Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Good Things Jar

I can't recall where I first heard the idea for a Good Things Jar - it may have been Reddit - but the concept is a simple one. Every time something good happens to you, write it down on a strip of paper and keep it in a jar. On bad days, or simply when you feel low, take out all the paper strips and read them.

My Good Things Jar is a Word document, ordered by date. It's mostly little events like successfully preparing a new dish, or meeting up with friends, or having an exceptionally productive day, or reading a thought-provoking essay, or simply viewing a nice sunset. All the little things that make me happy. And when I read about them again, weeks later, it's like reliving those happy moments again. It reminds me of how many good things happen every day.

I think I need that reminder, sometimes. That I am living a good life. That nice things are happening to me, all the time. That I have the right to be happy with what I have.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Brown Glue

So, I learned something new today!

I have an old, old scientific calculator, bought for school use almost 17 years ago. It has survived multiple examinations, being carried across international borders, and usage of varying frequency.

Yesterday, it suddenly developed an error. It physically would not let me enter 2-digit numbers. I could type, for example, '5', or even '5 × 5', but not '55'. Opening up the case, I noticed that the circuit components had been carelessly attached, with glue smeared all over the circuit, which was not entirely unexpected of a relatively cheap school calculator. More importantly, the single button cell was rusted. That's the problem, I thought. I cleaned up the contacts, and inserted the new battery.

No dice. Exactly the same problem as before.

I reopened the calculator and had another look inside – the keypad design was fascinating – but nothing stood out, other than the smears of brown glue. Wondering if there was something to it after all, I looked up 'brown glue on circuit board'. When Google auto-completed the phrase for me, I knew I was on to something.

It appears that the glue was chloroprene rubber adhesive. It starts off yellow, but slowly turns brown over time. It also becomes conductive. And this dried, conductive material had been carelessly dribbled all over my calculator's circuit board.

I very carefully chipped the dried glue off the conductive tracks using a small screwdriver, dabbed away the dust with a damp cotton swab, allowed the circuit board to air-dry, and replaced the casing. The calculator effortlessly informed me that 55 × 11 = 605.

It's nice that my old friend will continue to function at least a little longer, but I'm also pleased to have found something new to look out for when repairing electronic devices. There's something very fulfilling about getting a broken device to work again.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Happy Birthday, Singapore

You know a show is good when it literally moves you to tears.

...

Happy birthday.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Shark (Sketch)

I feel that this blog has insufficient sharks.



Saturday, 27 May 2017

Chilli Flower

Found this in my drafts - a photograph of a flower on my chilli plant, from early February. It has since borne fruit and many more flowers, but this first one remains special to me. 


Apropos of nothing, I recently visited the River Safari, and had the opportunity to touch a live horseshoe crab. There was also a starfish that was more popular with the children, but personally, starfish pale in comparison to the living fossil that has been virtually unchanged for 450 million years. Also, horseshoe crabs have blue blood (royalty??) which is used in some biological assays. Meeting a real one was a very nice moment.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Pineapple Tarts

It's already the Ides of March! Where is the year going.

I love pineapple tarts (the "golden pillow" variety), but they are both seasonal and really quite expensive. Making my own sounded like a great idea!

Pineapple Tarts (makes 30-45)
Adapted from this recipe. 

Filling
565 g (340 g drained) can of pineapple chunks
100 g granulated sugar, plus extra
1 1/2 – 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 – 1 1/2 tsp tapioca starch

Tart pastry
300 g all-purpose flour
75 g cake flour
50 g icing sugar
2 tbsp corn or tapioca starch
1/4 tsp table salt
220 g Golden Churn unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 egg yolks, divided
1 tsp water

To prepare the filling, drain pineapple. Place in a blender and pulse briefly until crushed. In a non-reactive saucepan, combine pineapple and sugar. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in lemon juice, and extra sugar to taste. Add tapioca starch to thicken to desired consistency. Cool to room temperature before use.

To prepare pastry, whisk flours, icing sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Set aside. Cream butter using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Fold in vanilla essence using a spatula. Add two egg yolks and beat until combined.

Using a whisk, slowly beat in half of the flour mixture. Add remaining flour and beat with a wooden spoon until just combined. Scrape pastry dough together and knead 1–2 times to form a ball.

Divide dough into 30–35 balls (about 20 g each). To make each tart, press down on each dough ball to form an indentation. Place 1/2 – 1 tsp pineapple filling into the indentation and pinch shut. Roll lightly between the palms to form a pillow shape. If desired, decorate with a fork.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Whisk remaining egg yolk with water. Place pineapple tarts on a parchment-lined baking tray and brush with egg yolk glaze. Bake 15–20 minutes until golden-brown.

Notes

Theoretically, cornstarch can be used to thicken the filling, but I don't like to use it in fruit fillings because it tends to dull the flavour. Besides tapioca starch, potato starch also works well.

Golden Churn butter is magic and doesn't turn into oil at Singapore room temperatures. I strongly recommend this brand for this particular recipe.

The cake flour helps with the "shortness" of the dough, it can be replaced with plain flour mixed with 1–2 tbsp rice flour. Gluten-free flour would probably work, too.

I haven't tried this yet, but I think a touch of almond essence would help with the flavour. Perhaps 1/2 tsp vanilla essence, and 1/2 tsp almond essence. Other things I'd like to try: different glazes (the egg yolk glaze is very eggy), using silken tofu instead of egg yolks in the pastry, adding cheese powder to the pastry.


Thursday, 16 February 2017

Lemon Curd (Egg-Free)

I could have sworn that I had posted this long ago... Anyway, here is some egg-free lemon curd that, with further substitution, can be made vegan.

Lemon Curd (Egg Free)
Loosely adapted from this orange curd recipe.

Ingredients
180 - 250 ml juice from 2 lemons
Zest from 1 lemon
30 ml aquafaba
50 g silken tofu
150 g granulated sugar
1/4 - 1/2 tsp gelatin
4 tbsp unsalted butter
Pinch salt

Over medium-high heat, simmer lemon juice until reduced to about 60 ml. Stir in zest; set aside.

Blend aquafaba and tofu until smooth. Whisk in sugar until incorporated. Stir in cooled lemon juice and gelatin.

Return to medium heat. Whisk constantly until curd has thickened to a pudding-like consistency (about 10 minutes).

Strain curd, if desired. While still warm, stir in butter and salt. Transfer to a clean, airtight jar and keep refrigerated.

Notes

Add more or less gelatin to adjust the firmness of the curd. For the above recipe, 1/4 tsp gelatin makes a spreadable curd but not too sloppy curd, while 1/2 tsp is a little closer to jelly.

Adjust the amount of sugar to taste (I only use 100 g, because I like a more tangy curd).