Some Autumn Sky Photos

October Evening Sky

Port Washington Sunset

Port Washington Sunset

Elementary Mono icons for Wicd

I recently started using Wicd wireless network manager. However I dislike the default tray icons.

Since there aren’t many nice ones available I adapted the NetworkManager icons in the Elementary icon theme by Dan Rabbit for Wicd. I’ve just made the version for light backgrounds for now.

Since Wicd displays the network traffic I added this to the icons with a simple dot; downstream on the left, upstream on the right.

To install:

Download the icons

Extract:
tar -zxvf wicd-elementary-light.tar.gz

Copy to the Wicd icons folder:

cp ./* /usr/share/pixmaps/wicd/

This work is licensed under the GPL.

Top Music of 2010

Top tracks chosen purely on play-count. One track per artist.

The Ruins of Beverast – Euphoria When the Bombs Fell

Empyrium – When Shadows Grow Longer

Of the Wand and the Moon – My Devotion Will Never Fade

Read the rest of this entry »

On Making (Vegan) Pizza

Until 18 months ago I was making pizza using such techniques as:

  • Rolling out the dough with a rolling pin
  • Preparing the pizza and baking it on regular a baking pan/tray
  • Baking the pizza in a 400 or so degree oven for 25 minutes

However, after being prompted by a friend, I read up on pizza making, and I’ve never looked back.

Specifically, I read about the pizza Neapolitan style and to say I have made some changes to my technique would be an understatement. The way I now make pizza bears almost no resemblance to my former method and the resulting pizza reflects that.

My main source for information has been Jeff Varasano’s Pizza Recipe page which I would highly recommend spending some time with to get the technical details of the recipe. For now though, I’ll give a high level overview of the principles.

Za I

Sourdough

Starting at the beginning, the first thing I do differently is to rise the dough with not only dry yeast but also sourdough starter. The majority of the rising is still done by the dry yeast, the main reason for the addition of the sourdough is for the flavour it provides.

A sourdough starter is very easy to make. It’s simply a case of mixing flour and water and leaving it on your counter for a few days. The bacteria and yeast that are naturally present in the flour and water will do their thing and you’ll end up with a bubbling mass. S. John Ross has the details; I used his instructions when I started my sourdough culture in San Francisco.

Turn up the heat

Regardless of whether you are trying to get vegan cheese to melt or not, I’d recommend turning the dial on your oven all the way up.

I make pizza at around 575 F using my standard gas oven you’d find in most rental apartments with a $20 pizza stone on the bottom shelf. With this setup, the pizza cooks in around 7 minutes and you end up with a crispy crust yet the inside is still super soft. The charring on the outside of the crust really improves the flavour and the combination of crisp and soft makes the texture much more interesting.

You may wonder how it’s possible to get an oven up to 575 F when its temperature dial stops at 450. The secret is knowing that when you continue to turn the dial past 450 and all the way to the broil setting, the oven simply supplies more gas to the heating element which allows the oven to become even hotter. You will find that you have to have the oven preheating for around an hour to reach the absolute maximum, but it is well worth it. However, it’s not necessarily a great idea on a hot summer day with no air conditioning.

Za II

Wetter dough

The dough I make now has a much higher water content than previous attempts. The additional water aids in the texture of the crust. The aim is to end up with a crust that is crispy and partially charred on the outside, yet still soft in center. The wetter dough has a suppleness that helps in the shaping process and while it is in the oven, the stone draws moisture from the layer of sough in contact creating that charred, crispy exterior.

Wet dough is certainly more difficult to work with, however. You will almost certainly need a stand mixer (I use a Kitchenaid) to mix and knead the dough as its consistency is probably as close to pancake batter as it is to the bread dough you’re used to.

The techniques I’ve found to help working with wet dough are fairly obvious; use a liberal amount of dough on your hands, and on your work surface.

Vegan cheese

This post is not going to be a round up of commercial vegan cheeses (of which there are many), there have already been several vegan cheese showdowns. Nor do I have a homemade recipe to recommend. I will say, however, that if you’ve had difficulty coaxing your favourite store-bought cheese to melt, the extra 100 or so degrees should have it melting in a matter of minutes.

For a in-depth look at the whole process, I would fully recommend reading Jeff Varasano’s page.

Herne Hill cyclocross Dec. 20 2009

Posted via web from williumbillium’s posterous

Vegan DIY sausages

I came across Julie Hasson’s recipe for Spicy Italian Sausage some time ago and was impressed, along with a lot of others by the sound of it, by the result of the method she had put together. Her recipe is a seitan-based sausage that is shaped in aluminium foil and then steamed to cook.

DIY Vegan Bratwurst 3There are several reasons I like the recipe. First of all, it’s very easy to make. I think when people see a package of Field Roast sausages in the store, they seem somewhat unattainable to make at home. But this is not the case! You mix the wet and dry ingredients separately, combine the two, form the sausages in the foil and steam. Simple.

I also like that all of the herbs, spices and other flavours you add to the seitan stay in the final product, unlike the simmer-in-a-broth seitan methods where I feel there is a lot of potential for the flavours to be lost in the broth.

Finally, and most importantly, the texture is very good. Seitan has a tendency to be rubbery and overly chewy but these sausages are very tender. I put this down in part to the fact that she balances the vital wheat gluten with chickpea flour and the fact that the seitan is steamed rather than simmered or roasted.

Having tried out Julie’s recipe, I have since used her basic recipe to make a number of variations. Admittedly, some of the attempts, such as the vegan blood sausage, were disasters. For this one, I substituted as many of the ingredients with darker colored alternatives as possible. Salt was replaced with soy sauce, water with homebrewed stout, vegetable bouillon became marmite and the checkpea flour was replaced with buckwheat. To top it off, I added some deep purple beets to give it that dark red color. Unfortunately, the sausages came out bright pink and not only that but they just did not want to cook. They came out of the steamer still doughy in the middle each time I tried them. They didn’t taste that great either.

DIY Vegan Bratwurst 4There have, however, also been some successes. The hawaiian sausage with pinapple, sesame and ginger was sweet and delicious. It also went great with Eva’s hawaiian kechup on the 4th of July. The sun dried tomato and fennel sausage makes a great pizza topping. The apple sage potato is also a winner, especially in the colder winter months.

My basic recipe remains similar to Julie’s, although I’m keen on adding extra bulk (e.g. apple, onion, pineapple or whatever makes sense for the recipe) to increase tenderness of the finished sausages. These ingredients can either be chopped finely so they are still distinguishable in the final product (recommended for ingredients such as sun dried tomato) or pulverized in a food processor for a more consistent texture (recommended for onion).

Since I’ve now promised these recipes to several people over the last few months, it’s time to publish them. The recipes are available and include successful recipes, unsuccessful attempts and works in progress.

Trip stats

Here are some stats on our journey from SF to NYC:
 
We have two delicate items in the cab with us: the staghorn fern and my sourdough starter. They are both still alive at the moment.
 
In Nebraska, they charge less for premium gas than regular. We asked a local about it and apparently “That’s how they do it here.” OK.
 
630 miles seems to be a good distance to drive each day. It ends up taking about 11 hours by the time you factor in the one hour we lose each time we change time zones.
 
Eva’s requirements for driving the truck are that it’s flat, straight, not windy or stormy, there’s daylight and there’s no traffic. Only parts of Utah have passed those criteria and thus, I’ve driven about 90% of the time so far.
 
Iowa rain storms. You can tell they’re getting bad when people put on their hazard warning lights. When they’re getting really bad, it becomes impossible to see the car in front of you despite it having said warning lights on.
 
We are currently driving through Ohio.
 

Posted via email from williumbillium’s posterous

Hi/Bye

Tomorrow, Eva and I are moving to New York. We made the final decision 2 weeks ago so our free time since then has been spent almost entirely packing and planning. The remainder has been spent with our friends, some of whom were conveniently in town all at the same time for an awesome Hi/Bye San Diego Reunion party.

Unfortunately all this has left us with little time enjoy the Bay Area knowing we were about to leave, but we did get to go to Muir Woods and the Tourist Club one last time. This is probably one of my favourite places in the Bay Area.

Eva and I are driving across the country starting tomorrow so I’m planning on updating my blog from the road. I just set up Posterous so I can update it from my cell phone so please pester me if I don’t post enough.

p.s. Thanks to everyone who provided new homes for our plants.

Food I made over Memorial Day weekend

1. Friday night | Pizza (Recipe)
2. Saturday night | Soba Noodles (Recipe)
3. Sunday morning | Crepes (Recipe)
4. Monday morning | Croissants (Recipe)

Every meal that was not one of the above either involved eating leftovers of the above, or was skipped entirely due to eating too much of the above.

20,000 scrobbles later

I recently hit the 20,000 mark on last.fm so I figured it was a good time to make a Last Graph poster. Here is a small part of it:

Last Graph poster

The full image is on flickr.

The most interesting part for me is from August 2006 to January 2007 where apparently the only thing I submitted was “Eurosport”. Probably cyclocross race videos.