashville North is a big tent on the Stampede grounds, you could call it a 'bar'... but really it's just a tent that requires you to be 18+ to get in. So we went, no line, woo! Also, our friend Jenn was working there, double woo! Unfortunately, her work uniform was a heavy denim shirt - BOO! Oh ya, said tent does not have A/C. In any case we had a decent time, the music was loud and lots of people were way too drunk. It reminded me of October fest, with the long tables and folding chairs, though there was country music and cowboys hats instead of polka and leiderhosen. So that was that, there isn't much to say about this evening because both Emily and I did have to work the next day. Oh but it did get interesting when I started teaching drunk guys how to sign 'You are a shit face'. "awkward"...

Friday, July 6th, 2007
First Official day of Stampede, Parade day!
On Thursday several co-workers instructed me that I was to go to the parade. No choice. Ok by me! So Michelle and I got up early and headed downtown to find a seat among the other 350,000 people that were doing the same. It was really sunny and there were lots of people but we found seats and began to wait... 1 hour later, the parade! There were so many horses. SO MANY HORSES. Every float had horses. Every type of horse, donkey, mule, EVEN a big bull. One of my favorite parts was the sheep dogs. There were 4 sheep in the parade and the 2 dogs just kept them all together following the parade route. It was cool. The dogs were, unfortunately, not cute. The bands were all really good, and the street cleaners added a nice touch. The parade was nearly 2 hours long! It was a good morning, AND I didn't have to work!

Sunday, July 8th, 2007
Rodeo Day!
The Stampede works as so: everyday there is a rodeo show in the afternoon and then an evening show (chuck wagons and grandstand show). This happens everyday, both are worth seeing. I went to the rodeo with Natasha and some of her friends - friends who knew stuff about rodeo! That was sweet - I learned so much! We saw calf roping, saddle bronc, steer pinning, barrel racing, bareback, bull riding, and wild pony chase! It was pretty cool to learn about everything and seeing it up close makes you really respect it, those guys gotta be some kind of tough! So that was that... then we headed (once again) to Nashville North before the line-up started.

Oh yes, as an aside, there is a sign in the Nashville North line that says "If you are standing here there is an approximate wait of 4 hours", yikes!

So we went, we drank, we danced! We saw lots of creepy old men, ew. It was a pretty fun afternoon though after I left I just wanted to shower.

Week days in between.
Pancakes at work every day... very little work everyday...

Friday, July 13th, 2007
Work Lunch, Chuck wagons, Grandstand show!
At work we hosted a big all-you-can eat beef-on-a-bun for all the site guys. We had a dunk tank, a band and lots of food. It was a pretty sweet day because I basically spent it setting stuff up! The dunk tank went over really well, we made lots of money for our fundraiser! The food was alright, I'm not so much a fan of the slow-roasted beef slathered in BBQ sauce, but it was free so no complaints. Oh yes, I got to leave work early, sweet!

Dave and Claire were coming for dinner so I busted it to Safeway and then headed home to get everything ready before I had to pick them up. I made steaks for Dave and I and chicken kebabs for Claire, everything turned out really well!

Then it was off to the Chuck wagons!
This event was really cool to watch. I have no idea where it came from but what a cool thing to see! Basically you have a wagon, with 4 horses in front of it and a guy on the wagon. Behind the wagon is your team - 3 people, each with a horse. So the bell goes and the 3 people at the back have to lift a range in to the wagon, the wagon goes, the team gets on their horses, they race around the track. The wagons passed right in front of us, they were going so fast!
After the chucks came the grandstand show. This is kind of like a big flashy talent show. There was singing, dancing, sequins, sequins, fireworks, sequins, fireworks and a ventriloquist... who was really funny. It was a little cheesy but the fireworks were incredible.

Saturday, July 14th, 2007
COWBOYS
Basically I hung out all day and then met Dave and Claire for dinner and then we went to the famous Cowboys bar. Cover was $20 (OUCH) and drinks were $5.50 (DOUBLE OUCH). It was filthy, too loud, and way too pricey. There were these waitresses walking around with a stool and 4 bottles of liquor in a holster. So you pay $6, she stands on the stool, you sit between her feet with your head back, she pours the shot in your mouth and then mashes her boobs in your face. This place is pure class. I went home early.

And so my Stampede experience comes to a close. I tried to do as much as I could while still making it into work everyday. Everything I did was a lot of fun but I am a bit glad that it's over because I was getting pretty tired towards the end there.

Monday, July 09, 2007

As requested

There is only one hobby that I have in which I exude confidence. I tend to be a little shy and timid when it comes to most of the others, but this one.... THIS ONE. Well, I rule.

BAKING!

(dah dah dah!)

It is the best feeling to love a hobby, do well at it, and beleive that you do well at it. It's something to be proud of, to share, and to continue to work at. All in all, I LOVE to bake, I love to share the fruits (or pastries... cookies... pies... brownies... cakes... etc) of my labour, and I love to show others that it's not so hard.

This brings me to the newest page of my quest to know everything about baking.

High Altitude Baking*

*Only applicable if performing at 3000+ ft (~900m) above sea level.

If you ever find yourself in a cabin at the top of a mountain with a gas range, 6 varieties of flour, and a cast-iron bundt pan, read on my friends! Also, bookmark this post, just in case. Oh yes, that so-called cabin has internet. And The Joy of Cooking. Hot damn what a fantasy!

So firstly, any good kitchen should have a copy of 'The Joy of Cooking'. It is the cooking bible for North America. Well, the North American version is anyway. It will teach you how to catch, skin, fry, and serve a squirrel. I read this book before I go to bed to manipulate my dreams.

It also holds details for High Altitude Baking (HAB). It is listed in the index, go read it.

Chapter 1: A brief intro to HAB

Most recipes will perform as written at 3000ft or less. If you are in SK, MB, ON, NB, NS, PEI, most of QC and western BC you are fine and have a great day! If you are in Eastern QC, Most of AB, BC and parts of YK, NWT, NU, NL, then read on or SUFFER WITH A FLAT CAKE!!! Muaahahaha!!!!!

The need to adjust a recipe at higher altitudes is because ingredients will not react the same way with each other as they would at sea leavel. That is, they will not rise properly. As we learned in high school chemistry, air pressure decreases as elevation increases. As a result of the low air pressure levening agents will react faster forming air pockets in the batter too quickly and thus bursting them. As many cakes take upwards of an hour to cook, all of the levening will have come and gone by the time the batter is cooked. Do not be fooled as you peer into the oven after 30 minutes to see your cake looking light and fluffy, it will deflate miserably into a pancake once 1 hour has passed. Another side effect is liquids will evaporate quicker. This will cause your cake to be dry, crumbly and more likely to stick to the pan.

Please note that baking your cake as written will not make it inedible, it will however have a different texture and, as stated previously, will not rise very well.

As a side note, water will also boil at a lower temperature so be cautious when cooking anything at high altitudes.

Chapter 2: Well what the heck do I do now?

So you're in your fantasy cabin reading my blog thinking 'Ok, so I'm up here, I want to bake, but I want my fantasy lumberjack to be welcomed home with a chocolate angel food cake that looks as good as it tastes. What now Erica, What now???' Well my friend, the answer is adjust! Your kitchen is equipped with all of the tools and ingredients you need!

The ease of HAB is that you don't need any fancy ingredients, you just need to adjust the ingredients you are already using.

As a side, there are adjustments for different altitudes. That is, the higher you are are, the greater the adjustment.

Some common adjustments:

Eggs: If the recipe calls for egg whites whipped to stiff peaks, only go to soft peaks. This will allow the eggs to still contain air however there will be less to deflate. Many recipes will call for eggs at room temperature, in HAB use your eggs right from the fridge. This will allow them to keep their consistency and once again, allow less air to enter. It will also mean that your eggs will cook slower and thus dissolve slower. (Note: Liquid evaporation in Chap 1).

Flour: Everyone knows that air is dryer at higher altitudes, this means everything else will be dryer. Your skin, your hair, your flour. This means increasing your liquids by about 2 tbsp per cup for every 1000ft above 3000ft to compensate.
or: 1 cup liquid at sea level = [1 cup + 2 tbsp * (your altitude/1000 - 2)] liquid at your altitude (given that its >3000ft.)
As liquid evaporates faster at higher altitude, this extra liquid now plays 2 roles. Not only will it moisten your flour it will also allow any evaporation in your batter to slow down.

Baking soda/powder: In most baking (besides yeast baking) this is your leavening agent. A general rule is that more baking powder/soda results in more rising. As you want your cake to rise slowly, reduce the amount you use by 10% at 3000-5000ft, 20% at 5000-7000ft and 25% at 7000+ft. Another tip for your leavening agent is to increase the amount of flour. This will allow the agent to be dispersed thinner throughout the batter. This small amount of increase in flour will not affect your batter provided you have performed the proper liquid increase.

Temperature: As stated before, water boils at a lower temperature at high altitude, this results in a longer cooking time. To compensate for this, increase your baking temperature by 10% and reduce your baking time equivalently to balance this. This increase in temperature will allow the cake to 'set' before the air pockets burst.

Chapter 3: Additional tips

As your batter will expand quite quickly, look for deeper pans to prevent overflow. Along with this it is also a good idea to remove any racks above the one on which you have set your cake so that the batter does not rise into it. Grease any pans more than usual to prevent probable sticking.

Conclusion... for those that are still reading!

I have written most of my tips with respect to baking a cake. This is because cakes are more likely to fail than most other recipes. Baking cookies don't require as much attention, just be careful that they do not brown too quickly.

There is no sure fire success method with HAB. It is best to start with small adjustments and go from there. Any baking is dependant on your tools and your oven, work with what you have and don't be afraid to fail, it's all in the process. Most baking ingredients are fairly cheap so by all means keep trying.

And so my friends, this ends the requested HAB lesson for today. Now you can all go back to your sea-level homes and bake me a fluffy cake!

Sources:
http://www.crisco.com/basics/tips/high_altitude.asp
http://www.highaltitudebaking.com/
http://www.ochef.com/327.htm
and of course, The Joy of Cooking