Rum Raisins – How to make them for baking

This isn’t so much of a recipe as it could be called a kitchen hack.

There isn’t a picture this time because it looked like pebbles in some murky brown water, but you’ll get the idea. Really it is that simple. You just have to let things soak and sit for a day.
It’s so easy that it’s one of those things you do while waiting for the kettle to boil.
Rum Raisin
Get a 2 cup or 1/2 liter container – or larger. Feel free to double this recipe with a larger container if needed. You want extra “room” so you can shake the mixture every so often.

Raisins, your choice – 1/2 cup or 4 ounces or 225 ml

Rum, your choice – 1/2 cup or 4 ounces or 225 ml
This will scale up or scale down based on your needs. The trick is to make sure that the raisins are all covered by rum.
When you go to use the rum raisins, strain them with a sieve or mesh. But reserve the extra rum because the now-brown rum tastes awesome straight up or on ice.
… or on ice cream.

To use the raisins in Tapioca Pudding or Oatmeal Raisin cookies, use the strained raisins as you would with any other wet raisins. They will change the taste of your baked goods, and in a normal sized serving of Tapioca, you will get between 1/2 to one ounce of rum.
If you’re a tea totaller or “On Recovery”, substitute water or grape juice.
This also works with any dried fruit within reason. I’m thinking dried Mangoes next time I go to the shops, or perhaps Apricots.

The Original Pizza Story and The One Ingredient Pizza Sauce

There is a story I was told, time and again.

When the Allied troops were fighting the Nazis in Italy after the fall of Mussolini they eventually approached Naples.

Due to the Volcanic Soil from Mount Vesuvius and other volcanos, the soil there is extremely rich.  The climate in the area is perfect for growing tomatoes that are held to be better than anywhere else.

(Ok, maybe AS good as the home grown tomatoes that are from South Jersey, but I digress.)

However, due to the impoverishment caused by the Fascists and the War, there was very little to go around.

The troops came upon pizzas made with only about four ingredients.  Crust made from Flour, water, yeast and a little salt.  Mozzarella made from milk from the few cows that were left.  A simple red sauce made with those tomatoes and almost always a touch of basil.

Yep, that’s it.  A Margarita Pizza.  Or however my spell check forces me to spell it.

(I have seen it Margherita on Menus as well.  The picture is labeled like that, the article uses the other spelling.)

Crust, Sauce, Basil, Mozzarella Cheese.  Heat in a wood burning oven.  Serve.

It was a hit and brought back to the US and became a favorite here and worldwide.

Mind you, to me, pizza made with Pineapples or Cheddar Cheese are an abomination, but I am quite fond of Mushrooms and perhaps sundried tomatoes on occasion.

About that sauce?

A week or two ago, I went to downtown Miami and went to what was an Italian restaurant.  They had all the prerequisite items on the menu and a simple Marg(h)erita Pizza in their wood burning stove.   I got that and it was excellent.

As I sat there I was pondering the sauce with my lunch partner.  We decided that if there was anything more in that sauce than a little basil and San Marzano Tomatoes, we couldn’t tell.

San Marzano Tomatoes are the name for the “DOP” for that area – The Protected Area.

So we got a can.  I used a 100 year old potato masher and mushed them down to a chunky mash.

Then I turned the heat onto medium low and cooked them down for 90 minutes.

Allowing the sauce to cool and rest until the next day, because tomato sauces are always ALWAYS better “tomorrow”, I waited.

I made the pizza you see in that picture.  It was almost identical to that $16, Serves One, Pizza.

We cracked it.  Simple is best if you want an Authentic Pizza.

Mind you, I will say that Neopolitan Pizza in any of the major NE US Cities is supposed to be better, but this was an awesome pizza with a no fuss sauce that I would put up against anything I’ve had elsewhere.

So much for artisanal, you can be an artisan too!

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 1 26 Ounce Can of San Marzano Tomatoes, peeled, with Basil.  (800 grams)

That’s it.

Recipe Process:

  • Open can into sauce pan.
  • Use potato masher to rough-mix the Tomatoes.  If you use a blender, you want chunks so just pulse.
  • Warm the sauce pan to Medium Low – 3 on a regular American Stove.  (You know that Iconic one that goes “Lo”, then 2 to 8, then “Hi”?)
  • Cook the sauce, stirring frequently, until the desired thickness is achieved – it took me 90 minutes on a slow simmer.
  • Set the sauce aside in the refrigerator until tomorrow to allow flavors to rest and meld.
  • Use promptly.

Bread Dough in Five Minutes In A Plastic Bag

I guess the title says it all, if you’re looking for the short description.

There’s always a back story with me so hold on for the ride.

I wanted a Pizza, but really this can be used to make most basic breads.  I did not want to fuss around with a “full batch” of dough and make a cookie sheet full of rolls and … well you get the picture.

I will say that this will scale up to a larger batch and should be limited by how strong your own hands are.  You see, it’s all about your grip strength.  If you’ve got arthritis or some other limitation, use the machine.

On the other hand, this dough flew together so fast that it’s a great way to make fresh dough for small batches like one pizza dough ball or a couple of rolls.

Basically, I have a “Standard Recipe” for bread.  It’s “Pat’s Pizza Dough” recipe.   It makes 10 sandwich rolls, or about 8 torpedo rolls.  It also will make three pizza dough balls.  The original recipe is at the link – or you can even see my original note written 20 years ago in the picture.

The idea was cut the recipe down to one third of normal, then make it in a bag.

I added to a clean and food safe plastic bag the following ingredients.

  • 3 ounces of water
  • 2 teaspoons of oil
  • 1 cup of bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon of bread yeast
  • 1/3 teaspoon of salt (I used a well rounded 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1/3 teaspoon of sugar (I used a well rounded 1/4 teaspoon)

The process was simple.

 

  • Squeeze most of the air out of the bag and wind the top up to close it.
  • Grip the mix at the bottom of the bag and squeeze it repeatedly.
  • The mix will eventually form a dough ball through repeated kneading.

 

You may have to adjust the water content to fit your needs.  Bread dough is effected by the weather and conditions in your house and kitchen just as you would expect.  Wet climate will make stickier dough, dry climate you may need to add more water.

For Pizza Dough, you need a dough ball that is more dry than tacky or sticky.  Similar to Play-doh or similar modeling clay compound.

For Bread Dough, you need a dough ball that will be a bit tacky and it may want to stick gently to your hands or the side of the bag – but you will be able to remove it from the bag.

Basically that’s about it.  I’ll use this again because it’s saving me a lot of time in preparation and clean up work.

But… it took me just five minutes to get this dough done.  Add to it rolling time and rising time as normal.

Three Ingredient Cake Recipe that actually tastes moist

This really shouldn’t be called a recipe.  It should be called a Hack.

It is so ridiculously easy to make that I laugh at it.

 

It is so popular that the recipe is just about everywhere including on the sites for the companies that make the mixes.

 

 

I tried it with a bulk white cake mix, but the recipe I keep seeing everywhere calls for a “Box Of Cake Mix”.  They are not specifying flavor.   Use your favorite.

The cake mix can’t be one of those “Just Add Water”.

You need a cake mix that wants you to add an egg.

I used White,  but a Yellow Cake mix would be fine.  Choose a flavor that is complementary to the Pie filling you are adding.

I wanted Cherry this time, but I have done it before with other flavors.  I have blueberry and lemon pie filling waiting in the wings for when I want to do it again.

 

 

Why do I have six cupcakes?  I have a small Bundt pan and I didn’t want to risk a mess.

The recipe calls for either two layers, or a Bundt Pan.  It was not very specific.  I would say two 9 inch layers or even perhaps 3 8 inches, but I suspect that may be a bit thin.

Butter and flour your pans.

Bake at 350F / 180C for 35 minutes (or whatever metric equivalent you need to have your toothpick come out clean).

I mean that really is it.  It is laughably simple.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box or 15 ounces of cake mix
  • 1 can of pie filling – 20 ounces or 590 ML
  • 3 large eggs

Process:

  • Butter and flour your pan.
  • Keep cupcake liner and pans aside for any extra cake batter.
  • Preheat oven to 350F or 180C.
  • To a large mixing bowl add 1 box/15 ounces cake mix, 1 can (20 ounces) of pie filling, and 3 eggs.
  • Mix the batter until smooth.
  • Add batter to pans taking care not to overfill.
  • Bake for approximately 35 minutes and test with a toothpick.
  • Make sure toothpick comes out clean

 

Optional:
Icing or not.  I have been putting Honey on top and I really do like that instead.

Personal preference!

Serve and enjoy

Pebble Steel Charging Issues – Creating a Charging Ground Platform for the Pebble Watch

Recently I was bequeathed a Pebble Steel watch.  My godmother’s husband, Larry, had passed and his wife Kathie wanted to make sure that it would go to someone who would actually use it.

Thank you Kathie, and thank you for keeping Larry’s spirit alive.

The watch is a beautiful thing, after all who can pass up an E-Paper display on a watch.  For an electronic watch, it simply blows away any other display technology for sheer flexibility.  Low light, it has a backlight that gives a blue glow once you press a button.  In high light, the numbers show up in a beautiful silver on deep navy blue.  Other Pebble watches have different color schemes, but the E-Paper display is amazing.

 

The watch did not come with the charging cable, initially.  Since I was given it at Larry’s Celebration of Life ceremony, I wasn’t going to ask for it immediately.  I did get it a couple weeks later, but until then I would “find something” to make sure it still worked.

I did find a Reddit link to something someone wrote. Apparently the connectors on the watch, in my case on the side of the watch, were Negative and Positive connections with the case being an extra Negative – the Ground.  For other Pebble Watches, the connectors are on the back of the watch.

This is where I issue the Internet Standard Warning:


Contact Pebble for Service under Warranty if your watch is still warranted.  Much better than hacking around with whatever I say here!

Any information given here within is presented at your own risk.

If you use it and break anything, it is at your own responsibility, and I take no responsibility or give no warranty. 

All Information presented here within “works for me”.  

If you connect something backwards or short out a connection, you could damage any of your electronics.

Make doubly sure you have tested all connections with a multi meter and make sure that you have polarity correct.

 

First – clean all connectors.

Second – get your Pebble up to the latest firmware.


According to this link on Reddit, you will be able to fashion (jury rig) a connector to charge your watch.

I was able to.  I connected a piece of wire to the positive connector on the watch, a second to the negative, and fed 5VDC into it.  The watch vibrated almost immediately, displayed the Pebble start up display, then began charging for as long as I was able to hold all the connectors together.

For the Pebble Steel, the Positive connector is the connector closest to you, assuming you hold the watch as if it is to be read correctly.

Problem One:

Charging Problem NOT Originally solved.  You see, there’s a problem with these watches.  If you charge one up full using the cable on the connectors at the side of the watch, then reconnect it, it will discharge back into the power supply draining the watch.

They need a Diode in line to help fix that.  Ten Cent Part.

Problem Two:

The connectors must be clean.  As in no dirt on the connectors at all.  Clean with Alcohol and a bit of cotton.  This may allow you to charge the watch but not necessarily.  I tried it and it did not help.

Problem Three:

The cable finally arrived.  There was about 70% charge on the watch.  I plugged the cable into the back of my laptop, and walked away.  The watch drained completely of any power.

The Solution presented itself in a Youtube Video that is embedded below.  There is a person in Holland with a Pebble Steel watch.  He had the same problem as I did.  In the video he mentions that his watch would charge sometimes but not others.  When he asked for service from Pebble Support, he was sent back a new watch which worked perfectly under warranty.

 

Great!  Excellent service, Pebble!

Near the end of the video, he tied all the information together without knowing it for me.  He plugged the new watch onto the cable, and connected the old watch to a second cable.  The old “damaged” watch did not begin to charge until he touched the back of the old watch to the new one thereby creating the ground.


 

Therefore my solution was this.  I created a Charging Ground Platform for my Pebble Steel.

Step 1: Obtain parts:

  • Four Thumbtacks
  • Suitable base for the platform – mine was a lid to a treats canister.
  • Length of wire to connect to Ground – specific length is not material, mine is about 18 inches or a half meter
  • Good electrical ground to the negative side of the charging cable

Step 2: Assembly

  • For your watch, positioning of the thumbtacks will vary.
  • I laid a piece of paper on the back of the watch to make a template, then marked it off on the plastic lid.
  • Marks on the lid will match that of the screws on the watch.
  • This placement will lower the probability that the watch will get scratched up.
  • Drive one thumbtack through the lid for each corner of the watch.
  • Connect each thumbtack with wire allowing the wire to extend out past the last connector freely.

Step 3:  Final Connections:

 

  • Plug the Pebble charging cable into your charger and to your watch.
  • In my case, I am using a laptop and that greatly simplified my connections.
  • The case of the laptop is a ground, and functions as a ground for USB and for the entire computer.
  • An external charging “wall wart” plug will require you to take further steps.
  • Connect the ground wire from the Charging Ground Platform to a metal ground on the laptop.
  • Place the Pebble Watch onto the assembled platform making sure that one or more of the thumbtack will touch the bare metal case of the watch, preferably on the screws in the back of the watch.
  • You may or may not get confirmation from the watch that it is now charging – I have seen it immediately go into charge mode, and I have seen it not and both work.

The way I see it, in my uneducated opinion, this is a design flaw.  I do not know where the fault lies.  It is acting like a firmware issue.  However my Pebble Steel is now at the newest firmware.  No software at the charger is required to make the watch charge.  The watch is only looking for 5 Volts DC at USB standard current of 1 Amp, apparently.

 

The Pebble Steel is now a product that has been discontinued.  The memory in it is lower than the newer watches, and the operating system firmware can not be updated past the last of version 3.  Newer watches have version 4 available.

Like I said, it works for me.  Good luck!

Converting a Solar Light to Low Voltage Using a LM7805 Voltage Regulator

Standard Internet Warranty Applies here:  Ramblingmoose.com takes no responsibility for damage.  If you wire this up incorrectly, shock hazards may occur.  You could burn yourself with the soldering iron.  You could also cut your finger and give yourself a “boo boo”.  We are not responsible.  We’re simply saying “Hey, it worked for me, it’s easy, give it a try!”.  The parts needed are commonly available online and can be read about in depth at this wikipedia page.

This is actually my Second Conversion.  The first one is in the first picture.

We’ve probably all chewed through a collection of solar powered lights for the yard by now.

I say chewed through because they generally do not last very long.  The first wave of lights were particularly awful.  Under powered, lit with a single LED that is about as bright as an indicator light on a stereo, and connections that are not suitable to be used outdoors,  you may get a year out of these if you were lucky.

Then there came another wave with brighter LEDs, but they wouldn’t last long due to the batteries failing in about a year.

There is a theme to this.  Batteries have a set number of times that they can be recharged.  No matter how cheap or expensive the light, if that battery that is being charged by the solar panel dies, the light is normally dead.

Besides, everything being cheap Chinese garbage manufacturing, you can’t generally get better life out of this stuff.

We went to a “rather nice” light the last time this happened, and got a year out of it.  Since I liked the fixture, I tried soldering in a collection of batteries to power the thing.  After the second try the light failed.  I set it aside hoping for a “Bright Idea”, pun intended.

Our own house ended up going with Low Voltage LED Security Lights.  My front porch is now bright enough to read from the light, and the power consumption is all of 4 watts at 12 volts AC.  Doing the math, that works out to 4/10th of a watt at 120 VAC out of the plug.  Adding the traditional 10 percent for error, we’re consuming 1/2 watt of mains power to light a room worth of porch.

Next to nothing to get our security lighting sorted out.

But those solar lights were waiting to be used.

Here is what I did…

The Solar Lights had a battery pack inside of them that consisted of three AA rechargeable cells.  Maximum voltage would be 4.5 VDC.  I had 10 L7805 Voltage Regulators here, and I decided to try one out on the solar light.  It would be over powering the light at the high end, but since the light was either being reused or disposed of, if I got a couple months out of it I was happy.

TS7805 Voltage Regulator.  Picture from Wikipedia.

A L7805 is a voltage regulator that puts out 5 Volts DC.  I had a low voltage supply for the yard at 12 Volts AC.  The wiring was simple, I put one together to see if it worked.

It did work.  It worked since the Light had three cells in its battery pack – 4.5 volts of AA batteries.  If your light is a different voltage being supplied, use a different voltage regulator!

I allowed it to run in the intervening two and a half months and it was still working.

So the L7805 converted the 12 VAC to 5VDC plus some heat.

The circuitry is dead simple.  Three conductors on the L7805.  The center conductor is the ground.  If you connect the positive line from the input to the first conductor, and the positive line to your appliance (my light) to the third conductor, you are done.

The entire soldering job took me less time than it took for me to take the pictures for this article.

These chips also come in differing voltage output from 3V to well more than I need at 40V. They all work the same way.  The voltage comes into the center conductor as ground and one of the two outside conductors as positive.  Voltage goes out from center conductor as negative and the other outside conductor as positive.

The proof is in my yard.  That easy.

Just remember, match the voltage regulator output voltage to the supply voltage of your lamp or other appliance.

Stove Top Pizza Definitely Is Worth A Try

In my quest for making a pizza better than the run of the mill pizza shops that we have here, I have tried many recipes.

Just search this blog for Pizza, I’ll wait.

You see, all the bits and pieces are here but they’ve not quite come together yet.

My oven also doesn’t have a proper pizza stone.  Oh, I’ve tried them a number of times, but they always shatter.  A Pizza Steel, a thick slab of steel over 1/4 inch thick heated to over 500F, will be tried when I find one.  But the oven barely makes it to 500 as it is.

The hotter the oven, the better the pizza.  Proper Wood Fired ovens reach 800F.  Melting of Lead happens at 621F.  My oven?  Struggles to get past 450F.

So I have tried different recipes.  The water in South Florida does something weird to my dough.  Or rather Pat’s Pizza Dough Recipe.  I’ve used it since around 1995 or so, and it makes an incredible bread.  Rolls, Pretzel Rolls, and Sesame Rolls are three of the things I use it for.  But the water here… not so good for pizza crusts.

I have used filtered water and that helps get a crispy when toasted crust that I was looking for.  The next time someone comes down from the Philadelphia area, please come back with a gallon of local tap water?

So I experiment.

In this case, the experiment worked.  It’s made a better crust than I have made since I moved down here.  That Cracker Crisp crust that you want in a Thin Crust Pizza?  It’s definitely possible.

Mind you, the recipe needs refinement.  As I list it below, the crust is a little underdone.  It probably needs 12 minutes in the second stage of baking – after you open the vents on your skillet.  It certainly could benefit from a quick couple minutes under the broiler to give you a nice layer of caramelization on top.   Cooking a Pizza in a skillet means that the toppings (Cheese, or otherwise) will be hot and gooey, but a different texture.

If you do try this, you will understand.

And do try this.  It went together in less time than it takes to cook a frozen pizza from the supermarket.  It took me 20 minutes from scratch ingredients to slicing it up.  That means that you have a very dangerous recipe here once you figure out all the wrinkles.

If you are really observant, you’ll notice that the stove is still on in the above picture and set to “3” – Medium Low.  My stove has numbers from Low, 1 to 8, and High.  Medium is “5”.  Your stove may vary, but this is typical for an electric stove in the US.

This recipe is adapted from the video below and a host of other references online. 

But this is how I did it this past weekend:

Stove Top Pizza

Ingredients:

  • Crust
    • 1/2 cup Self-Rising Flour
    • 1/2 cup Plain Flour
    • 2/3 cup luke warm water
    • pinch of salt
    • 1 rounded teaspoon dried yeast
    • 1 teaspoon honey 
    • Olive Oil to grease the pan

  • Toppings – 
    • 4 ounces “Pizza Cheese” 
    • at least an ounce of Parmesan, (My Preference)
    • 10 fresh basil leaves split between the sauce and the top
    • 1/2 can of mushrooms 
    • 7 ounces of Pizza Sauce (give or take)

Process:

  • Prepare the ingredients in a COLD and oiled skillet with heavy and seal-able lid.
  • The Skillet should be 12 inches or 28 CM.
  • Add all ingredients for the crust in the greased skillet until a slightly sticky dough is formed.
  • Spread the dough evenly on the bottom of the skillet to form your crust.
  • Add toppings to the pizza crust.
  • Turn on the burner to MEDIUM.
  • Place lid on the skillet and make sure vents are sealed.
  • Now that the burner has warmed up, place the skillet with the completed pizza on the burner.
  • Cook the pizza for 5 minutes with the vents sealed.
  • At the 5 minute mark, open the vents and cook the pizza for another 10 minutes at MEDIUM LOW
  • The pizza should easily separate from the skillet at this point with a spatula.
  • Check the bottom of the crust for your own personal preference of “toasted”, more time will be needed if it is not brown enough.

The video that inspired me to make this pizza is missing some answers to some questions, but it is included below.