thoughts, ramblings, and rants

7/31/2014

Miscellaneous thoughts of July 2014

In the years since I’ve been signing petitions, a curious phenomena has occurred in my inbox. 99% of my emails are now requests for donations. So many of the causes are worthy, most often non-profit organizations trying to fund their legislative activities, but it’s still disturbing to realize the Internet has been transformed from an information-sharing platform, to a money-raising one. Evidently, everytime a petition is signed, this subscribes the signer to fund-raising emails. Recently, I got tired of one particular one, their emails had gotten increasingly shrill, and so I went and unsubscribed. Next thing I knew, this relatively famous person sent another request on the same subscription. So, I thought that maybe the unsubscribe didn’t go through, and I unsubscribed a second time. Wash-rinse-repeat, though this time a top CEO type contacted me, needing yet more funds. OMG. (more…)

File: — Ken L. Klaser @ junkyard 7:38 pm PST, 07/31/14
12/9/2013

Buttery-flavored cracker formula

I’ve been wanting to make my own crackers for some period of time. One of the problems with doing so is that the crackers are usually much tougher than store-bought varieties. I have discerned a method of decreasing the toughness of wheat flour, simply by reading science reports. I’ve never before seen a similar cracker technique in any cookbook I’ve read, though it wouldn’t surprise me if a similar technique has not been documented somewhere.

The following formula is written in bakers’ percent notation, except for one entry which I have deemed a “sub-percent.” As with any bakers’ percent, 100% is the total flour weight, and is deemed any desired flour weight. In this formula 100% is split between 20% enzyme-ferment (similar to a pre-ferment) and 80% final dough. The enzyme-ferment dough has the proteolytic agent bromelain added, which is followed by an incubation period, in order to reduce protein creating greater tenderness in the final baked product. The amount of bromelain used will vary depending upon the strength and brand purchased. The amount listed below is for the brand I purchased and numerically assigned so usage is equivalent to 1 GDU per 4 grams flour. GDU means gelatin digesting unit. How I calculated that strength is explained below, after the bakers’ percent based formula.

Buttery-flavored cracker formula with enzyme ferment

(more…)

File: — Ken L. Klaser @ junkyard 6:25 am PST, 12/09/13
4/17/2013

Bread Making: Using a Syringe to Measure Dough Proofing Height

It’s been a long time since I wrote about making bread, according to the pictures I’ve uploaded, very roughly 3 years. Prior posts on the subject were located here. It’s kind of hard to believe I’ve been making my own bread, instead of purchasing it, that entire time.

A problem I’ve been having with baking bread is determining when dough is over-fermented. Proof of this can be seen in some of the prior posts of bread that has collapsed and has the classic “U” shaped top characteristic of over-proofing. Recently I started using an oral syringe to measure dough-proofing height. A photo of such a fermentation-expanded syringe is near the bottom of this post, along with an explanation of how I’ve been using it to determine when the dough is ready to bake.

I’ve also been working on a reconstituted wheat bread formula. By reconstituted, I mean that I use white flours and add bran and germ in a desired ratio. I’m not trying to duplicate the ratios that naturally exist in whole wheat, so I won’t refer to it as such. I call it wheat germ bran bread.

One benefit of this reconstitution is that only the germ needs to be refrigerated for storage. Whole wheat flour turns rancid when stored at room temperature for more than a few months, and this rancidity seems due to the germ fraction. White flours store well at room temperature for extended periods of time, and so does bran. This means the purchase of a 50 lb bag of white flour will not go to waste, even if it takes a year or more to use all of it when stored at room temperature.

It seems quite difficult to get a well-risen loaf when the formula includes bran, as well as raw germ; however, I’m reasonably happy with the result.

50% bran, germ enriched.

The oven temperatures are still not optimal, you can see this bread was loaded into a very hot natural-gas oven, one which was preheated to 550 °F. In future batches, I intend to decrease that initial temperature. There is some crust burning, and the crumb holes are larger in the center, which I believe is due to the excessive heat (I like those larger holes for sandwich bread, as they hold more mayonnaise). Upon loading the bread, I reduce the oven thermostat to 325 °F. The bread is steamed for the first 20 minutes using the converted pressure-cooker I’ve described in prior posts, and during most of this time, as the oven is cooling down, the burner does not cycle on. At 550 °F, loading the bread as quickly as I can causes a 75 °F loss in oven temperature due to opening the oven door.

The reason I’m operating the oven this way is to try to prevent the burner from cycling on during the steaming time. I presume an electric oven would need a different baking strategy. Because gas ovens need to be vented, when the burner cycles on, the convection causes increased airflow through the vents, one that exhausts the steam, which has a drying effect. I’ve seen drawings of old fashioned ovens that allowed the operator to open and close vents manually, but the one I’m using has no such control. The application of steam is to prevent the crust from drying. When the burner turns on, the steam gets exhausted at a faster rate, so having the burner on at the same time that steam is applied would seem to cancel each other’s effects to some degree.

The bakers’ percentage formula for the total dough follows (total dough = pre-ferments + final dough). You’ll note the formula has a rather large amount of germ, much more than whole wheat, and a low amount of bran, an amount roughly equivalent to half white flour and half whole wheat flour: (more…)

File: — Ken L. Klaser @ junkyard 9:49 am PST, 04/17/13
12/19/2012

Killing bees(?) and earthworms California style

I received a notice that the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has plans to combat the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) which has been detected on citrus trees near my location in Fallbrook, California. I scanned the letter, it’s a large PDF file of about 10 megabytes. In short, county agents will be spraying citrus trees in the affected area with a pyrethroid, a short acting contact insecticide, and using a ground application of imidacloprid, a long-acting systemic insecticide to combat the ACP.

The county also had an open house, for folks with questions. I attended the open house, but did not take pictures, unfortunately it didn’t occur to me to bring a camera. I was advised that opting out of the program is easy, a notice is put on the garage door, giving 48 hours before the application is made. If one wishes to opt-out, one must call an 800 number that’s said printed on the notice to do so. This pesticide application is designed as an opt-out, rather than opt-in, making it rather aggressive, presumably due to the fear that the ACP is causing the folks working at CDFA.

Unfortunately some of my other questions, very basic, were unanswerable by the folks giving the open house. Bees are very important with respect to the pollination of many food crops. Imidacloprid kills bees. That fact as warning is clearly stated on multiple companies’ MSDS and pesticide information sheets, it does not seem to be in dispute. It has also been linked to bee colony collapse. I was assured that the dose they were using would not kill bees, according to the first CDFA representative I spoke with. My next question was, “Have you studied the bee population density?” This was apparently a hard question, as a couple of other folks needed to be consulted. According to an Adrian Gonzales, a representative of CDFA in attendance at the local open-house meeting, the answer was “No.” So I asked, “How can anyone know how many bees have or have not been killed, unless the bee population is first studied before an application, then studied for a sufficiently long period of time afterward?” They took my email address and told me I’d be contacted, and I was in fact contacted in just a few short days.

According to K. David Kim, staff scientist at the California Department of Food and Agriculture:

“Although imidacloprid is highly toxic to bees, the way CDFA (and their contractors) apply it, the exposure, and therefore risk, to bees is quite low. The imidacloprid is applied to the soil, where it is taken up by the tree and concentrated in the foliage. The only potential exposure to bees is during the bloom, where it has been found in the pollen. Studies at UC Riverside are being performed looking at this exposure route.”

I also received a separate reply from a Jason Leathers at CDFA, who was “not aware of any research projects on bees in the Fallbrook area.” At the open house, I was assured there were no plans to replace any of the bee populations that may be injured or killed by this ACP treatment program.

Imidacloprid is known to be a long-lasting systemic insecticide that, when applied to the ground typically used in horticulture, has a “field dissipation half life” with a rather wide range of values anywhere from 26.5-to-229 days. If, due to varying soil conditions, the degradation half life is the shorter figure, it seems to represent a risk to bees several months later during the spring bloom; if the degradation half life is the latter figure, then the pesticide may still be having a rather strong effect several years from the date of soil application. This long field dissipation half-life is reminiscent of how imidacloprid is claimed to continue killing termites for from 5-to-10 years following a single application when applied under the slab of a home.

Thus the lack of bee population studies both before and after an application of imidacloprid is a notable omission in California’s ACP extermination plan. Because of the long field-dissipation half-life, it seems to me these studies should be conducted for several years. The folks at CDFA seem primarily concerned with killing the psyllid. It seems there are few alternatives that do not result in the spread of the insect.

After the open-house meeting, I learned that imadicloprid is toxic to earthworms, at levels as low as 50 PPB (0.05 PPM). This is of concern to organic gardeners, as earthworms are one sign of a fertile soil (also see a wonderful story about an earthworm farm of the 1800s, a longer version appears here). Just as with bees, the long sub-surface half life of imidacloprid (where there is no light) suggests a single application is likely to affect earthworm populations for a significant, if unknown, period of time. According to K. David Kim:

“Imidalocprid is longer lasting, and yes it is toxic to earthworms at the applied rate, but the application is only around the base of the trees and there is very little movement of the pesticide laterally.”

The reason imiadicloprid is claimed successful with termite eradication is that as the insects move, they cannot detect the poison to avoid it.

The reasons I became an enthusiast of organic methods of soil husbandry are due to an informal experiment I performed back in the 1980s. I had planted 6 or 7 rose plants in the existing topsoil, without any organic amendments, at a residence my wife and I rented. I began by fertilizing them with synthetic fertilizers. Aphids massively infested the buds and stems. Typically, folks either spray poisons to kill those, or use a systemic insecticide (judging from products sold at nurseries); since I didn’t and still don’t like to use poison if it can be avoided, I used soap mixed with water (I didn’t use detergent). It worked well, unfortunately, it needed frequent applications, I was needing to spray soap and water every couple of weeks to keep the aphids under control. I started fertilizing the roses instead with top-soil dressings of steer manure which was supplied in 1 cubic foot bags, which according to the label at the time was not really only manure, but was manure composted with “forest products” (in other words the product at the time was mislabeled, it was “compost”, not “steer manure”). I also stopped all synthetic fertilization. The next year, the roses only had a few or occasional aphids here and there, nothing that seemed to constitute “an infestation”. I tried applying synthetic fertilizers again, and shortly thereafter, massive numbers of aphids re-infested the plants. I again stopped the synthetic fertilizers, and returned to only the use of manure fertilization. The next year, again, just a few aphids appeared here and there, it was not worth the trouble to spray. In looking back on this, I’ve come to believe that synthetic fertilizers acts to make plants, particularly roses, “taste good” to aphids, which are considered plant-sucking insects. The effect I noticed is possibly related to the purity of chemical fertilizers, and the impurities of organic fertilizers. My axiom with respect to rose plants: as synthetic, chemical fertilizers were increased, the need for pesticide applications also increased.

Like aphids, the Asian Citrus Psyillid is a “sap-sucking” insect, and is possibly why the folks at CDFA believe a systemic insecticide is expected to kill them.

It is troubling that the state of California is suggesting the use of a systemic insecticide on food crops — citrus: oranges, lemons, grapefruits, etc. — which backyard growers in all likelihood consume. It is also troubling that the systemic insecticide chosen, imidacloprid, has such a long degradation half life in soil. The lack of a plan to study and mitigate its local effect on bees is also very troubling.

File: — Ken L. Klaser @ junkyard 7:24 pm PST, 12/19/12
11/20/2009

Part 3: Experimenting with Bread Dough Process

This is a continuation of Part 2: Experimenting with Bread Dough Process.

I had mentioned I wanted to try adding a longer primary fermentation, a so-called “preferment” or “pre-ferment”. The first one I tried was a simplistic poolish using my typical bread formula and flour amounts. The second batch used too little yeast, and it didn’t rise very well.

The first poolish batch turned into very nice bread, bread that was accidentally ruined after it had been bagged in plastic, ready for slicing the following day and stored in the oven, when I forgot it was there and started warming up the oven for something else. The oven was somewhat over 200F when I remembered the two loaves there, but the plastic had shrunk itself around those loaves. I decided to compost that batch, as I figured that plastic fumes had saturated through the bread.

I wasn’t enthralled with the poolish process, however, because it was more complicated to make, it involved more weighing of ingredients and separate processes (particularly if I had to separately autolyse each), as well it didn’t seem to provide much advantage over the straight dough approach I’d been using judging by the results (but it was and is easy to mix). More work for the same result? That’s when I realized that the poolish methods didn’t autolyse all the flour, at least not a strict autolyse.

So I started wondering if I could autolyse all the flour much the same as the straight-dough process I’d been using, then turn some or all of that dough into a long fermentation that occurred prior to the typical overnight bulk refrigeration. Flipping the question around, it seemed easy enough to simply add a long fermentation step between the straight-dough autolyse and the typical, retarded or refrigerated overnight fermentation. Additionally, I realized that with an additional fermentation step, I could add the salt and oil immediately prior to the secondary or bulk fermentation, and not need to do much kneading the next morning before division and panning for the final proof: there would be nothing that needed to be mixed into the dough at that point in the process.

I had originally hoped the long fermentation would take 8-hours at 72F (winter room temperatures here), but it had tripled in bulk at 4.5 hours due to the 0.15% Instant Dry Yeast added to it at that point-in-time. I’ll have to reduce that amount the next time for a longer fermentation, as the schedule allows an 8-hour primary ferment without needing a third day. For reasons of simplicity of process, I opted to subject all the autolysed flour to this long fermentation at 55% water (only flour, water, vinegar, and yeast added to the dough at this point).

First, a warm autolyse of only flour and water that resulted in 100F degree dough, which was placed in the refrigerator for 1.5 hours, at which point it cooled to about 83F degrees. Then the vinegar was added and kneaded, then a small amount of yeast for the long primary fermentation was added, and this mix was returned to the refrigerator for another 1/2 hour or so, until the dough cooled to 70F, when it was removed to room temperature. This rose for the next 4 hours at room temperature (72F) for a total of 4.5 hours. Because the dough had tripled in volume, I thought that was enough, but my guess is it would still be considered immature. At this point, more yeast was added, a short knead of a minute or so followed by a 10 minute rest, then salt was added and kneaded, then oil was added and separately kneaded with 1/3 of the dough using the prior-mentioned food-processor blade technique, then reincorporated and all of it stand-mixer kneaded for another minute on the slowest speed. The dough was 79F when it entered the refrigerator for the overnight bulk or second fermentation.

This dough process seems to result in the nicest and softest crumb yet, and the crust is a somewhat darker golden color. The crust was slightly tough following baking, but as toast it’s wonderfully crisp:

4.5-hour primary fermentation added to process.

(more…)

File: — Ken L. Klaser @ junkyard 9:28 pm PST, 11/20/09
8/24/2009

Part 2: Experimenting with Bread Dough Process

This is a continuation of my prior post title Experimenting with Bread Dough Process. Apparently, when my updated posts become too long, with too many words, there are times when text gets lost on an update, so I’ll have to come up with a different titling scheme and give up on the idea of continuing to add content to existing posts. For now, this will be Part Two. As with the prior post in this series, the dates below were snipped from the prior post, and is why they are earlier than the date of this post.

2009.Aug.14

I feel like I found the mother load of information about enzymes, and as I was reading through the commercial report from an apparent enzyme manufacturer (PDF), I found these two paragraphs that may explain the increased stickiness (I may have gone overboard with my chosen emphasis):

Glutenin can be classed as a heterogenous mixture of proteins. It has a molecular weight of 100,000 to several million. It is a multiple chain protein with crosslinked intermolecular disulfide bonds. It has moderate adhesiveness and high elasticity….

Gliadin is considered a heterogeneous mixture of prolamines with a molecular weight of 25- 60,000. It is a single chain protein containing intramolecular disulfide bonds. It has high adhesiveness and low elasticity.

(more…)

File: — Ken L. Klaser @ junkyard 3:06 pm PST, 08/24/09
8/11/2009

Experimenting with Bread Dough Process

This is a continuation of my prior post titled Experimenting With Bread Dough Moisture, Sandwich Slices, and Oven Spring. I kept adding text to that post at the bottom, but due to some errors of unknown origin, the frequently re-saved post started losing large sections of text. At some point while investigating the issue, I found that shorter posts worked fine as a workaround.

The continuation here was of text snipped from the bottom of that post, and is why the date of this post is later than some of the entries.

2009.Jul.27

Massive volume increase! Wow! This was the first dough I’ve made that passed the windowpane test without tearing before light was visible through the stretched dough.

I diverged from the scientific process of making only one change at a time, so some of the results cannot easily be traced to particular changes made. The following batch used a strictly-defined autolyse rest, and the fermentation was similar to a sponge as well as a biga, but it uses 100% of the formula’s flour, thus cannot be called either.

The major change made in this batch was one of process, or the order in which various ingredients were added. The following ingredient list or formula is not reflective of that order.

Scale Recipe Here Flour Total # Total g
Flour Weight per pan Weight of pans per pan
827 1654 2 1348.84
ingredient Baker’s normal Weight
Percent percent grams
High Gluten Flour 28.00% 0.1717 463.12
Baker’s Flour (11.8% protien) 72.00% 0.4414 1190.88
Salt 1.23% 0.0075 20.34
Instant Dry Yeast 0.64% 0.0039 10.59
Olive oil 4.00% 0.0245 66.16
Water 57.23% 0.3509 946.58
Totals 163.10% 1 2697.67
Flour Sub-Totals 100.00% 1654

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File: — Ken L. Klaser @ junkyard 8:33 pm PST, 08/11/09
4/5/2009

U.S.: Bill Introduced to Legalize Industrial Hemp

Ron Paul is the sponsor of a bill to exempt industrial hemp from definitions apparently including it in the Controlled Substances Act. According to thomas.loc.gov, the bill has 10 cosponsors. Here’s a cut and paste from the search page:

H.R.1866 Title: To amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marihuana, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep Paul, Ron [TX-14] (introduced 4/2/2009)

Cosponsors (10)
Latest Major Action: 4/2/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned. COSPONSORS(10), ALPHABETICAL [followed by Cosponsors withdrawn]: (Sort: by date)

Rep Baldwin, Tammy [WI-2] – 4/2/2009
Rep Clay, Wm. Lacy [MO-1] – 4/2/2009
Rep Frank, Barney [MA-4] – 4/2/2009
Rep Grijalva, Raul M. [AZ-7] – 4/2/2009
Rep Hinchey, Maurice D. [NY-22] – 4/2/2009
Rep McClintock, Tom [CA-4] – 4/2/2009
Rep Miller, George [CA-7] – 4/2/2009
Rep Rohrabacher, Dana [CA-46] – 4/2/2009
Rep Stark, Fortney Pete [CA-13] – 4/2/2009
Rep Woolsey, Lynn C. [CA-6] – 4/2/2009

Apparently the text is not yet available at Thomas, though Internet searches indicate some of the major news outlets already have some information on the bill.

It is my understanding that Industrial hemp has no psychoactive properties, so if this bill attracts enough attention, and eventually passes into law, farmers could probably grow it without applying for a special license. Once that occurs, folks will probably will be able to buy hemp clothing at reasonable prices once again. It is said to be stronger and more durable than other natural fabrics. Industrial hemp is quite useful for a number of other things, including paper. It seems preferable to make paper from an annual crop, versus cutting down older trees for that purpose. My understanding is that hemp as a crop is drought tolerant.

All of these plants breath in CO2. Surely this would help some with the Global Climate Change portion that’s said to be due to mankind’s accelerated production of large amounts of CO2 that seemed to begin with the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries.

So if you support this bill, be sure to write to your Representatives encouraging them to sign on as cosponsors.

I plan to do that myself soon, this post hopefully will remind me. I believe it’s better to print or write the letter on paper and send it by mail. I’m not at all certain that electronic submissions even reach the intended offices. Maybe they do.

File: — Ken L. Klaser @ junkyard 1:09 pm PST, 04/05/09
3/21/2009

Spring 2009: The News, my Rants, and Sundry Reading

2009.06.20

In a peculiarly relieving way, the city of Austin reportedly approves a particular composting toilet.

That is a good story to upon which to end seasonally based news rants.


ProPublica has a very curious article out that relates to the healthcare debate, but is specifically about insurance companies’ denials of medical care payments to civilians injured in war zones. Here’s a paragraph I find particularly illuminating:

A retired U.S. Army Reserve general who served in Iraq, Fay called the war-zone insurance program “a flawed statutory and regulatory scheme.” He noted that the law requires payments for injuries within 14 days — a timetable he said required carriers to issue denials to protect their legal rights.

I find the quote revealing because shows how some war-zone insurance companies presume guilt instead of innocence with regards to those humans submitting claims.


2009.05.28 (more…)

File: — Ken L. Klaser @ junkyard 10:31 am PST, 03/21/09
3/20/2009

This weblog may be temporarily non-operational

Some changes will be made to this weblog over the next few days or weeks. This means there will be times when this website will be completely non-operational, and other times when what appears will not even look like a webpage. These less-than-ideal changes will be temporary, as we upgrade some of the software.

We currently use ancient (in android time) weblog and anti-spam software. While it used to work superbly, changes our host has made, that I will not attempt to explain except to say we now have hanging MySQL queries, are causing problems for folks trying to comment.

So, be advised that our websites will be non-operational at times, but that these glitches will hopefully be temporary.

Update (of same day): The upgrades went a lot smoother on this weblog than I expected. Now I have to watch how it reacts in actual operation. This weblog is the test box.

Update (Saturday, March 21 2009): Made it through the night without any apparent issues requiring manual maintenance! This is a tentative, “Yay!” Even if the current solution is not as good as the old one (it may be better), our need to make the change seems somewhat forced by realities of our current host’s and the recently-increased existence of the hanging queries that manifested as several different interactivity problems.

File: — Ken L. Klaser @ junkyard 11:53 am PST, 03/20/09